Article idea: where's the money?

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Article idea: where's the money?

Post by Vox Gnus »

Looking at a few topics lately, such as "Is there really any point making music to sell anymore," got me thinking about an old issue of Mix magazine that I dig through every few years. In May 2006, the cover/feature was "Where's The Money." The times have changed (more mobile phones, more home studios, more Internet, fewer Napsters, etc) but the central theme still seems timely. Any chance SOS would want to look into this as an article/series?

The topic is especially meaningful for me, as I did my doctoral dissertation on the theme of Music Business Education (spoiler: most musicians, and institutions, do poorly with the business side of things).

Oh, and I'm not asking because I want to write this... :)
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Re: Article idea: where's the money?

Post by OneWorld »

Vox Gnus wrote:Looking at a few topics lately, such as "Is there really any point making music to sell anymore," got me thinking about an old issue of Mix magazine that I dig through every few years. In May 2006, the cover/feature was "Where's The Money." The times have changed (more mobile phones, more home studios, more Internet, fewer Napsters, etc) but the central theme still seems timely. Any chance SOS would want to look into this as an article/series?

The topic is especially meaningful for me, as I did my doctoral dissertation on the theme of Music Business Education (spoiler: most musicians, and institutions, do poorly with the business side of things).

Oh, and I'm not asking because I want to write this... :)

There is a thread on one of the forums and it poses the question “Why does the music made for movies sound so good” and amongst the comments there are references made to the budgets assigned to the soundtrack and the amounts spent are quite considerable. And of course there are people like Ed Sheehan, Taylor Swift et al doing ok So money is being made. Back in the day we had pub bands, there were more pubs and more bands, many of the bands playing for beer money. Then computers came and subsequently more people took up music, people have finite resources though, more music was being made, but more music wasn’t being bought. So much of it is free.

A pal of mine thought he’d struck paydirt when he got a dance tune released and got sales of 78,000 copies of the tune, thanks to its popularity in Ibiza, he packed in his job and moved to Ibiza and was living the dream…..ended up back here where he now makes more money plastering walls.

Anyone going into music to make money is on a hiding to nothing, apart from the exceptions to the rule, you need friends that have friends, or better still, the best friend of all, a touch of genius, they always have been a rare commodity, have a mythical capacity for hard graft and self-belief and hence can name their price.
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Re: Article idea: where's the money?

Post by Vox Gnus »

All fair observations, but that's only the "music performance" side of things. Historically, that's not where the money has been, except for a lucky few. And recording is the moody teenager in this scenario.

What about music education (all angles), or the music products industry? Teaching music is where the majority of the world's musicians earn their keep. You may not make a killing, but you can usually make a living. And every teacher (and student) needs instruments and accessories to support the craft.

In fact, you could argue that SOS's focus is on educating musicians about the products and skills that help us make music (amongst other things).

There are so many angles to music; so where's the money? Really?
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Re: Article idea: where's the money?

Post by blinddrew »

I'd definitely find this a fascinating article. Not through any desire to make a career in music* but just to have a better understanding of the landscape.

* 1) those days are looonnngg gone, and 2) as mentioned above and previously, there are much easier ways to make money. ;)
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Re: Article idea: where's the money?

Post by S.Crow »

Sales of instruments seem to have been high during the pandemic.
I seem to recall that Fender sold more guitars last year than ever before.
Not sure how much the supply chain issues have damped sales, so potentially they could have been even higher.
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Re: Article idea: where's the money?

Post by The Red Bladder »

Vox Gnus wrote:All fair observations, but that's only the "music performance" side of things. Historically, that's not where the money has been, except for a lucky few.

It's a fair whack though! When the likes of Beyonce and The Stones can get $4m or more per gig with 50% up-front, and the promoter can sell at least 50,000 tickets at $150 each and make $2.5m on top of that, it comes to a fair proportion of the whole industry.

Vox Gnus wrote:There are so many angles to music; so where's the money? Really?

Look into your own pocket. What did YOU spend on music in the past few years? A Blu-Ray of a Tom Petty concert maybe? Or perhaps you bought something from Rammstein or a classical concert by the Berlin Philharmonic?

