The article below details the financial struggles of a range of bands - acts with sizeable followings, radio airplay and critical acclaim. At their level, touring and merchandise still aren't really paying the bills, with minimal money coming in from actual record sales.
They note that even the fees for their music being used in ads has steeply declined. The flipside is the potential of digitisation to slash costs and directly engage with (and monetise) an audience.
Just how far have revenues fallen then? The actual figures are quite shocking - from a global $40bn industry to just $14bn in 15 years as digital piracy took off from 1999.
The music industry has been in steady decline since the early 2000s as illegal downloads and then the rise of streaming took gargantuan chunks out of record sales. The situation is not improving, with global revenue for music dipping below $14bn for the first time in 2014. It was $40bn in 1998.
Understandably this hits artists not shored up by the big labels the hardest. Nothing in music pays what it once did, and the decline will likely continue.
We’re in an industry where over 90% of releases never recoup the money spent on them,” he says. “The industry underwrites failure as a necessary part of its operation and looks to the supercharged successes of a very small number of artists to cover the losses. That’s pretty dysfunctional. The number one challenge facing a new artist is a financial one: become profitable or cease to exist in the medium to long term.”
Wale believes that by thinking on a more realistic scale, and with advances in technology, it is still possible to make an income from music. “I think now, more so than ever, it’s very possible – especially for a solo artist – to make a cottage-industry scale success without any outside help whatsoever. Obviously this has been facilitated greatly by the internet and the emergence of online networks, fan-supported releases and a number of great discovery platforms. All the tools are really there for someone to go out and do it themselves.”