Death of music biz greatly exaggerated

In the U.K. industry revenues rose in 2008, compared to 2007. In the teeth of a recession!


Andrew Leonard
July 24, 2009 2:39AM (UTC)

Maybe we should hold off on all those Internet-killed-the-music-biz stories. TechDirt points us to a fascinating study of the U.K. music industry by economists Will Page and Chris Carey, both of whom work for PRS for Music, a royalty collecting society for U.K. songwriters, composers, and music publishers.

The bottom line: total industry revenue in 2008 was 3.6 billion pounds, a 4.3 percent increase over 2007. The main component of that growth: 13 percent year-on-year growth in live music revenues, more than offsetting a 6 percent decline in the retail value of the recorded music industry. Record company revenues from non-traditional licensing -- such as for video games -- also grew significantly. Also of interest, digital revenues grew by 50 percent while physical fell by ten.

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This is not to say that all is peachy. I personally would like to believe that the greater exposure to new musical acts made possible by the digital explosion is responsible for an outpouring of ticket purchases by new music devotees, but that doesn't appear to be what is happening. The bulk of live music revenues are going to so-called "heritage acts" already well established in the public mind.

Sure, recorded is down and live is up -- but it's recorded music which makes the primary investment in new talent, and given the damage already done to investment calculations by P2P, therein lies a "conveyor belt" style question: who's going to invest in the career development of artists to create the heritage acts of tomorrow?

It's going to be tough to make a buck in the music business, just as it will be in the journalism business or movie business. But the upshot of the PRS for Music study is that it certainly won't be impossible, and it's not at all inconceivable that the overall market will continue grow, as the industry figures out where the money is.


Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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