Music Money 1 – Who Gets It?

Music money

Its a known fact that enormous amounts of money get generated in the music industry. Of music stars a few get filthy rich, some become well off, others do ok, yet the majority who set out to make their living through music end up on the breadline or back to a day job.

Why is that?

There isn’t a simple answer to that question but there is a long story of critical importance so I will attempt to shorten it in this article.

We’ve all seen the celebrity lifestyle and mega status enjoyed by those who get to top of the music game. But we also know of the stark reality that many who  get the money often have a sad story to tell when the books are balanced.

A Shrewd Awakening

The story of music industry money began with the foresight of shrewd minded business men at the turn of the last century who saw the lucrative purses of future wealth so they wasted no time in creating an industry machinery to take music from its humble beginnings ‘in the mind of its creators’ to the gramophone record, the silver screen then unto the airwaves, night clubs, bars, diners, theatres, concert halls, malls, stores and into the homes of a buying public ‘mad on music’ and thus an industry was born.

Beware of Rouges, Thieves and Charlatans

As the story goes the music industry became a nursery bed for the exceptionally talented, the hard working, the well connected and the flukes and like any other booming industry it attracted its fair share of rouges, thieves and charlatans and as long as we remain innately human these will always be a part of the mix.

Are people in the gospel industry exempt from any of these shady characters that are so common to the reputation of the music industry? The simple answer is NO!

In fact we in the church are more likely to be duped into selling our rights to the devil in the guise of ‘giving as unto the Lord’. I am personally aware of too many stories of shady deals and outright copyright theft from our own Christian brothers often claiming ignorance of the copyright process or using a different set of rules because we are doing ‘religious music’ which sadly is usually void of the concept of moral, legal and economic rights of the owner which is at the heart of copyright law.

To grasp the fundamentals of how music money is generated and shared out there are a set of golden rules, the first one includes; fair trade, fair deal, fair play and fair dues. If all parties involved do their part according to this rule then everyone gets paid and live happily ever after but this is often the exception and not the rule, largely because most of these rules although written in law is of little consequence when its ‘the big man against the little man’ or ‘the little fish swimming in the big pond’ so to speak.

Building Industry Machinery

So let’s examine the way money is generated in this industry and see if there are any lessons an emerging gospel industry sector can learn from it. It can also be said that the lessons needed have already been borne out in the story of the industrial revolution over two hundred years ago. It was noted’ when the owner of a spinning jenny soon realised that a factory of weaving machines manufacturing yawns for wholesale and exporting would be all he needs to do, because there are those building warehouses and using the new railway system to distribute these goods to others who are skilled at making fabric and clothing from his yawns. In turn they were sold at affordable prices to those who opened retail shops so the workers of these ‘businesses’ could go and buy at their choice, no longer needing to make their own yawns to make their clothes or relying on a pricey bespoke tailor.

That is essentially the working model and blue print of how all businesses and industries have evolved to build an economy.

But is it that simple in the music industry?

The answer is actually YES!

Yes but with a twist because there are layers of intricate processes involving music money and music rights with lots of pockets of fees and payments that pop up giving rise to a host of agents, sub-agents and middle people all looking for their cut of the pie or fair dues.

An Industry of Component Parts

The music industry can be seen like a machinery, like an engine or a clock broken down into its component parts with every module and unit making up the component parts that make the whole thing work.

For example in the component part of CREATORS; for musicians its ‘we play you pay’ for a singer or songwriter ‘they sell or play our song we collect royalties’ and so on.

Just like the industrial revolution every new component in the system is made up of cogs and gears to carry out a specific task which in labour terms these must be paid for. So the musician must be paid by the band leader/owner who in turn must get paid by the venue owner or promoter who is dependent on ticket sales or door prices from the punters (the public).

In the component part of OWNERS, Likewise for singers and songwriters apart from playing their music and experiencing everything as musicians, when a record company or publisher record their songs they expect to get paid in advances and royalties. These  companies themselves after paying for manufacturing their product are looking to those in the component part of FACILITATORS to wholesale, distribute and retail their records to the buying public. It doesn’t end there because pluggers, managers, booking agents, publicists, marketing agents and promoters all do their part to promote and sell the music so they also must get paid from their slice of the pie.

As well as the buying public the other ‘end users’ who make up the final component part of USERS are broadcasters, media users, libraries, advertisers, theatres and film makers who must pay performance and licence fees for using the creators work. That’s what’s supposed to happen in the arenas of CREATORS, OWNERS, FACILITATORS and USERS.

The bottom line in this scenario is ‘whoever uses music must pay for it’ also we are seeing ‘whoever handles it gets paid also’ thus we see how the money is generated, circulated and distributed among those in the industry in all the component parts long before it leaves to enter into other business sectors. That is the story of how self-sustaining economies are built.

The UK Gospel sector can and should learn from all of these examples and so become a multi-billion turnover industry like every other community and cultural group that have become self sufficient. We too must be engaged in building infrastructure, engaging in fair trading, circulating our cash, building assets while promoting healthy competition in the creation of wealth that will ultimately finance the kingdom of God.

So why is it that there never seem to be a fair distribution of wealth in the industry?

Some seem to get double slices while others simply pick up the scrums, will that ever change?

Let’s continue in PART 2 ///…

Article written by Linton Beckles – used by permission

Founding GMIA Executive – Creative Industries

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