Why Artists Can No Longer Make a Living Playing Music

Fairly long article, but rather informative. Enjoy.

Evolving always. My personal opinion on this, the vast majority of people on the planet are over 50 in the US the same folks who bought the records, went to the concerts and now stream. The Social Media expands the field for saturation and exposure a gift as I see it without the road crew and bus. 1 song played 100 times free is 100 new listeners. If you dont want your stuff out there why bother?

The future is demographics. Not even trends. My mind says yes but my body says no.

A more mature audience is looking for a different listening experience. No vomit on my shoulder is a good thing, no drunk chatting the entire set is an excellent thing, no dancing fool swayin in my face an outstanding thing. So I for one am partied out and just want to listen streamin is the next big money maker in music. IMO.

And the focus will be on the delivery from the sound engineer. Such focus when you get to filter out the sounds and the experience of the crowd.

I love the experience of Fest and always will. The kinship, the full days of music, the connection to songs and years and summers and smiles. But the music must go on and on and on and when its all done and said any music lover knows the link continues and we contribute most of us for a lifetime cause it is important. Music is important. I could not imagine life without it .

Informative article, and the business model has definitely changed when streaming replaced consumer album purchases.
But, like any industry, the players evolve, or die. And musicians who are passionate about their craft, have found ways to survive.
Touring is now the backbone of the music industry, and for me it’s wonderful, because my favorite acts come through my city more often!

The rock band Kiss, is probably the epitome model of making it in the new world of streaming. I am not a fan of the band, but they understood the ramifications of streaming music in the late 90’s, and ramped up their tour schedule frequency. Not only ticket sales, but merchandise is a huge percentage of a band’s income. The smart bands don’t let the labels have a percentage of merch.

Also, because bands don’t have to rely on labels to produce an album, the labels have far less control today compared to the ‘Mega’ promoters that many who work independently away from the label companies. These guys/gals are now the backbone of the industry in support of bands.

A lot of bands that were in their prime as late as the 90’s, The Foo Fighters for example, are doing quite well in 2019! Yes, they have exhausting tour schedules, playing 250+ shows annually. But, that’s the life of a band who’s already made it.

Prior to streaming, bands played 300+ shows a year, until they got a record deal. Then only toured to support the album.
I think streaming has made festivals even more prevalent in society, and that’s a good thing.

People can say streaming killed the music industry, but it actually only killed the labels. And IMO the labels were greedy bastards because they controlled the artist for the majority of their career. Bands like U2 have their promoter working for them, rather than the other way around. They are a well oiled corporate model.

I also think that the cost to produce a finished song, is 10% of what it was 20 years ago, and there is easier access to quality studios. The entire process allows unknowns to produce quality music, and get heard! Which leads me to another grave yard component of the music industry, radio! For 50 years, radio controlled what we listened to, and how often. Now, with my premium spotify account, I get fed an amazing selection of new music, based on my playlists. Who doesn’t love finding those new unknown bands, and now it’s so easy!!

We finally got a local Jam Grass festival in KC in 2017, Bluegrass in the Bottoms. IMO streaming bred more touring, which bred more festivals, and we win, getting a local opportunity to see RRE, The Dusters, Yonder, Green Sky, and others every year, in addition to making the trek to Telluride a month later! So, I think artists will continue to make a living playing music, but the majority of the revenue stream is going to continue to come from touring and merch sales.

I haven’t paid for a CD in probably almost 20 years. In our house we don’t even have a CD player or drive in any computer. My car, and truck do not have CD players. I also do not use a music streaming service, though I will check out unknown bands on youtube, but that is always live material and not studio. I do have a record player, and have almost 1000 records, of which I still purchase new records at one of the many record stores in my town, or towns I visit. In fact in the last 3 years there have been 3 new local owned record stores open in my town. I make it a point to always buy merch, and vinyl when at shows, even if its just a few stickers.
I do not see music dying, nor do I see a future where musicians can’t make a living with their craft. I am completely unfamiliar with the author, but he certainly seems disgruntled, and I hope he doesn’t go postal on the next punk rock band that plays in his town.

The author is Ian Tamblyn, a well respected Canadian folk musician. Won a Juno back in the 70s. I don’t think you have to worry about him going postal any time soon.
I think one of the other points that he is making is that in this new model, the students that studyto become things like sound engineers, producers, etc… also see their chances for work reduced because of the technology.
Am sure many folks here recall the famous wrecking crew musicians from the 60s. Every time is see the House Band, they remind me of the modern version.

