Thanks to the internet, there are now more ways than ever to get music. But this hasn't allowed smaller artists to get a bigger share of the financial pie. In fact, the top 1 percent of artists now collect 77 percent of all revenue from recorded music.
The Atlantic has a new story out about the state of the recorded music business. And it doesn't look great for smaller bands.
Because the most-popular songs now stay on the charts for months, the relative value of a hit has exploded. The top 1 percent of bands and solo artists now earn 77 percent of all revenue from recorded music, media researchers report. And even though the amount of digital music sold has surged, the 10 best-selling tracks command 82 percent more of the market than they did a decade ago. The advent of do-it-yourself artists in the digital age may have grown music's long tail, but its fat head keeps getting fatter.
The result? Radio is becoming more and more homogenized. Even popular indie bands like Grizzly Bear are struggling to pay their bills.
The dominance of bands and artists at the top is squeezing smaller acts who used to be able to count on breakout hits sold on shiny plastic discs and promoted on radio. Somehow, the entire industry has become even more conservative, with money and airtime only allocated to safe bets.
Again, from the Atlantic:
Radio stations, meanwhile, are pushing the boundaries of repetitiveness to new levels. According to a subsidiary of iHeartMedia, Top 40 stations last year played the 10 biggest songs almost twice as much as they did a decade ago. Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," the most played song of 2013, aired 70 percent more than the most played song from 2003, "When I'm Gone," by 3 Doors Down. Even the fifth-most-played song of 2013, "Ho Hey," by the Lumineers, was on the radio 30 percent more than any song from 10 years prior.
This means that artists like Taylor Swift can pull their catalog from popular streaming services like Spotify and see absolutely no negative repercussions. Their music is already everywhere. So they don't need that revenue from streaming.
Read more about the lopsided nature of the entire recorded music industry over at the Atlantic.
Image: Taylor Swift at the iHeartRadio Music Festival via Getty