The Rise of the Artist.. or, Ayn Rand’s Music Industry

November 15, 2009


This graph is from a recent entry over at the Times Labs Blog called “Do music artists fare better in a world with with illegal file-sharing?

“This is the graph the record industry doesn’t want you to see… The most immediate revelation, of course, is that at some point next year revenues from gigs payable to artists will for the first time overtake revenues accrued by labels from sales of recorded music.

The article’s logic and data parsing looks sound, though its analysis is confined to the UK music industry only. It validates an opinion I’ve held since the beginning of the demise of the music industry: that the demise would favor the artist and frown on the record men.

This will only be the case, however, for artists who were not only releasing a consistent stream of quality product, but whose careers were centered around their ability to perform. The traditional record industry was founded on the premise that artists want to make music and not negotiate deals, find distribution channels, or haggle over merchandise profit margins. And this remains true. Which means the industry in its current state favors the resourceful, talented, motivated artist, and incentivizes the remaining lot of musicians to get their act together and take the reigns of their career.

We lose, of course, the lazy but undeniably brilliant musicians who need the maintenance, guidance, and hand-holding of a great manager or producer to bring their talent to the masses. These gems are the ones we should mourn, if only slightly, as the music world shifts toward an “Atlas Shrugged” reality where the suits can no longer hop a free ride on the talent.