“The live music market is flourishing even as sales of recorded music have mouldered. Between 2012 and 2013 it grew by a quarter, according to the Performing Right Society for Music, an industry body. Gig-goers now spend more than £1 billion ($1.7 billion) a year on tickets and almost half that again on food, drink and the like. Festivals make up a large chunk of this. In the early 1990s Britain had few of them, recalls Melvin Benn of Festival Republic, a promoter. Around 450 will take place this year. The festival season, once limited to July and August, now stretches until early autumn. On the first weekend of September four festivals battle it out.
All this is changing the way the music industry works. Festivals are increasingly seen as a way to test whether big-name artists have enough fans to warrant arena tours, says Rebecca Kane of the 02, a large venue in London. Newer names find them essential: Clean Bandit, a British band who brought out their first album this year, are performing at around 20 festivals this summer. And music executives are increasingly taking into account how successfully they think artists will perform at big outdoor gigs before deciding to sign them.”
“I bought a lot of music in my youth. Some of my earliest purchases were the vinyl single of Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s iconic album, ‘He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper.’
My music access only increased as I got older. In college, I worked part-time at WHOV, the campus radio station where I also DJed a couple of shifts – everything from R&B to straightforward jazz. That meant a little extra spending change … and more knowledge about music than I ever thought I would need.
In 2001, when my entire CD collection was stolen from my by a very bad person, I thought I’d never be able to rebuild. But, I was determined. So I kept collecting, this time opting for mostly-used CDs via sites like half.com. A few years later, digital music came on the scene, which made it easier than ever to organize my collection, create mood-setting playlists and buy everything I liked.
But something happened to my music buying habits recently. Free streaming services like Pandora and Spotify came along and my phone got smarter, too – or at least better at gaming the system for free downloads. I just stopped buying music with any regularity. I can’t even remember what year it was when I last updated my iTunes library, and it looks like I’m not alone. Earlier this year, Billboard reported the first drop in digital music sales since the iTunes store made its debut in 2003. CD sales continued their steady decline and overall album sales also experienced an 8.4% drop. All of this made me wonder: Is owning music important to anyone anymore? If yes, then who?”
“10 grand from one sales platform at a time when ‘no-one pays for music anymore’…what does it mean?
I guess for some of you, your reaction is ‘only 10 grand?? I thought you were LOADED!’, in which case, you perhaps need to take with a pinch of salt the over-inflated claims of success of some other musicians pretending to be making millions. ‘Fake It To Make It’ has long been the received wisdom of music promo, but we’re kind of beyond that now. Apart from everything else, it makes it very difficult to build honest friendships with the people who dig your music if you’ve been lying to them for years about how massively successful you are.”
“So what does £10k mean?
Is it wages? If it is, it’s not much of a milestone. Should it be measured against what other artists are making? That seems a bit meaningless, given the role that marketing (and marketing budgets) play in headline figures. There are going to be a LOT of acts–signed as well as unsigned–who will see FAR less than we do go into their bank accounts from sales while still grossing WAY more than we do.
Because, making money from music costs money. And for MOST artists, it costs more than it makes. I could probably sell a lot more music if I assigned myself a sizable advertising and promo budget, if I was willing to do a buy-on tour opening for a bigger name act…but I just can’t afford to do that. That would cease to be sustainable. So I spend what I have–which is time–and use it to tell stories, to present the music in as many different contexts for as many different audiences as I can. For about 80% of my Bandcamp sales, I can tell you where the person heard about me, because I’ve been in touch with them already. It’s an extension of myriad friendships, not the effectiveness of an ad campaign that has bred whatever success we’re looking at here.”
But although much of the world makes sense now to Perry, she still can’t explain something like the recent death of Toronto’s Olivia Wise at 16 from inoperable brain cancer.
“I don’t have the answer for that,” she says, her eyes welling up over the girl who recorded Perry’s “Roar” in her dying weeks.
“I feel so bad for her family, but she inspired so many people by what she did, singing with what little strength she had left this song about self-strength. She was an inspiration to me.
“Sometimes these songs take on lives of their own. I write them and get goosebumps on my arms. But then other people, like Olivia, take them and they become bigger than I had ever dreamed.”
So, how does a cult musician like that become a figure of popular sport? A lot of circumstances conspired to introduce her to the larger public, from a heavy online presence to her relationship with popular writer Neil Gaiman. But the turning point came when she broke from her label, took to Kickstarter to crowd-source funding for her next project, and raised — remarkably, unexpectedly — more than a million dollars. This constituted an actual general-interest news story, in which Palmer’s accomplishment could be touted as proving something important concerning “the future of music.” (That claim’s a questionable one: It’s been clear for a while now that artists with major-label histories and established audiences can gather fans around independent projects, at least the first time out. So?) And negative reactions to that press were merely warm-up for the main hating-Palmer event, which arrived when she, in the course of assembling a tour, asked fans to volunteer at various stops to play strings and horns as part of her band, unpaid. This was, technically, just another facet of that intimate connection with the audience — letting them participate in the music-making, a daydream-come-true for plenty of fans. But when you’ve just raised more than a million dollars from fans and sold them tickets to your show, it’s evidently poor PR to ask them to perform for free — and even more unseemly to claim, when criticized, that you literally can’t afford to do otherwise. It’s also an open invitation for curious parties to investigate your finances, and when other musicians did so, they tended to be baffled. Palmer suggested she was returning her Kickstarter windfall to fans in the forms of lavish gifts for donors; others saw her rough budget breakdowns as a festival of profligacy and unnecessary costs. There were also, as a matter of routine, those strangers who didn’t much care either way but found Palmer’s entire manner of being vaguely off-putting.