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« NATION IN CRISIS: Obama’s vacation plans in jeopardy | Main | Christie Speaks at CPAC, Gets Standing Ovation »
March 06, 2014

Untold Tales of the 1%: The Top 1% of Recording Artist Superstars Capture 77% of All Revenues From Internet-Based Sales; the Remaining 99% Divide the Remaining 23% of Revenues


Music industry analyst Mark Mulligan’s MIDiA Consulting has published a new report exploring the ‘superstar artist economy’. It suggests that while artists’ share of total recorded-music income has grown from 14% in 2000 to 17% in 2013, the top 1% of musical works are now accounting for 77% of all those artist revenues thanks in part to a “tyranny of choice” on digital services.

“The democratisation of access to music distribution has delivered great benefits for artists but has contributed to even greater confusion for fans, ironically culminating in an intensification of the superstar effect, with the successful artists relative share of the total pot of musical works getting progressively smaller,” as he puts it.


The report takes pains to point out that “superstar” artists aren’t necessarily just those signed to major labels, noting that a number of independent artists have broken into the 1% tier. It’s also clear that this isn’t just a digital phenomenon – witness the 75% share that the top 1% of artists take in physical sales. But the report is likely to fuel more arguments about whether streaming pays off for smaller artists.

Whether they're "independent" or not, they're still the top 1%. Technology is making the idea of a "record company" obsolete to the point of quaintness, anyway.

I'd be interested in hearing from the top 1% of the recording industry about their thoughts on the top 1% of earners in all other fields -- and why they (presumably) support their own claim to the vast majority of all income, but oppose 1%ers in other fields similarly taking home a greatly disproportionate share of all revenues.

Stratospheric revenues are had when someone is either selling the same thing (the same book, the same song) to a massive group of people (like the huge American market) or when someone is in charge of a large corporation serving a huge national market (NABISCO -- the National Biscuit Corporation -- demonstrated this 100 years or so ago).

Some jobs will never pay all that much, either because it's too easy to find someone else to do the job (too much supply) or because the worker spends a great deal of his personal time on each run of production. A brain surgeon, for example, has a skill in ridiculously high demand -- people would, if needed, trade most of their income just to live. But a brain surgeon, unlike Beyonce, cannot just print up 100,000 copies of his brain surgeries and sell them to people. Every surgery requires at least days of research and consultation and at least a day of actual surgery. No matter how important his skill, he can never sell it in a massively reproduced way such as to make as much money as Jay-Z.

This is the way of the world. It's not fair, but it's also not plainly unjust, either.

But I do notice that people who can reap the huge benefits of massively reproduced labor being sold many times -- such as movie stars -- never seem to notice that they themselves are the beneficiaries of the same basic principle that makes the CEO of a large corporation so rich.

Years ago, Warren Beatty was asked about this unfairness -- the unfairness that a star like him could (at one point) command a fee of $5 million or more while most actors were paid scale or just above it, and could barely find work 8 months out of every year. He was asked to reconcile this with his own well-known socialist leanings.

All Beatty said was this: "The star system is central to how Hollywood makes movies." As if this answers the question at all.

What he was really saying is "That's just the way it is, and I'm the beneficiary of that system, so eff you, I'm fine with it."

Would that he were capable of generalizing from his own experience.

digg this
posted by Ace at 02:11 PM

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