The Future of Music: is Entrepreneurship

About a month ago, we posted about a study we sponsored entitled The Sky is Rising. The findings of the research confirmed that the moral panic surrounding the purported demise of creative industries (music, film, publishing) is largely unwarranted. The fact of the matter is, fuelled by increased exposure and new methods of distribution, our creative industries are actually growing rapidly. What’s more, the artists are seeing more direct financial benefit than before, and are more in control of their careers -- which goes a long way toward explaining the chagrin of traditional content distributors (record labels, big name publishers), who lose out in a scenario where a middle man is no longer required.

Today in Austin at SXSW Music, the Future of Music Coalition released research that explores the revenue streams of musicians. The findings of the research follow the same vein as The Sky is Rising: artists across all genres are collecting a relatively low percentage of their incomes from affiliations with record labels, and instead are generating revenue across many different, self-directed revenue streams (The FMC identified over 40 different revenue streams associated with a music career).

The upshot is, musicians -- and especially musicians who are “full-time” and earn all of their income from music -- are a lot more like entrepreneurs than anything else. While the findings showed an across the board reliance on revenue streams associated with performing, and performing costs were not scalable, performances were crucial to generating other revenue streams -- such as sales of CDs and merchandise. The FMC study not only presents a valuable data set, it also gives us a new way of conceptualizing the music industry. New technologies, like it or not, have changed the face of the industry; traditional gatekeepers no longer dominate the industry and there is now much more room for the “self-employed” artist.

We encourage you to go and check out the study, and chew on the findings. Let us know what you think. Will small-business music ever really replace traditional record labels?