I was being a little jokey, :evil. Just thought it strange he kinda blames punks and DIY musicians for the collapse of the industry. I see the engineer aspect some, but I think and see first hand, that just as many in the younger generations are discovering the amazing sounds of analog, many new and younger sound engineers are ditching digital and returning to analog. Most of the old classic recording studios are still being sought out. Currently here in Tulsa new life is being poured into Leon Russells old Church Studios, home to many a Shelter Records recordings.
I also find that in my opinion it is the DIY musicians who have, and currently are saving music, and not destroying the industry. I look at bands like the ones we all like here Dusters, Greensky, Billy Strings etc… None of these bands are making waves selling records, but they are selling out venues, headlining festivals, and surely making a decent living while making music of their choice and not following the popular mold. Seems to me what the big record companies want anymore is a face that sells, talent seems to ride the bench in popular music be that what passes as country these days, pop rock, or whatever genre you call the auto tune dance beat stuff.
I for one wouldn’t mind too much if the industry that pushes crappy music onto the masses died a little. Practically all the music I listen to isn’t played on most radio stations, is rarely found in films or on TV, and typically is ignored by the general public. Luckily we have fests like TBF and such so us weirdos can enjoy our good music together.
Gillian Welch says it best in her tune “Everything is Free”.

The DIY musicians may be saving music, but they are definitely changing the industry. At Telluride, we may have a majority of people that are musicians and artists, and people who respect the worth of musicians and artists. What Tamblyn points out is that is not the case with much of the general public. Rip and let rip has become acceptible for many. Subscription services distibute music cheaply to consumers, with little to no revenue going to artists. The concept of the “album” as art form is dying, and users that want to “own” content can now just pay $0.99 per song.
The music industry as we know it will adapt or die. Many record labels (and that is a dated term) can no longer afford to hire vast groups of promoters, studio musicians and sound engineers, and can now be very selective when offering record contracts. It may be a good thing that this system dies, but artists still need to make a living, even if it takes playing 300 live shows a year. And, in our current political climate, art is extremely devalued.
You make a good point. It is the festivals that are now central to the success of many artists. We are so lucky that we have Planet Bluegrass and Telluride.

My Grandfather held season tickets to Opera, Symphony, Ballet and Orchestra…. why you ask? Because he loved and supported the Arts. Went to all of the fund raisers and was an active heavy hitter in the Arts as far as contributions made in Chicago. I would like to see a come back of season tickets at a reduced rate for season ticket holders.

This makes great sense to me IMO. A way to support all shows in my area my city my bands. Just sayin there should be a payoff for the fan that follows as well. So a double win.

The very best part of season ticket holders, you get to visit with the band one on one before and after. Get to know them. A+ when you make it personal.
And when you cannot go you turn someone new onto a show or you gift them.

A great way to support your favorite bands and assures a seat when they are in town.

No shortage of my opinion says Ms Mary. Take that Cowboy. LOL! :lol

Oh I absolutely love the idea of season ticket holder to a venue! In my town the only option for that would be our PAC, and though they do get some incredible musical performers, and our Tulsa Symphony, the majority of acts that come through are theater and not music. Don’t get me wrong I love theater too, but it would be very cool if one of the strictly music venues offered some kind of season pass.
I really love conversations like this, and can’t wait to have them in person. This music industry thing is big for me, as many of my friends are touring musicians, studio musicians, or songwriters trying to get recognition. So I’ve seen some of them really truly make it, in fact many of my friends and associates from here in Tulsa have played one or all of the PB stages. And vice versa, I also know lots of struggling musicians, who are constantly on the fence of giving up playing music, because of the fact its so hard to “pimp” yourself to a saturated music market.
Going back to the DIY aspect, I see not only a large DIY musician presence but a growing DIY small label industry. Which may be the future of “good” music. I did just pre-order the Garth Brooks vinyl box set, which will be released on Garths label, though I’m 100% certain he is not hurting for money, as he sold the 11 album set for only 100 beans (the average price for a new record is about 25). We, the true fans are who will keep this important industry alive, we know the value of quality art, and entertainment, and we know how much time effort, and expenses have gone into that art. We buy shirts, records, tickets, cook meals, offer beds to up and coming artists that can’t afford hotels on the road, we share our love for these artists with others and hopefully they too contribute to the success of musicians off the mainstream radar.

Can you imagine a season ticket plan for Telluride? The wait list would be about 75 years. :evil

I think season tickets secure the Art rain or shine and a waiting list for season tickets only secures the Planet for the future. A win win.

Yep the ever changing field of the Arts. It will go on and it has never been an easy road. That is why when you get well known its called making it!

There are 4 Quarters in a year. 4 blocks of shows and a season ticket rewable at each block. This way a new season ticket holder can step in or you can hold your seats and renew each quarter.

I have always been an idea girl. No more feast or famine. a steady flow of inflow.

This also could be a Band based thing. Season tickets for The Talking Heads, they bring the fan base and promotion and just rent the venues and services a flip. Lots of room here to generate a steady flow…

Ferg, I need a job. :lol

The biggest problem that comes with season tickets is they tend to be exclusive, not inclusive. :slight_smile:

Entirely separate issue but there should only be a certain % of season tickets and yes not everyone can offord them or some can sometimes. That’s life and ya just have to cope.

