5 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About the Music Industry
The music industry is a complicated business. Especially in the modern day and age. Music distribution and streaming services have greatly impacted the way that musicians and industry professionals operate within the business and there are many details to the music world that the general public may be unaware of. There’s still an image of the music industry of rags to riches tales and while those exist it has become much harder for bands and artists to make it in the music industry. The illusion of streaming is such that musicians have more independence than ever before. But to make money in today’s industry, there are many more layers than simply starting a great band and landing a comprehensive record deal. Let’s explore some unique industry facts that may surprise the average listener.
1. Digital Sales
A far cry from the days of CD sales, the majority of music sales happen in digital format. Whether that be from streaming or online downloads, the market has shifted almost entirely online. Music distribution services stand to make more money dealing with digital distribution and publishing than producing physical formats like CDs. Although CDs and the mp3 allowed for longer albums and greater storage quality, it’s nothing compared to the cloud based streaming technologies consumers enjoy today. It also begs the question of ownership. Buying and owning music we love becomes devalued when we take the physical aspect out of it.
2. Physical Media On the Rise
With that being said, physical media sales are on the rise with Indie artists especially. Music fans and consumers, it turns out, really do love a product. This has still impacted the statistics on digital sales, however. The most popular form of physical media currently is the vinyl record. And anyone who has bought a record from an artist they love knows that there is usually a digital download card in the sleeve of the record. Physical media acts as a sort of nostalgic and sentimental vessel for the digital media.
3. Musicians Make Little Money
Streaming and digital sales make up ¾ of the music industry’s profits with musicians seeing a miniscule fraction of that. It’s no secret that the ratio is bad, but many don’t realize just how bad it is. For each individual stream an artist gets, they earn around $.003. It would literally take millions of streams to make any kind of meaningful living off of music consumption alone. This is one of the biggest problems plaguing the music industry with labels, marketing agencies and streaming platforms raking in the majority of the money they make from the artists themselves. The music industry is one of the richest industries in the world simply for the fact that they hoard royalties and payouts that really should go to the artists themselves.
4. Record Deals Aren’t What They Used To Be
This is why, while there is an image of the independent artist in today’s climate, most ‘indie’ artists are still working with some kind of representation. The difference between today’s record deals and the deals of old is that they aren’t necessarily deals to produce an album. With so many tools available to record music anywhere, it makes more sense for record companies to make more detailed and specific deals with artists to help them with the aspects of their career that need bolstering. This could be marketing, advertising or networking but the center of the business is around generating revenue from content engagement rather than direct album sales.
5. Making Stars Costs Millions
Because the industry makes its money largely from advertisements, corporate deals and marketing strategies, it can cost millions and millions of dollars to guide an artist to the success of a major pop star. These costs are cumulative and include things like music production, music video production, music distribution, live shows and paying everyone on the team. When a pop star gets big, we only see their face representing what is essentially a whole business of people making the gears turn. There are few, if any, major pop stars that don’t have infrastructure in place to ensure they cover all their potential sources of income. In essence, it takes money to be famous.
The music industry is a complex web of roles and careers. And it’s changing all the time. Music distribution services are catering more and more to the independent artist as many will still deal with that part on their own while working with labels in other capacities. The interesting thing about today’s music industry is the split focus on digital sales and vinyl. Music fans seem to still appreciate sentimental tokens as a way to connect with the artists they love and vinyl is making a huge comeback in the last decade. If a job in music interests you, look into more facets of the music industry and see what role fits you best.