Feeds

Can 1,000 fans replace the music business?

Kevin Kelly's recipe for broken dreams

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Does better music mean more fans?

Kelly points out that an increase in fans is in direct proportion to the increase in the creativity of the group. Let's deal with the theory and then some practical realities. To begin, when Kelly states that "if you increase your group size by 33 per cent, you need add only 33 per cent more fans".

But this proposition fails to accommodate the established literature on what's called Baumol's cost disease. This theory examines the phenomenon of areas of the economy that have experienced no increase of labour productivity in response to rising salaries.

For instance, if the music industry pays its musicians 19th century style salaries, the musicians may decide to quit and get a job at an automobile factory where salaries are commensurate to high labour productivity. Hence, musicians' salaries are increased not due to labour productivity increases in the music industry, but rather due to productivity and wage increases in other industries. It’s a hotly disputed theory, but it's well worth considering, as the music industry struggles with reduced demand and increased supply, and other media sectors – which often employ the same external intermediaries - grow.

There are interesting implications for the role of government which follow from the economics of Baumol's cost disease, in that a little intervention from the state could go a long way for the independent artist, given their new internal cost structure. This is something that Kelly gets right.

Let me conclude with a personal and practical example that highlights Kelly’s naïve and simplistic approach to this issue.

Music isn't a formula - nor is the business

For the best part of a decade, I’ve been working in a personal capacity with the legendary Brazilian composer Eumir Deodato, and we're now well on our way to confirming him to perform at the prestigious North Sea Jazz festival in Rotterdam this summer. In order for us to secure the date, we offered a hybrid solution of a five-piece band from New York and then a horn section which would travel up from Italy, as this allowed us to keep within the initial budget. It would be cool to see a nice linear cost structure, but we are already looking at a 'cost malaise' of hiring two tour managers as opposed to one, for example, and two separate sets of flight packages.

Of course, Deodato could have opted for a more economically viable 'Trio' performance, which would have satisfied his existing fans, but given the recent interest in his work via Lupe Fiasco's Paris-Tokyo single, he wants to go that extra mile (and costs) and deliver a show that will win over new fans too.

And you might say "but Deodato is a special case", but then isn't that the point? All creators are a special case in that their works (and the way they are created and performed) are unique. The point is that it just isn't smart to assume a simple mathematical rule of thumb formula can be applied to a creative business like music.

Will Page is the Chief Economist at the MCPS-PRS Alliance, a non-profit collection society representing writers, composers and music publishers in the UK. He writes in a personal capacity. Examples of his work are available at The Alliance's research page.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.