Truth be known. I always have much more fun in the cheap seats! However we are talking about supporting Art sooo that is my point.

And Buck the demographic point I made earlier would fall into play. Make it easier to contribute and attend…just sayin" YO FERG!

I don’t think that’s a seperate issue. Season tickets are meant to generate a guaranteed revenue stream. But they decrease the number of available spots to the general public. It’s hard enough now to get a TP ticket with only 1200 available, imagine if 1000 of them were taken by season ticket owners. Hardly any newbies would have the opportunity to experience the TP festivities in any given year. And the less the supply, the more beneficial it would be to scalpers and such.
PB is really doing a good job to be as fair as possible to get tickets out to everyone at a reasonable price. The demand is high, so at this point the revenue stream is probably not a problem. But if you want to sell season tickets, can we just incorporate ourselves as a business, then use them as a tax write-off for entertainment? That would be fun. :cheers

My point is to generate enough cash to support art period. It is a well known fact that older folks have always been the largest contributors to the Arts. The very first thing I noticed when I went to the Denver Art Museum. I though that is it(I am from Chgo) we need more elderly here in this town because they know the importance of Art and do contribute.
If something is hard to get it makes it invaluable. Something to work towards like a skate board. This concept of fair. get over it. Who said its all fair?
Tax exempt. I see a way, as we all do, to work it .

This concept of all things being fair is so 90’s. Cope. :medal

I love music and we need Troubadours :medal

Ok well these are just my personal conclusions and solutions to support the Arts. Streamin and season tickets… :lol a total idea gal :medal

Telluride ain’t an art gallery or museum. It’s a music festival (with a dash of circus thrown in). A season ticket model will not work for that crowd. A rough guess is that maybe 10% of folks who attend are over 55, and that decreases by age. But this demographic is the one would be more than likely to afford the season tickets.
Being one of these old farts, I would gladly make charitable contributions to keep the festival as is, open to all, if necessary. I don’t want to see Telluride turned into a VIP event, where you can only buy tickets if you have American Express. Some people already feel that way about Town Park festivarians. One day, when they build that Bluegrass Museum over the slag heap in T-Ride, I will buy a subscription. But until then, we can loook forward to meeting new friends and hearing new music every year.

Personally I don’t see how any single festival could ever have a season pass as they are a once a year thing. I could see a limited number of passes to all three major PB events TBF, Rockygrass and Folks per year as a possibility, but over-all I think the way PB handles tickets for their events is about as perfect as you can get for such in demand tickets. I do think regular venues could offer season passes, that way shows that wouldn’t typically have a large draw might get a few extra ears in if they had a season pass that was good for all events. It keeps revenue in the venues hands to book bands, and should increase the numbers to shows with a lesser draw. Season ticket holders could always give or sell their tickets to events they are not interested in attending.

I couldn’t even begin to count how many shows I’ve attended where I felt embarrassed by my towns turnout for quality music. One instance was four original member of Zappa’s Mothers of Invention playing an entire Zappa album which they were all a part of the original recording, or touring band, 10 people paid to get in the doors. The band was amazing, and played as if the house was packed. Maybe if the venue had some season pass holders others would have shown up just to be there since they had the tickets.

I had a similar experience with my current hometown (Wausau, WI), and people not showing up for the Stringdusters a couple weeks ago. I was also quite embarrassed, I bet there were a hundred people or so, but the room could have held at least 4-5 times that many people. Good news for me is that I was standing front and center, wearing my Telluride gear, for one of my favorite bands, by far the closest I have been for one of their shows. Unfortunately I don’t see them coming back… due to the turnout.

Also had a similar experience this last Fall in Madison, WI with the Lil’ Smokies.


I actually was speaking from an Artist standpoint. If I have a fan base and they follow me and I have blocks of tickets for each Quarter this is my bread and butter money to fund the flow. I was not speaking from a fest runner point of view but it can swing either way. My point stands. A fest, a hot dog stand, an Art Museum all need money to run hot dog. Read the title of the thread. And my point exactly on the mean age in attendance. You make my point for me. You could be double dippin if you see the entire picture but yes there would be a tribe of folks who could afford the big party up front. , but they earn the right by supporting the event year round almost. I never ever even noticed the pit I was having way to much fun( not true a few very cute boys did catch my eye a time er two) so it only separate you if your head lets it.
I love this place, so carry on that was my 2 cents… hugs n sun n squirt guns :burn

The more I read the more this pulls me in. I would think of shows in blocks like in Jan-March (Q1) I will do the east coast so 3 months before that leg of the tour you sell a season pass Jan- march for all the shows (in a seating of 100 you get 30 the first 30 seats for season holders) and that fluctuates for each venue depending on your following and the capacity. Always a quarter ahead so if you have no takers maybe change the tour to feed the cow. Kickin this thing to death. Over and out! LOL!