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A Tiny Percentage of Artist Income Comes from Copyright, Study Finds…

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The purpose of copyright is to encourage the production of intellectual property by offering protection and compensation to its creators.  But what if those creators are enjoying neither protection, nor compensation?

Well, this is what happens: according to a study conducted by Peter DiCola of the Northwestern University School of Law, artists are now, on average, deriving a relatively tiny percentage of their income directly from copyrights.  The rest is coming from activities like live performances, session work, merchandising, or teaching.  None of these categories are directly tied to copyright protections (if at all), and the benefit of tightened copyright control wouldn’t impact these revenue streams.

“A hypothetical boost in revenue from more effective enforcement would only increase the average musician’s total revenue by a small amount today, in the short term,” DiCola assessed in the finding.  “Stronger copyright might provide them incentives to move up the income ladder in a winner-­take-­all kind of market.

“But it will not put more money in their pocket today; for the hypothetical legislation to help them in the future, they must get rich first. It will not help them directly today.”

DiCola plunged into a survey dataset of more than 5,000 musicians (assembled by the Future of Music Coalition), all of whom were asked to break down their income streams over the past 12 months into eight categories.  Some of these categories were directly linked to copyright protection; most were not.

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In the end, DiCola realized that the ‘artist’ is actually an incredibly complicated beast, and tough to reduce into averages and sweeping generalities.  Radical differences not only exist between genres, but different levels of success within those genres.  But the broader point may be that current copyright debates frequently have nothing to do with the artist at all, and almost everything to do with the companies surrounding the artist – record label, publisher, estate, or lawyer.   “There are huge amounts of money involved on both sides of this fight, extremely little of it earmarked for artists,” Zoe Keating once told Digital Music News.

”Neither side has my best interests in mind.”

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Comments (25)
  1. john

    finally no more lost prophets guy huge on the screen.


    Reply
    1. visitor

      soooo funny… let’s see… musicians who don’t contribute to copyrights, don’t make money from copyrights… shocking!


      Reply
    1. Ethical Headlines

      the truth is that this blog is desperately looking for any topic to promote itself


      Reply
      1. Curmudgeon

        Given DMN’s complaint that creators are being shortchanged, one would think DMN would have bothered to actually *link* to the work of the author from whom it liberally excerpts — either the first time, or at least when the same post was recycled, today.

        DiCola’s research from January is here, if anyone cares to correct the post:
        http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2199058


        Reply
  2. Vail, CO

    I just can’t wait for The Beatles to enter into the public domain. Copyrights benefit big corporations and heirs, not artists.


    Reply
    1. David

      I think you’ll find Paul McCartney is doing OK from copyright.

      More generally, these figures are practically worthless, except as a reminder that most professional musicians are not recording artists at all.


      Reply
      1. Sean Beavan

        Computing averages for musicians is absolutely worthless. Copyright does nothing for a musician who mostly works as a hired gun (except allowing a songwriter to make enough money to hire him to play shows). If a musician is a moderately successful songwriter a large chunk of what he makes comes from copyright. Comparing musicians is comparing apples to oranges to blenders. Don’t try to tell me copyright doesn’t mean anything. It means a lot when those checks come in the mail. As a musician any revenue stream is a good one. The only people who benefit from zero copyright are the businesses that use music to get people to traffic their website or corporations who use royalty free music to sell products or media groups that use music to get people to feel emotion in film and television. Without copyright songwriters would see their incomes shrink even further.


        Reply
        1. Kimeyo

          Well written…


          Reply
  3. Anonymous

    “A hypothetical boost in revenue from more effective enforcement would only increase the average musician’s total revenue by a small amount today”

    That’s just more of the usual pirate logic.

    How the f*** does he think session musicians are paid?

    The more money a songwriter makes, the more money flows out to the rest of the eco system: Session musicians, mixing- and mastering engineers, digitalmusicnews reporters, guitar builders, piano tuners, software developers, condom manufacturers, hookers and coke dealers, just to mention the most important ones.


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      EDIT: This DiCola should just be ignored — he’s funded by Google. :)


      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Google-funded study polls 6th grade music teachers, downtown bucket drummers, and people who sing in the shower, finds a tiny percentage of artist income comes from copyright.


    Reply
  5. rabblex3

    Glad to see some other people see the fault in this info. It’s pretty much worthless. Why even post this (twice)? Copyright pays the copyright holder, which is typically only the songwriter that kept his/her publishing, the publisher the songwriter signed a deal with, or the record company’s publishing co that took over the copyright b/c the songwriter didn’t know how royalties work. And nobody forget the harry fox agency. So already this study is off, as it polled the wrong people. Poll 5,000 copyright holders and let’s see those numbers. So unless the artist is also the songwriter, AND THEIR SONG ACTUALLY GETS PUBLISHED, i.e. recorded AND released, they’re not even in a position to make anything anyhow. Just a guess, but I’d say most musicians fall into the “non copyright holding” group as well, since as noted above, a “musician” is broad term, i.e. the music teacher, downtown bucket drummer, the guy in your dorm that’s in a band, and the homeless 22yo that travels the country with a guitar and an underfed dog, busking off the boulevard and smelling of B.O. I mean, even in a band of four, if only one is the songwriter, then three musicians are missing out. So DMN, how about that for a headline? 3 in 4 artists don’t make a cent off of publishing! I kid, but really, more musicians should learn about copyrights, especially if you write songs.


