It’s the age of the one-man band, but the picture looks different from days past. Along with the drum on a strap, and a harmonica on a metal brace, the performer now carries a laptop – and with that and an Internet connection, she or he records and distributes music, designs Web sites, and schedules tour dates.
To understand better the issues affecting how American musicians earn a living today, the Future of Music Coalition launched in 2010 Artist Revenue Streams, a multi-stage research project to document musicians’ revenue streams. Kristin Thomson, co-director of “Artists Revenue Streams,” shares the recently-released results with CCC’s Chris Kenneally.
“We wanted to make sure we understood who musicians were relying on, their support structures. So on the survey, we had a list of about 15 different possible teammates that would include people like a record label, or a publisher, or a webmaster, an accountant, an attorney. What the survey data showed us was that bandmates were always the most important other team member. And that does make sense,” Thomason notes.
“But I think it was fascinating to see how different it was for different strata,” she adds. “We have a data cut of people who earn more than $100,000 from music, and for those people, after bandmates, the most important folks were an attorney, an accountant, and a webmaster. And there’s this chicken-and-egg question there: Does the person have an accountant because they’re making $100,000, or do they have $100,000 because they have an accountant?”
Kristin Thomson is a community organizer, social policy researcher, entrepreneur and musician. From 1992 to 2000, she co-ran Simple Machines, an independent record label. Over the label’s 8-year history, Simple Machines released over seventy records and CDs, published the Mechanic’s Guide to Putting Out Records, Cassettes, and CDs, and organized three high-profile music festivals in Washington, DC.