The Music Business’ 1%

buskerSo, I saw this headline on PasteMagazine.com, and I was like, “WTF?! This guy is EVERYWHERE right now!”

The CW to Air Justin Timberlake’s Album Release Party

And then I read on, and, yeah, he’s EVERYWHERE right now!

Justin Timberlake, who recently hosted another highly rated SNL episode and is in the middle of his weeklong guest appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, is keeping the TV ball rolling.

According to Deadline, Target will present “The IHeartRadio Album Release Party With Justin Timberlake” on the CW.

The special will be an hour-long TV event including performances and interviews with Timberlake in an effort to promote his upcoming album, The 20/20 Experience.

Now, usually when I think about economic inequality I think of corporations and corporate executives as the overly-privileged 1%.

Yet, even though it’s always been the case that a relatively select few musical artists rise to the level of superstar, it didn’t really hit me until just now the extent to which the current state of the music business resembles the 1% vs. 99% economic inequality problem.

99% of musical artists either don’t make a living from the music they make, barely get by on the music they make, or struggle to sustain any ounce of success they do manage to achieve, often slipping back down the ladder or giving up on music entirely, and they all work their asses off!

Enter Justin Timberlake, who is already a mega-mega-megastar, many, many, many times over a millionaire, and when he comes out with a new album, he’s automatically gonna make many, many, many more millions by merely releasing the album on iTunes, Amazon, etc. and circulating a press release to announce its arrival.

But no, that’s not enough. He gets to appear on Saturday Night Live and has a week-long residency on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and an hour-long infomercial!

Meanwhile, a good friend of mine, like millions of other musicians, is straining his marriage and his family’s expenses to pull off a brief regional tour of tiny, tiny venues in order to promote his album, with absolutely no support from a record company. He will likely spend more money on transportation, lodging, food and other expenses than he’ll make at the gigs, all in the hope that people will like his music and maybe, just maybe, buy his album and spread his name around, and it breaks my heart that, in the vast, vast majority of cases, not even that will happen.

It’s ridiculously unfair and it pisses me off!

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know that this is also the case for the arts in general, and the same could be said for athletics as well, but since I’m a musician, this is what struck me today.)

2 thoughts on “The Music Business’ 1%

  1. it is the unfortunate nature of the music industry. It is sad how many wonderful bands (even locally) don’t ever get to share their talent with the world. I can say I do try to get out and support my local music scene when I can but unfortunately that is not enough to propel them to the 1%. I am very thankful for the ability of bands to share their music through youtube and their websites as that has given me the opportunity to listen to music I never would have been exposed to with out social media.

    • Good point, Tom, that there have been some key technological improvements that have made it easier for musicians to get their music out there so that there’s a chance of it being discovered. (Heck, it’s also WAY easier and cheaper to make and record VERY good sounding music with the new technologies.)

      Unfortunately, musicians earn pennies in royalties from services like Spotify and Pandora and nothing from YouTube.

      Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts!

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