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Dar Williams on the Economics of Touring

guitar handHere’s an interesting blog from the folk music artist Dar Williams on the changing economics of touring. Although the road may be a more welcoming place for a touring musician, in the age of streaming music services, the decline of recorded music has diminished an important stream of revenue, she writes. Music lovers are less willing to pay for recorded music, she writes.

“Many things are better, I’ve found, and yet touring itself is becoming unsustainable, and I think you know what I’m about to bring up. Most listeners resist becoming individual shareholders in the produced work of musicians: they don’t buy albums anymore,” she writes. Music sales, she writes, “paid for the production of the product and for a portion of my living as a touring artist. That’s the way it works.  When the sale of music goes away, gigs alone will not pay for the tour bus, equipment, tour managers, and touring bands (if you pay them decently).”

You can read the full blog here, in American Songwriter magazine.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. This reminds of a most unpleasant economic presentation many years ago about the music business. The young students in the room got indignant when I suggested that free downloads were stolen goods and they were cheating artists. One kid added that it didn’t matter because they were only really stealing from record executives, who were crooked anyhow.
    Worse was the lecturer, a respected man in his field,who smiled in a condescending way. muttered something about margins and said stealing the recordings didn’t matter because the musicians would keep on playing anyhow. That’s who they were. There was absolutely no acknowledgement that someone who was willing to put in the time to become a popular musician deserved to profit from it(The lecturer, by the way, was a failed/amateur musician, who started the lecture playing Bob Dylan recordings.) Politically, this was a right-of-center group that should have cared a lot about property rights. But no, not when it came to music, their pleasures, and their fantasies.


    May 6, 2015
  2. This remind me of a most unpleasant economic lecture about the music industry. When I suggested that downloading free music was essentially stealing from artists, the students in the room (mostly graduate level) got indignant. One said that they were only really stealing from record executives, who were crooked anyway. Worse yet was the lecturers, a prominent economics, who smile cynically, mumbled something about margins, and said the theft didn’t matter because musicians liked to play anyhow. They’ll keep on doing it, even if they don’t get paid. (The professor was a failed/amateur musician, by the way, who started his lecture with a Bob Dylan recording.) There was no acknowledgement that any musician who had become good enough to become popular, deserved to profit from it.

    The worse thing is that this was a right-of-center gathering that should have cared about property rights. But no. Not when it came to their own pleasures (and resentments, I suspect.)
    It was quite shocking.


    May 6, 2015

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