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How Much Is Music Really Worth?

How Much Is Music Really Worth Pitchfork

How Much Is Music Really Worth Pitchfork

How Much Is Music Really Worth Pitchfork

How Much Is Music Really Worth Pitchfork


So yes, the record industry has had a rough 21st century thus far. Less clear is the economic value of an individual song or album, though details slip out occasionally. During the copyright infringement trial for Robin Thicke and Pharrell’s “Blurred Lines”, for example, lawyers for both sides agreed that 2013’s top-selling digital single worldwide had earned profits—that is, net income after expenses—of nearly $17 million. 

In late 2013, Spotify disclosed an average per-stream payout to rights holders of “between $0.006 and $0.0084,” or less than a penny per play. Spotify has called per-stream averages a “highly flawed” way of looking at its value, saying that as more and more people subscribe to the service, everyone will benefit. And to be sure, artists have always received, at best, only a fraction of revenues from their records. In 1983, about 8% of the price of an $8.98 vinyl album went to artists, according to Steve Knopper’s book Appetite for Self-Destruction. When the CD arrived that same year, artists got less than 5% of the $16.95 price. By 2002, when CD prices hit $18.99, 10% went to artists, according to Greg Kot’s Ripped. Download sales cut out the cost of packaging, but artists got only a slightly bigger share of revenues: just 14% of the $9.99 iTunes album download price, according to a David Byrne essay in 2007, or 17% for an artist on one indie label cited by Kot.

Indeed, if measuring the financial ramifications of a track or stream in contemporary times is tricky, figuring out how that compares to records, CDs, or downloads in years past is harder still.

Stashed in: Business Facts, Music, Monetization, Copying, @robinthicke, @pharrell, Music Industry, Spotify

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Wow, artists make way less off music than I realized.

Hopefully they earn more from concerts and merchandise. 

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