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Support Local Musicians

By:   •  March 14, 2018  •  Research Paper  •  2,644 Words (11 Pages)  •  212 Views

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The ease of acquiring music for free can hinder the emerging local musician in their quest to pursue a career in making music. This paper examines reasons and ways that musicians are struggling to earn the money they need to survive. Several proposals are offered to music fans on how they can encourage and support their local musicians. Together, fans and musicians can make the music scene in their local community vibrant and beneficial for all.


Everyone likes a good bargain and feeling like they are getting the most for their money. But when that deal or bargain comes from depriving the supplier of their rightful profit, it can have a damaging effect on not only the suppliers, but the consumers and their communities. The plight of the emerging local musicians and their struggle to follow their dreams of a career in the music industry can be a daunting task.  There are many reasons why emerging musicians can’t make enough money to make living in the music industry, but there are also various ways music fans can assist in improving the situation and approaches that the emerging musician can take to help themselves.

A few weeks ago, I was at a local establishment enjoying an evening of listening to some musicians from the Youngstown area. Sitting next to my table, I observed a group gushing about how awesome they thought this band played and that they really enjoyed their music. One girl at the table stated that she had heard them play a while ago and had purchased the bands CD as she was so impressed. The rest of her group enthused that they too thought the band was extremely talented and wanted their CD and could the girl “burn” them all copies of the CD. This conversation is not out of the ordinary and instances of piracy have been going on since the time of Beethoven, if not before (Neuwirth, 2011, pp. 104-105). However, just because it seems a common occurrence with little or no repercussions to those who carry out these actions, doesn’t mean there are no consequences for those who create the music and for those who enjoy the music.


What exactly is piracy of music? Merriam-Webster dictionary (Piracy, 2017) state the definition as “the unauthorized use of another's production, invention, or conception especially in infringement of a copyright.” In more distinct words, it’s the sharing, duplication, downloading, coping and/or distribution of a piece of music where the artist(s) did not give permission and/or receive royalties (compensation).

How many people actually partake in committing piracy? It’s more than you think.

In a recent study conducted by MusicWatch Inc., (Crupnick, 2016) a company committed to market research and analysis for the music and entertainment industry, Russ Crupnick reported that 57M Americans are participating in obtaining music from unsanctioned sources. Unsanctioned or unlicensed sources to not have agreements or licenses set in place and do not pay royalties to the artist.  The music is acquired illegally through these unsanctioned sources mostly through peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing (transferring digital files from one computer to another), stream ripping (using a computer program to save a streaming media file from a website to you own computer), hard drive swaps and forms of file sharing (Crupnick, 2016).

Is piracy really hurting musicians? In their Global Music Report 2017, IFPI reported, global recorded music industry revenues at $23.8 billion for 1999, the year of Napster’s internet birth and the beginning of internet piracy, while in 2016 revenues were only $15.7 billion (IFPI, 2017, p. 11). What’s really interesting is that although revenues are down, the Nielsen Music Year-End Report 2016 (The Nielsen Company, 2017, p. 2) reports that “Music consumption is at an all-time high.” The report reveals that even though overall music consumption (includes all albums & track equivalent albums & streaming equivalent albums in millions) increased 3.1% from 2015 to 2016, total album sales (includes CD, cassettes, vinyl & digital albums-in millions) decreased 16.7% (The Nielsen Company, 2017). Putting it in perspective of what this looks like in dollars, taking a conservative estimate of these 57M Americans acquiring at least 2 songs illegally and with songs averaging about $.099 a download, we are looking at around $114M in revenue that the artists did not receive. Crupnick (2016) concludes, “It is fair to speculate that revenues are being siphoned from artists.”

