Book I’m Reading: The Future of Music

The Book I’m reading at the moment is The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution by David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard. I’m a bit late on the bandwagon but I guess it’s a book that has to be read if you’re interested in how the music industry is changing.

From what I gather not everyone agrees with the book’s arguments, even those who are embracing the new trends of P2P networks and changes in the view of copyrights in music.  However, the authors still give valuable insights into both the transformation of the business side of music and the change in music culture brought on by the Internet and I must say it’s the other end of the spectrum from those who are threatened by illegal downloading of songs.

Recently I’ve embarked  on  a bit of a spending spree for books about the music industry (particularly in Australia) -especially how copyright and royalties work to provide musicians and songwriters an income. I’ve found it fascinating in that making business out of this kind of “intellectual property” is very different to so many other businesses and industries that are based on a product or a service. A farmer grows potatoes. Then he sells them. A doctor treats  a patient -a service paid for the time given. As a teacher I was paid a service based on how many hours I put in for the week. If I put in 20 hours, I get paid for that. So, the whole concept of making money from royalties was intriguing to me, because it seems so “hit and miss” and disproportionate to the amount of work put in.

In page 108 of The Future of Musicthe authors provide interesting stats about the “old” system of the music industry: less than 10% of signed artists/bands recoup royalty advances. Of the approximate 32 000 new CDs released each year only 250 sell more than 10 000 copies. As far as the pop record industry goes, the chances seem pretty slim. It seems more like playing lotto than creating something and expecting a return. (Apparently the record companies bank on one of the artists making it to get back the investment put in for all the artists).

Earning an income from performing seems more level based and directly rewarded for the effort put in, but the dynamic of royalties and seeking that “hit” seems to have affected the culture of the music industry in regards to records. The Future of Music seems to hold more hope for a middle-class of musicians enabled to directly do business with their fan base. I guess we’ll see as things pan out in the future.

Further websites:

Gerd Leonard’s blog


Andrew Dubber



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