Facing the Broken Music Industry.

By Adam Cowherd @ AmplifyX.com

Did you know that artists take home only 12% of the $43 billion spent on music annually, according to Citigroup? [1] The hip-hop artist Russ put it perfectly when he said, “The music business isn’t set up for the artists to get rich. It’s set up for everyone else to get rich off the artists.” [2]

If you start looking deeper into the music industry, one of the first things you’ll discover is how broken it is. Artists are the nucleus of the business, but somehow they’re the individuals left with no ownership of their Intellectual Property (IP), inhibited creative freedom, and only a sliver of the earnings. There are so many entities involved in the value chain of music that it has created a convoluted industry structure that lacks equality and transparency.

When we break down the mechanics of the music industry, we see just how many hands are in the pot: record labels, managers, producers, booking agents, and streaming platforms. A report by Ernst & Young highlighted the post-tax payouts of streaming revenue and identified that record labels are taking nearly 75% of the payout. [3] Why are artists today signing with record labels?

Signed artists have fans. They do not have a majority of royalties, ownership of their masters, or creative freedom.

Artists have historically been enticed to join record labels as a way to grow their popularity, because major labels can provide global brand recognition. But the music industry is in the business of making a profit — not in the business of freebies. The artist’s growth may be guaranteed, but not their wealth.

Take Thirty Seconds to Mars for instance: after multiple platinum records, they were still millions of dollars in debt to their label. [4] This is a result of the artist being forced to pay the label back for cash advances. Although advances may seem extremely alluring, many don’t realize how hard these loans will be to recoup from their small slice of royalties.

Artists thriving off of their album sales are the exception, not the rule. This recognizable gap in income has inspired a large number of artists to start challenging the status quo of record label contracts. Artists today have more tools and resources to build their career — and wealth — independently. Traditional services formerly tied to record labels, like recording, distribution, and promotion, are becoming commodified. Also, modern artists have a wide range of social media platforms to engage listeners on, from Instagram to TikTok to Triller.

Artists can grow their fame and find new fans on their own terms—retaining their rights and independence.

Evaluating the industry today, music spending is at an all-time high. Goldman Sachs predicts we will have over 1.1 billion people on paid streaming platforms by 2030, generating over $130 billion in music industry revenue. [5] By pursuing alternative ways to release music, artists can take a larger cut of the profits while retaining ownership of their IP and a majority of royalties.

The industry is projected to experience massive growth over the next decade. Artists should reap the rewards.

Published by Jeeni

I am a founding director of Jeeni. Jeeni is an online platform for independent musicians and performers. Jeeni is for everyone and anyone creative: musicians, voice-artists, performers, poets, singer-songwriters ... hey, the list is endless. We aim to connect, collaborate, share and support each other, while we have fun and make a real difference.

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