Benefits of Proposal

What does all this mean to the local musicians who are trying to make a living? I had the opportunity to interview two musicians from the Youngstown area and talk about what it means to offer support and how the support benefits them and the community. Hayden Brooke, an optimistic singer/songwriter from northeast Ohio, who has been trying to make a livelihood in the music business since 2014 and recently released his first EP titled Limbo, expresses that due to the changes in technology and the increase in piracy, he can’t really depend on income from digital downloads or streaming services (Brooke, Hayden. Personal Interview. 4 Oct 2017). Brooke (Brooke, Hayden. Personal Interview. 4 Oct 2017), further maintains that “Musicians, now a day make most of their money through playing shows and selling merchandise.”  Brook adds that he has had to become resolved to the fact that streaming sites, whether sanctioned or unsanctioned are just “avenues for exposure,” and any money lost through piracy will hopefully be made up by the fans who come out to his events and buy his merchandise. (Brooke, Hayden. Personal Interview. 4 Oct 2017) Websites like Spotify, where fans can listen for free, are a way for up and coming musicians to get new exposure and for fans to browse music, but if fans don’t make the decision to put their money where their love is, ultimately the musician struggles financially and will not be able to continue to make music.

        Greenford, Ohio native, guitarist and music promoter to several local musicians and bands, Adam Shuntich, expands on the struggle for emerging artists. With the advances in technology that has allowed fans to find music easily and cheaply, the internet has given a space for anyone, and everyone, to pursue a career in music (Shuntich, Adam. Email Interview. 7 Oct 2017). Market over saturation is one of the biggest hurdles an independent musician faces. Shuntich (Shuntich, Adam. Email Interview. 7 Oct 2017) states, “With the ease of creating music and becoming an artist in today’s market, the market has become incredibly flooded with artists of varying talent and worth.  It becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate one artist’s music, brand, and message from other simply there are so many other artists trying to do the same thing.” Musicians must now spend more time on performing other jobs in order to promote their music more effectively, and time spent on the actually crafting of music has diminished greatly.  The musician must also be the social media managers, photographers, branding specialists, developers of creative marketing strategies, booking agents, tour managers, and content creators (Shuntich, Adam. Email Interview. 7 Oct 2017).

        The going trend in the entertainment industry is convenience. For many, it is much more convenient to find entertainment at home than to seek it out at the local bar or music venue. Why go to a movie when we have Netflix or OnDemand? Why go to a concert when we have YouTube and Spotify?  It’s hard for artists to compete with convenience.  Even with a solid promotional effort, there are no guarantees that anything an artist does will equal more sales. There’s only so much an artist can do, and the rest is up to the consumer; the fans.

Implementation of Proposal

There are a lot of opportunities for fans to support their favorite artists. First and foremost is to have no part in piracy. If you want the CD, buy it, do not copy it.  If you want the digital download, purchase it, do not get it from an unsanctioned site and do not steam rip it. The best way to get digital downloads is from the artists website or through Bandcamp. If you truly are struggling financially and cannot afford to pay for the music you listen to then be sure to at least listen from a licensed streaming website such as Spotify where they do pay at least something to the artists.  Brooke also suggests that fans “take the time to ‘like’ and ‘follow’ the musician on any social media account. The more people that do, the better the reach and the more opportunities they'll have to succeed (Brooke, Hayden. Personal Interview. 4 Oct 2017).

Shuntich (Shuntich, Adam. Email Interview. 7 Oct 2017).further urges fans to go out to their shows:

This seems like a no brainer, but it can be very difficult to get people in the seats.  Fans must realize that concerts are how musicians pay their rent and keep their fridges stocked.  Not only that, but live performances is what drives many artists to keep creating.  It’s our lifeblood.  Go to shows, sit or stand close to the front, and dance.  Others will follow, and the band will put on a better show because of the energy given to them.  But first, you have to go.

While concert payouts help musicians pay their utilities bills, there are a lot more expenses than that for the local musician.  Recording gear, instruments, a tour vehicle, gas and lodging, food, and studio time are all expenses that must be paid if an artist is to move forward in their career.  This revenue often comes from merchandise sales at live shows, and is where artists get their highest return on investment.  “So if you go to a show, buy a CD or a T-Shirt.  A $20 t-shirt is enough to feed four hungry touring musicians for an entire day, and a couple CD’s will fill up the gas tank and allow them to get the next town and show,” Shuntich (Shuntich, Adam. Email Interview. 7 Oct 2017) further advises fans. This is their job, and artists need paid just like everybody else.


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