General Question

niki's avatar

Do free downloads make it harder for musicians to make a living?

Asked by niki (714points) August 14th, 2009

you know those people who still say “well, even with free downloads & everything, i don’t care, I’m sure those artists/musicians can find another way to make a living”
and some even said that musicians/artists nowadays can and ONLY can, and should make a living not from CD-album sales (which generally has decreased significantly, with free downloads everywhere!), but from live gigs, merchandise, etc.
but IMO there can’t be no denying that nowadays, the biggest source of income for artists/musicians (which is from CD sales), especially for NEW artists/musicians, are getting ‘stolen’ , and almost gone, because of free downloads everywhere, regardless of whether they make money/income from live gigs, concerts, etc, right?

so my question then becomes this:
is it generally now much ‘harder’ for musicians to be able to make a living, and i mean, as a FULL-time (not part-time) serious, professional musician?

there’re even other comments such as: “well, music is supposed to be FREE! so those musicians/artists?? well, of course they NEED to find other works too, even if it’s 9-to-5 jobs!”
the ‘problem’ i see with this is, of how it seems the profession/career of Musician is getting somewhat ‘downgraded’ , or less respected these days??
because it seems like these people, in a way, saying “musician is, and CAN only be a PART-time ‘non-serious’ job. so they all need to find other more ‘serious’ job!” ,.as if being musician, ie: thinking, composing, writing songs, lyrics arranging, practicing session, recording, mixing & mastering & promo is all still NOT a “hard-serious” works?

what do you guys think regarding this issue?
would love to know your opinions!

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12 Answers

Jack79's avatar

Nope. I make more or less the same money as I always did (I do make less, but that’s because of other factors, not downloads). Most (almost all) of the money is made from live concerts anyway.
(personally, over 90% of the money I ever made from music came from concerts, less than 10% from CD sales, and far less than 1% from internet sales).

The only way free downloads can affect musicians is when someone won’t go out on a Saturday night because he is still at home waiting for his download to finish.

limeaide's avatar

I believe it is stealing also, if the musician wants to give you a free track that’s there business. It’s a product if they are selling it, it’s their right. People can rationalize anything to make them feel better. I don’t care if they can make money otherwise or make very little that argument doesn’t take away from the original argument. I used to do such things while in college thinking well I’m not going to buy it anyway if I have to pay so they’re not losing anything, but that is a rationalization and doesn’t mean wasn’t wrong.

I listen to Pandora, slacker to find new music I want to listen to. If it’s the money issue buy used music or don’t buy at all. I’d like to have certain things but if I can’t afford to buy them I don’t steal them.

By the way it’s legal to record off the radio or internet radio, quality won’t be the same but it’s good enough to learn whether you like a band or not and buy their albums.

@Jack79 Any details you’d like to share, name, bandname, etc…?

dynamicduo's avatar

but IMO there can’t be no denying that nowadays, the biggest source of income for artists/musicians (which is from CD sales), especially for NEW artists/musicians, are getting ‘stolen’

I’m afraid your opinion here is quite wrong. Artists get very little from CD sales at all, that is if we’re talking about the big artists who sign to record labels. Generally speaking, when an artist signs with a label, the label then fronts the costs for producing the album and also takes all of the revenue from the album. Maybe a dollar or two makes its way down to the artist. The rest goes to middlemen, marketing, producing, the hair stylist, etc. Certainly no more than 20% of the profit makes it to the artist. Even less trickles down from iTunes profit, even though the cost of production is FAR less than with traditional CDs.

Indie artist who front the cost of recording their own album, yeah they take 100% of the revenue as profit, but a certain percentage of that goes to pay back the loans for recording etc, and their maximum potential revenue is far less because they have very little advertising budget.

Here’s an article you might enjoy reading.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I listen to Pandoradotcom, and when I hear someone new that I like, I go and find their album. Of course, even if I did free downloads; which I don’t, most of the people I listen to are dead by now. So I don’t know who is getting the money I spend of Miles Davis CDs, but I hope they enjoy it. I sure do enjoy the music.

Jack79's avatar

@limeaide nah, I just gave a generic response based on my experience, wasn’t trying to plug my music. My last two albums are available for free download btw, I haven’t bothered selling music online since got taken over.

martijn86's avatar

Best bands out there love to be independent from major labels and support downloading. An artist wants to be free to make the music they want and want their songs to be heart.. it truly has nothing to do with money!
If an artist is skilled enough and people got to know them through downloading/blogs and everything, their concerts will be covering their cost and a nice income.

What major labels see is that thirty (or some) years ago, they controlled what people listened by putting their money in radio and tv shows and thus the whole world listened to sort of the same music. General Mainstream. Label has money, puts it in a video and top of the pops, label makes more money, circle continues.
Now that every band can record and the internet came to every household. The amount of genres and artists have grown x10! People started listening to more specific genres that didn’t appear on mainstream radio/tv.
Now that’s a GREAT innovation for the music world, there’s a medium that doesn’t require a solid disk and the whole world can acces it and listen to it. But the circle of major labels is broken, they lost their control over what people liked.
So what do labels do? Grab a pre-internet (free world) law, use their Mafia money to get expensive lawyers and state to governments that they will lose money from import rights of solid disks. Unfortunately some governments are so sensitive to that, they put all human rights for privacy and censorship to waste.
But then again many countries seem to grab every opportunity they have to tame their people and gain authority with excuses like this. Silly thing is that some people tend to believe ‘anti-free-data’-folks and say that downloading is stealing. Well making a virtual copy isn’t the same as taking something away and if in some way the artist is infected by it, it’s in a positive way.

Download music= Enjoy more music, support new music and shrink the labels’ influence. Love an artist? Check out their concerts!

FrankHebusSmith's avatar

NO, and the stats are there to prove it.

Since the eruption of music downloading on the internet, record labels profits have actually increased, drastically so. Now granted CD sales have dropped. But what they didn’t anticipate was that concert ticket sales would go up, as now more people are familiar with bands enough (and the whole album not just one song on the radio) that they actually want to go to a show.

Before the music stealing started, around half of record companies money came from concerts. NOW, it’s about ¾ (and their profits overall have increased something like 30–40% this decade).

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I don’t know but I hope not. I’d love to be able to see live all the artists I listen to online which has replaced me going to buy CD’s- I buy downloads now.

Vincentt's avatar

I love downloading free music made available by the artist, in some cases even allowing you to produce your own music based on that. I would like to make a distinction between stealing and copyright infringement. I’m not saying copyright infringement is right, but I do consider real stealing a worse crime.

Also, I would never have bought any of the music I downloaded without the artist’s consent. If I hadn’t/couldn’t’ve done that, I’d listen to radio, only free music or otherwise. I would still pay for concerts though.

niki's avatar

@Jack79: you said you make your 2 albums free for download,
then how did you make money from that?
i’m just curious. thanks.

@martijn86: true, the ‘good’ thing about Internet downloads nowadays IMO is in the vast array of variety of music suddenly available to our generation nowadays.
but the problem still remains: no matter how many people from many places, or even countries, downloading ur music works, but if these people nowadays didn’t want to buy the original CD/album (they just downloaded all songs for free from internet), then doesn’t that mean the artist/musicians has lost ONE very important ‘income source’, which is, the CD sales?..
or perhaps like you’ve said, the CD sales were usually to fill the pocket of the ‘label guys’ anyway, not the artist/musicians?..
so, a sense, ‘free download’ nowadays does help?.. especially in terms of free promotions, worldwide?..
what do u think?

Jack79's avatar

@niki I meant 2 out of the 8 that I’ve done total. My 2nd album was on when the site still paid us 50%. Now things are very different there. Anyway, I made very little money from that. My 4th album was also online. The first record was on vinyl anyway, the 3rd was a limited edition that was never reprinted, and the 5th and 6th were CDs I made myself to sell at concerts. The only major, truly professional productions that I could have put online therefore were my 2nd and 7th albums. The 2nd didn’t make much money anyway, so after a couple of years of negotiations with various record companies, I decided to allow the 7th online for free download, rather than sell the rights to some international conglomerate for peanuts. I’ve lost a lot of money on that album, but that’s ok, it’s generally nice and I’m sure some people out there enjoy it.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

well, i’m not a musician myself, but conor oberst is, and here is what he has to say on the matter:
“Obviously, it seems like a good thing to do. There’s a morality about it, about saying let’s just share this with everyone, let’s not just let this be a commercial good when in our eyes it’s a work of art. The whole comparison to shoplifting is absurd and a desperate attempt to hold onto this control that has been accumulated. I also think it’s just pragmatic from our position. We want people to hear the music. We don’t have the advertising dollars to be on TV and radio. It makes sense.”

also, from what i gather, musicians make very little money off of the music they sell anyway. i prefer to buy music because i want it in the form of cds and vinyl and whatever else i can get – literally – my hands on.

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