*News Flash* The Music Business Has Been Fixed

billboard_musicpopularityThat’s not really true. Let me start differently. The music business is not broken. If I hear one more artist complain about the broken music industry and the small digital payouts, I am going to pull my hair out. (Luckily I am already bald so it is not a real concern.)

If you are successful, the music business is amazing. Lots of fun, money, drugs and alcohol (if you choose and I am not endorsing this behavior) and of course the opportunity to make music that people enjoy. If you are not popular, the problem is that there is not much money. Still lots of fun, drugs and alcohol (but you have to pay for them) and still plenty of opportunities to make music. But no money. And it has nothing to do with Spotify payouts or the quality of the music.

I used to hear complaints about the broken business back in the 20th century. Here is a list of a few of the common ones:

  • I need to get signed by a label to release my music.
  • Recording is too expensive.
  • I have no way to reach potential fans.
  • I can’t get distribution.

These problems don’t exist anymore. Solved. But still there is a lot of complaining. The system must be broken. The business just doesn’t work. I can’t make enough money to survive with my music. Digital services just don’t pay enough.

SSShhhhhhh. Let me tell you a little secret. It is a secret that all the successful artists know. Are you ready? You need to become popular. Then you earn a lot of money. People that knew this: Elvis, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, every rapper that ever existed, Taylor Swift, Jarvis Cocker, Oasis, and the list goes on and on and on.

The last time I checked there was still only one number 1 single every week. Make it to number 1 and you will see that the system pays out a lot of money. Don’t get hung up on your numbers of streams, downloads, views, etc. It is only the amount in relation to the other artists. So 100,000 video views may seem like a lot but it really doesn’t stack up to the billion views a top artist receives. Same with streaming payouts. Even 1 million streams is not a lot. There’s no money in 1 million streams.

So please stop blaming the system. It is hard to make money in the music industry. But it is not because the industry is broken.



This was not really helpful. i mean i get what you are saying but i thought this was supposed to be helpful. not you going off about how you are tired of people complaining. hahaha. cuz then you just join the ranks of complainers.

Nick Fritsch

Yes, but there used to be entire genre’s that never chart, but could still get audiences interested in them and buying their music, and now those people who want to stick their toe in a new genre and try it out, are virtually not paying anything to to do it. Those same people used to be THE driving audience in some genres. If I hear one more reference to the entire universe of the music industry, as if it were a race by ONLY by the most popular chart-topping genres, to achieve only the MOST mega-popularity and sales, with singles or tours, thereby leaving out dozens of deep-catalog genres that actually used to achieve survivability with sales but now don’t, I will start tearing out my hair! But you know, perhaps it now goes: “Even though we now have a world in which anyone can access any kind of music ever created, only the narrow corridor of the most popular genres are allowed to survive, thanks to the dictates of market forces that were not a problem for more esoteric genres prior to streaming”.

Scott Cohen


I manage a number of very successful “working class” artists. Middle class artists like the Raveonettes and the Dum Dum Girls. They are not super stars but they are number one in their genre and earn nice livings from their music.


Herb Ernst

The Broken Music Business

You say that the music business is not broken. You also say that “Even 1 million streams is not a lot. There’s no money in 1 million streams.” NO MONEY IN 1 MILLION STREAMS? REALLY?? Sounds broken to me.

You also say “100,000 video views may seem like a lot but it really doesn’t stack up to the billion views a top artist receives.” Let’s see if I understand this correctly: put another way, one seventh of the entire human population needs to view the same video before the artist receives – what should I call it? – “real” money. One billion views to make real money. Sounds really broken to me.

You make no mention of the invention of the “micropenny” – the monetary unit in which media streams are paid. An artist spends thousands of dollars creating music and then gets paid in micropennies. Sounds broken to me.

You make no mention of the inefficiency of the industry that creates high overhead costs and hence negatively impacts royalty payouts. I once received a check via snail-mail for ONE CENT from a major aggregator in the industry. It came in a large, legal-sized envelope; the postage was about $1.50. Sounds broken to me.

You make no mention that free software is available on the internet that people can use to “peel off” copies of audio and video content from YouTube videos and save them as digital files to play on their digital devices – FOR FREE. Sounds obscenely broken to me.

You make no mention of the fact that the major download providers retain FIFTY PERCENT of the income they receive from people who actually pay for their media downloads. That’s one seriously hefty “service fee.” Sounds broken to me.

You make no mention of the advertising payola expected to be paid to various trade journals that publish media reviews. If you want your media reviewed in a trade journal, you better be willing to buy an advertisement in that journal or that free demo CD/DVD you mailed to them won’t get reviewed. Sounds broken to me.

You make no mention of the fact that aggregators, download providers, media streamers and distributors all make money from thousands — even millions — of titles from thousands of artists and hence have no real investment in, or loyalty to, the nurturing and development of an artist. No matter whatever sells, the aggregators, download providers, media streamers and distributors always get paid – a sweet-deal guaranteed income from artists being paid in micropennies. Good luck to unknown artists; they’re on their own. No symbiotic relationship here where BOTH sides could make money – and certainly not for easily replaced commodity artists. Sounds broken to me.

Ultimately, when artists no longer have the financial compensation to create and promote the music they create, the music will dwindle in quantity and quality. Maybe then the music industry will finally compensate artists in a fair and humane way, but I rather doubt it. People still hunt animals to extinction, strip-mine the land, destroy water tables through fracking, poison the water they drink, the food they eat and the air they breathe – why should we then expect the music industry to be any different?

Scott Cohen


– 1 million streams is like getting one or two spins on a radio station. It won’t generate significant income.
– 100k video plays is like some late night cable channel. It won’t generate significant income.

But if this happened every day for a month you would make a fortune. Like rotation on radio and MTV of old.

Scott Cohen


As an artist manager I work very hard on their behalf and I am a member of the Music Managers Forum. I think I have a unique perspective because I work directly in many facets of the industry. There is a balance and a pragmatism needed when looking at issues. I believe successful artists are actually way better off today then at any time in the past.



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