    Reply
  6. David

    Worth noting that about half of the survey population were classical or jazz musicians. There was also a large proportion of part-timers. For details see here:

    http://money.futureofmusic.org/survey-snapshot/

    Not surprisingly, about two-thirds of the respondents had no income at all from recordings:

    http://money.futureofmusic.org/sound-recording-income/2/

    It’s also important to note that the income figures refer only to gross income. Some of the detailed case studies give a breakdown of expenses, and show a high proportion attributable to travel and other touring expenses.


    Reply
  7. Again?

    This headline is misleading. First off, the article has been posted before, and we’ve been through this before. FMC’s research (which this paper utilizes, but is separate from) includes composers and musicians in its sample. Peter’s paper also notes the distinction between direct and direct revenue generated by copyright. (This includes master recording and publishing rights, and the data does allow for looking at each separately.)

    As Peter said here back in January:

    “One point of the paper is to show that musicians are diverse: some rely on copyright today, some might be motivated by the hope of earning money from it tomorrow, and some don’t rely on copyright at all. Another point of the paper is to attempt to quantify which musicians (e.g., all composers) depend on copyright, so that policymakers can better understand who they’re affecting with copyright policy.

    “The big picture is that these kind of data on musicians’ revenue have never been collected before. I think the government should collect better data on the musicians’ labor market, especially when it considers changes to copyright law, but it doesn’t. Filling this gap was the motivation for the study. I think copyright owners and musicians can be helped more by a targeted and empirically informed policy.”


    Reply
  8. Again?

    This is so incredibly misleading. First off, the article has been posted before, and we’ve been through this before. FMC’s research (which this paper utilizes, but is separate from) includes composers and musicians in its sample. Peter’s paper also notes the distinction between direct and direct revenue generated by copyright. (This includes master recording and publishing rights, and the data does allow for looking at each separately.)

    As Peter said here back in January:

    “One point of the paper is to show that musicians are diverse: some rely on copyright today, some might be motivated by the hope of earning money from it tomorrow, and some don’t rely on copyright at all. Another point of the paper is to attempt to quantify which musicians (e.g., all composers) depend on copyright, so that policymakers can better understand who they’re affecting with copyright policy.

    “The big picture is that these kind of data on musicians’ revenue have never been collected before. I think the government should collect better data on the musicians’ labor market, especially when it considers changes to copyright law, but it doesn’t. Filling this gap was the motivation for the study. I think copyright owners and musicians can be helped more by a targeted and empirically informed policy.”


    Reply
  9. CaseyFMC

    Hey, it’s this thread again!

    As a longtime FMC staffer I can say that all of us would be delighted if there were a way to increase direct (or indirect) revenue from copyright. Finding out how to so that (through law, or -gasp!- more artist-friendly business practices) necessitates better data about what musicians and composers’ revenue streams actually look like. Our research does not proscribe a course of action, but we do feel that any attempt to address the revenue challenges faced by musicians and composers should include the kind of information we endeavored collect. Have a look for yourself!

    http://www.money.futureofmusic.org


    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    You gets what you pays for..

    All that needs to be said: Future of Music Coalition & Peter DiCola of the Northwestern University School of Law are funded by Google and Google backed organizations.


    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      “Peter DiCola of the Northwestern University School of Law are funded by Google”

      Haha, that explains a lot!


      Reply
  11. Broken record

    It’s interesting that there is such little data on musician and composer revenue out there. It’s also unsurprising that a study that aims to collect this information would be discredited by those who do not want to not pay artists properly. Makes sense, given the history of the industry.

    It would be great if those who make money from copyright—directly or indirectly—could earn more revenue. The question is who are we talking about and how? Without data on what earnings actually look like for musicians and songwriters, the job is harder. Who gets paid and when is governed by business practices and copyright law. This is one of those “don’t shoot the messenger” situations. One question to ask might be, how can we ensure that revenue generated from copyright is equitably and transparently shared with artists and songwriters, and what structures will enable copyright to continue to be a meaningful revenue stream? It’s fine if you wanna start with “crush piracy,” but what comes next?


    Reply
  12. zog

    Are you running out of ideas ,stories , head lines , old news what happened to positive reporting and how musicians can in the real world carve out their piece of the pie , large or small it’s time for a new direction.


    Reply
  13. Akira

    this “study” is pretty meaningless. certainly for amateur musicians copyright means relatively little. for people who write popular songs (which is a small fraction of people who might call themselves musicians) it means a lot. and yes corporations take a percentage of the income, but they also pay advances and help the copyrights make money. lame story


    Reply
  14. Dan Nash

    More proof that it’s open season on Artists…


    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    Google’s war on musicians continues…


    Reply
  16. Orits Williki

    Loi This is the most worthless research I have ever seen or read I regretted spending my precious time reading this Garbage.


    Reply

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