Slaves of the Internet, Unite! | The New York Times

A familiar figure in one’s 20s is the club owner or event promoter who explains to your band that they won’t be paying you in money, man, because you’re getting paid in the far more valuable currency of exposure. This same figure reappears over the years, like the devil, in different guises — with shorter hair, a better suit — as the editor of a Web site or magazine, dismissing the issue of payment as an irrelevant quibble and impressing upon you how many hits they get per day, how many eyeballs, what great exposure it’ll offer. “Artist Dies of Exposure” goes the rueful joke.


The Smoking Gun of Internet Exploitation of Musicians and Songwriters

There have been a lot of predictions about how the internet was going to empower musicians and create a new professional middle class. Unfortunately, the year end  numbers from Soundscan for the last two years just do not support those claims.


in 2011 there were 76,865 new releases, only 3,148 sold more than 2,000 units = 4% of new releases sold over 2,000 units

in 2011 there were 878,369 total releases in print, only 15,613 sold more than 2,000 units = 2% of ALL RELEASES in print sold more than 2,000 units.


in 2012 there were 76,882 new releases, only 3,074 sold more than 2,000 units = 4% of new releases sold over 2,000 units

in 2012 there were 909,799 total releases in print, only 15,507 sold more than 2,000 units = 2% of ALL RELEASES in print sold more than 2,000 units.

So in the last two calendar years only 4% of New Releases and only 2% of ALL releases managed to sell more than 2,000 units.

That means 96% of all music released and in print sells less then 2,000 units per year. Please tell us again about all of this internet empowerment?

Who do you really think is selling more than 2,000 units a year, the Indie/DIY artist uploading to TuneCore, or the artist with label support? Let us not forget, the indie/DIY artist is spending their own money now on marketing, PR, social media, everything – without those cost and expenses being advanced to the band as investments by a label.

A decade in from predictions of empowerment what we have found is more exploitation in the facts.

Overall, industry wide revenue from recorded sales is down over 50% as the growth of illegally operating infringing businesses continue to climb.

This means THREE things:

1) The overall pie for revenue opportunities is getting SMALLER, not larger.

2) The distribution of wealth is more concentrated with the largest (and legacy) artists getting a bigger overall share.

3) There are LESS opportunities for new artists to have sustainable careers without the aid of label financing.

These numbers are also consistent with this report from Salon:

No Sympathy for the Creative Class | Salon

Of course, those who continue to work in the creative class are the lucky ones. Employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show just how badly the press and media have missed the story.

Other fields show how the recession aggravated existing trends, but reveal that an implosion arrived before the market crash and has continued through our supposed recovery. “Musical groups and artists” plummeted by 45.3 percent between August 2002 and August of 2011. “Newspaper, book and directory publishers” are down 35.9 percent between January 2002 and a decade later; jobs among “periodical publishers” fell by 31.6 percent during the same period.

And then there’s this from Digital Music News:

Recording Sales Declines & Musician Employment, 1999-2011…| Digital Music News

There’s more music being created than ever before, but paradoxically, musicians are making less. Which means there are also fewer musicians and music professionals enjoying gainful employment, thanks to a deflated ecosystem once primed by major labels and marked-up CDs.

It’s a difficult reality to stomach, especially given years of misguided assumptions about digital platforms. But it’s not really a revolution if it’s not getting people paid. And according to stats supplied by the US Department of Labor, there are 41 percent fewer paid musicians since 1999.

So there you have it from two different independent sources both arriving at a reduction of 40%+ fewer full time working middle class musicians since 1999 and 2002 respectively.

As we like to say around here, “If The Internet Is Working For Musicians, Why aren’t More Musicians Working Professionally?” and “Artists, Know They Enemy – Who’s Ripping You Off And How.

The enemy are the for profit businesses making money from our recordings and songwriting illegally. Let’s be clear about this, our battle is with businesses ripping us off by illegally distributing and exploiting our work for profit. This is not about our fans. It is about commercial companies in the businesses of profiting from our work, paying us nothing and then telling us to blame our fans. That is the ultimate in cowardice and dishonesty.

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.

Artist Exploitation Calculator – Internet Edition

If there is any doubt left in anyone’s mind about the Exploitation Economy ripping off artists, this fantastic website shows the estimated revenue generated for commercial businesses on the backs of artists and creators without paying the artists a single penny.

Stat Show:

The Pirate Bay – $14 Million Dollars Annually Estimated

4 Shared – $11 Million Dollars Annually Estimated

Iso Hunt – $4 Million Dollars Annually Estimated

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, we also recommend reading:

Artists, Know They Enemy:

Ethical Fan – Wall Off Shame: