I collect, well, read articles on the sorry state of the music business for smaller-than-Beyoncé performers, as if I have a music career. (Ha!) Here’s one from Dar Williams, who has been at this for a while: Guest Blog: Dar Williams on the Changing Economics of Touring.

Many things are better, I’ve found, and yet touring itself is becoming unsustainable, and I think you know what I’m about to bring up. Most listeners resist becoming individual shareholders in the produced work of musicians: they don’t buy albums anymore. With the encouragement of what’s left of the music industry, they believe that the income provided by music streaming companies successfully replaces the purchase of an album. And they also believe that musicians can “just be more of a road dog, because you love it, right? Just tour more, right?”

I’ll let you go back to her post to see her reply. (Spoiler alert: “Yeah, right.”) I like the sentence, “Most listeners resist becoming individual shareholders in the produced work of musicians.” It used to be that you’d play a show and get paid for that, and sell CDs at a table in the back of the room, which helped make it all work out. The latter part doesn’t happen much anymore, because we’re all downloading stuff, and the artists don’t get a lot of cash out of that. Not to mention that a lot of people want even the concert for free or really cheap at most.

Individual shareholders… well, some performers set up GoFundMe pages or something similar to fund particular projects. There’s Patreon where if someone likes you, they can pledge a sum of money to help you do what you do overall. Some musicians make an income out of that, but I guess some don’t. Is it enough to cover what CDs used to bring in? I don’t know. Just buying a CD made one a shareholder, in a way; it’s a nice form of immediate support.

I was talking with a long-time friend and performer a couple of weeks ago who could probably corroborate everything Dar Williams says. My friend’s conclusion, she says, was that now you have to do it for the community, for the people who like you. It’s not that we’re in this for fame and fortune, but there isn’t any fame or fortune for the likes of us. Of course, we were supposed to be doing it for love, anyway, right?

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About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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