The Music Industry’s Underground Economy


So everyone knows how the music industry is changing…yes, that affects most musicians, but things are not really changing for the “starving musician”. The starving musician is still in some respects struggling just the same. CD sales continue to decline, but electronic streaming is on the rise. One way or another the companies are still making their money, while musicians continue to be unappreciated and underpaid.

Only 1-5 percent of musicians who are a part of the industry make enough to survive. What is it like for the other 95 percent? They are a commodity for an extremely competitive underground economy, yet the world does not see how struggling musicians are taken advantage of. Even when a musician has a job for a reputable agent in the “music industry”, they are very likely to get underpaid or not paid at all. Musicians who are trying to make a living do work for free, because exposure is the musician’s currency.

In 2012, the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics documented a musician or singer as a technical occupation. The statistics estimated a surprisingly lucrative median pay of $22.39 per hour, with 176, 200 jobs available. They reported a 10 percent increase in jobs within that year.

The fine print of all of this information; the government only credits musicians who are paid. The median does not account for musicians who are not.

Only about 1-7 percent of the music industry making money is represented by musicians or performers. The majority of the revenue is collected by performing arts companies and promoters. So in the end, no matter what kind of musician you are, the companies own the industry. That is why musicians everywhere suffer. Musicians will continue to be taken advantage of because the industry is in favor of who holds the coin, not the countless individuals with empty pockets.

“Only sick music makes money today.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche



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