No, you probably went out and bought either on disk or via streaming, some movies - guess what! Loads of music there! Big budgets. When you are making the average major movie you have the average $65m to play with, so a few million for a decent score is pretty much the minimum!

But you make a good point, albeit perhaps en passant - "The lucky few."

You may be able to tick all the boxes (young, good looking, talented, hard-working, putting on a great show) but you need three more things - (1) luck and (2) knowing when you got lucky (3) knowing what to do with that luck.

(1) Without luck, you ain't going nowhere! Born into a rich and musical family who are prepared to sacrifice everything and push your career - lucky. Born the child of a glue-sniffing prostitute in Burundi - unlucky. Born in a liberal Western democracy - lucky. Born in North Korea - unlucky. You play a small gig and an A&R guy from Sony sees you and gives you his card - lucky. That A&R guy goes to a different bar - unlucky.

(2) Ed McMahon said on Star Search, when asked to give the hopefuls one piece of advice, "Be ready when the man calls!" i.e. KNOW when you have just become lucky and be ready for that moment. (He was introducing a little eight-year-old girl in a black and white dress called Britney Spears. Hmmm - I wonder if she ever got lucky?)

(3) A guy I used to know was a drummer. He was without a doubt, the best drummer I have ever recorded and one of the best I have ever heard. John Bonham and Keith Moon were possibly a bit better - but that was the level at which he played. He got The Big Break. And with The Big Break came The Big Money. Instead of 'screwing the nut' (military expression) and saving his pennies and acting normal, he blew it all on pixie dust and booze - and whilst zonked out of his skull, decided to build a pink castle in Scotland.

The guys who gave him the break discovered that he was too drunk to do a gig and they went with somebody else who could play without falling dead drunk off his drum stool. He drifted down and he drifted sideways and died poor and in his 40s.

Quincy Jones once said, "The money's in the music!"

Most musicians don't know what to play or even how to play it to get lucky. They don't know how to play it to stay lucky. And of those who do get lucky and stay lucky for a while, very few know how to hang onto that luck.

That's why they are 'The lucky few.'

A musician friend of mine who lives on state and disability benefits asked me "Do you realise just how lucky you are?"

Yes, of course I realise just how amazingly lucky I am. But then I'm not a musician!
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Re: Article idea: where's the money?

Post by Forum Admin »

S.Crow wrote:Sales of instruments seem to have been high during the pandemic.
I seem to recall that Fender sold more guitars last year than ever before.
Not sure how much the supply chain issues have damped sales, so potentially they could have been even higher.

Well the pandemic certainly helped US retail giant Sweetwater exceed $ 1 Billion in 2020 !!

See here
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Re: Article idea: where's the money?

Post by Vox Gnus »

Back in 2006 I looked into this in a bit of detail. At the time, the entire North American music industry (recording, performance, online, ringtones, games) earned about $12 billion annually. The piano teaching "industry," on the other hand, earned closer to $15 billion (in North America), and that's only the private teachers. So, add in other instruments, then add in schools, and the music teaching industry massively outweighs the music entertainment industry. There are more millionaires in the entertainment sector, but that's a sign of the distribution of wealth, not the total amount.

Since then, the number of piano teachers has decreased, but other music ed areas are stronger (and online teaching is growing like crazy). And the music entertainment industry has changed massively. I'm not sure what the numbers are now, but I'd bet that the education segment is still much bigger, especially from a global perspective.

Of course, the music products (and services) sector binds it all together in various ways. Developing and selling the tools, and teaching people how to use them, continues to be a field with great potential. And popular music certainly helps drive sales of gadgets!

As for luck and talent, it's really no different than any other sector. There are lucky and unlucky people in finance, fashion, food, every industry really. And talent takes time, and is usually just the table stakes to get into the game. We all know plenty of talented failures, much as we can point out the "talentless" successes.

Interesting stuff.
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Re: Article idea: where's the money?

Post by awjoe »

Money's interesting and music-making is interesting, so it'd be an interesting read. However, psychology's interesting, too - I'd be fascinated to read about musicians who have managed to square the creative (inner) and business (outer) dimensions of music-making. I'd be fascinated for two reasons - first, what kind of personality does it take to achieve that balance? Second, do I like their music as much as the ones for whom money was sort of an afterthought?
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