45% Fewer Professional Working Musicians Since 2002

The numbers are simple and staggering. The internet has not empowered musicians, it has exploited them.

-45% fewer working musicians-2

Of course there will always be people to nit pick the numbers, to argue and quibble about the Bureau Of Labor Statistics (BLS) methodology. It may be impossible to estimate the exact effect of unethical internet exploitation, but the trend is definite.

Those who debate the exact numbers are using that to delay action. Their job is similar to the commentators and ‘scientists’ funded by oil companies’ to deny global warming or say it needs “more study.”

The Bureau Of Labor Statistics is an agnostic government agency, not the RIAA.

It is also important to note that these cuts are made from the bottom up, not the top down. It is the struggling and middle class musician that gets hurt first. The difference between “making a living, making music” or not is represented in these numbers.

We should also like to point out that while musicians are making less money, those in Silicon Valley are making more money. Jaron Lanier says that “the internet destroyed the middle class” and we can see for ourselves that through the systematic process of removing the cost of labor from their offerings the elite few, are making more money, while everyone else is doing more of the work.

10 thoughts on “45% Fewer Professional Working Musicians Since 2002

  1. That analysis is nonsense! The fact is that there are fewer professional musicians, making less, but these conclusions are wrong! It has everything to do with the ever widening diversity: more people taking an increasingly smaller piece of the pie, not less money being made overall. Combine that with the fact that people don’t want live music as much anymore, because of other forms of entertainment they prefer, and you get what we have!

    The final piece of the puzzle is that many, many big pop acts these days don’t need good musicians; most if not all the music is running on tracks and they just need a couple of young, good-looking people to pretend that they’re playing.

    To blame the internet is just ludicrous…..

    1. Sorry Richard, it’s not that the pie is being cut into more pieces, it’s that the pie is getting smaller, $6.3b smaller since 2009 annually. People are really well beyond disputing the shrinking size of the industry or dwindling payments to artists.

      see here:

      No one is blaming “the internet” so much as recognizing the effects of infringing, unlicensed and illegally operating, for profit businesses on the internet.

      see here:

      and here :

      so the truth is, there is alot of money being made in distributing music on the internet, it’s just that in many cases (piracy) NONE of that money is “being shared” with the musicians. Sorta ironic, if not so sad.

      All that is being stated is that in any value chain where money is being made from the exploitation of the artists work, the creator should be fairly compensated (includes filmmakers, authors, photographers, software developers, etc). Wouldn’t you agree?

      1. You may or may not have noticed that since 2009 we have been in a global recession. Personally I have financially regressed by between 3 and 4% per year since. I have less to spend on discretionary items, and music is one of them. I spend less because I have less to spend – I now consume almost all of my music from the radio. When things pick up, I will spend more and then things will pick up for you too.

      2. Hi DeeJayPee2013,

        There is lot of data that shows sales from 1973 through 2008 (plenty of economic boom and bust in there) and yet sales grow steadily until 1999. Low ticket items (like 99 cent songs) are the most resilient in a bad economy. It’s durable goods like cars and washing machines that take the big hit. Also, you’ll note there is not a massive increase in sales during the economic housing boon years from 2004 – 2006.

        Let’s look at 35 years of historical data 1973 – 2008 (Source IFPI).

        73-08salesnapsteritunesSo it looks like the economy and consumer competition really isn’t that big of a factor after all, again, looking at 35 years of data… the late 90’s may have been the peak, but that’s only because of the onset of illegal exploitation of content without compensation that began at the turn of the century.


    2. If you are correct that “people don’t want live music as much anymore”, then that particular point goes completely against the idea that musicians who see people taking their music for free (or musicians who give their music away free) can make it up on a ‘tour-and-t-shirt’ sales approach.

Comments are closed.