I got an email from a friend today, and in it she said that she was finding that trying to make money with music is exhausting. She said that she felt she was enjoying it more when it was all just for fun with no expectations.
Even though we love playing, it's true that sometimes the "making a living" part of music is no fun. Then again, neither is sitting in policy meetings for hours, being at a desk all day, suffering through bogus "motivational speeches," talking about "teamwork," and pretending you like the guy who works in finance. It's rather nice not doing an office job.
But boy, do I understand the exhausted part. We are halfway through our nice little Celtic Christmas tour, my semester is almost over at Bridgewater, I'm almost caught up with my course editing at Berkleemusic.com, I just guided an author through her first draft and just today she sent me her final revised chapters, I have another book waiting to be edited, my publisher is still waiting for me to sign my contract for my next book (they sent me the contract in September), I just did my final exam for the course I'm taking toward my music teaching license, and, well, I'm only making about half as much per year as I did back when I worked full time at Berklee. Oh yeah, and I've been practicing and writing every day.
All this not to complain, but to prove a point: Musicians work hard for their money, man. Not complaining, I swear. (Denya of My Fabulous Five reminded me yesterday that we chose this living.)
I think we're part of what industry theorists are calling a new "middle class" of musicians. It used to be that there were the stars at the top, and the pitiably poor, and nothing in between. Now there's a middle class, they say, who are making a workable living. Music Marketing course author Mike King at Berkleemusic.com says that this middle class is made up of "musicians who are making viable businesses out of their music. That is, they operate on a lower volume, at lower risk, but with a higher profit margin. They are in the position to earn more annually on their own than they might get in the form of an advance from a record label."
Oh yeah? How? Not CD sales. The same course also said this:
CD sales have been dropping consistently since their its peak in 2000. According to Nielson SoundScan, CD sales have fallen from close to 800 million in 2000, to 360.6 million in 2008. Although purchases of online music are up, the increases in digitally downloaded albums and songs were not enough to offset the nearly 20 percent plunge in CD sales in the U.S. The market research firm the NPD Group revealed that there were nearly 17 million fewer CD buyers in 2008 compared 2007.
Then, to keep our chins up:
According to The NPD Group, the number of Internet users paying for digital music increased by just over 8 million in 2008 to 36 million Internet users. Purchases of online digital music downloads increased by 29 percent since last year, and now account for 33 percent of all music tracks purchased in the U.S.—a huge figure, considering that the iTunes store launched only five years ago.
In mid 2008, iTunes surpassed Wal-Mart as the largest music retailer, and as of January 2009, iTunes has sold in excess of 6 billion songs (accounting for more than 70 percent of worldwide online digital music sales).
So there. The industry is changing and we just have to find new ways to carve out a living, but that's not so different than what artists, writers, carpenters, plumbers, professional gymnasts, and anyone born without a silver binky in his/her mouth have to do.
We all have to work hard so stop whining, goshdernit.
And I mean that in the kindest, sweetest, most supportive, loving kind of way.
There. That said, it appears that it is time to swiftly tiptoe... away... from... the ... computer...