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“Lots of artists are making millions, but we never hear about them”

By Charlotta Hedman

If you want a different take on the music industry talk to Gaynor O’Flynn. She’s been in the game for a long time, directing programs for MTV and working with artists like PJ Harvey, Bjork and New Order. Since then she’s established herself as an independent artist and is now running Being Human, a mix between a production company, an experimental festival and a think tank.

For Gaynor musicians are still thriving and can make a decent living, if they can think outside the box.

“The established industry and press are sometimes looking the wrong way, they’re looking for the next Oasis or some other big thing, but because of that they often miss the artists out there who’ve managed to create a niche for themselves”.

One artists who’s done this, says Gaynor, is New Age singer Deva Premal who’s sold over 900 000 albums of atmospheric Sanskrit mantras through her own record label. Premal manages to make a living out of being a musician and is doing it on her own terms, but how many of you have heard of her? Probably not that many.

“It seems like the taste makers haven’t really caught up with what’s happening out there. A lot of people are now able to create a niche for themselves and find a following, so we don’t really need big record labels anymore”, says Gaynor.

According to her there is still money to be made and people aren’t actually paying any less for music today than they used to.

“If you think about what it was like when you were at school, how many people were really into music? Usually it was a small group of people who bought albums, merch and went to gigs. The rest bought an album every now and then. It’s not any different today and only about 13 percent actually spend real money on music”.

Although one stubborn problem in the music industry is that it can still be quite a male environment, says Gaynor.

“If you go to a festival and count how many women you see on stage it would probably add up to less than ten percent.”

According to Gaynor female artists often get pigeon-holed into three different categories; the sexy siren, the cute singer-songwriter and the weirdo.

There are very few women out there just being themselves, says Gaynor. And few women who are encouraged to be pushy enough to get up on stage and front big rock acts.

“Traditionally it’s a very male scene, not that many women can put up with the male rock and roll mentality on tour”.

However Gaynor thinks that the internet is changing things, not only for women, but for artists in general.

“A 100 years ago there weren’t any idols standing on stage, we were all singing together and that’s what the internet is enabling us to do today”, says Gaynor.

According to her the music industry and artists need to figure out new ways of working together. Otherwise the artist might realise that they can do a much better job themselves.

“Maybe the future for the labels will be representing big acts, like Lady Gaga, and selling their music to the 87 percent that aren’t that interested”, says Gaynor.

5 thoughts on ““Lots of artists are making millions, but we never hear about them””

  1. sociable says:

    Please list more than one act out of the 10 million odd artist on myspace that are “lots are making millions” to justify your assertion.

    According to Nielsen Soundscan, a total of 105,000, new full-length albums were released in 2008, a fourfold gain from the earlier 2000s. And of that pot, just 6,000 releases sold 1,000 units or more in the first year.
    http://digitalmusicnews.com/stories/070809howmany

    Future of Music Summit: 115,000 albums and only 110 ‘hits’
    http://leisureblogs.chicagotribune.com/turn_it_up/2009/10/future-of-music-summit-115000-albums-and-only-110-hits.html

    A solo performer need to sell around 12k downloads per month to hit minimum wage
    http://flowingdata.com/2010/06/04/how-little-musicians-earn-online/

    I then hear you say – “but musicians make all their money from live” except its the heritage bands ( who have previously had millions spent on them by labels) that earn 80% of live income out there and that 10 million acts/ bands share the rest.
    eg How many ppl would go to Glastonbury if it was all unsigned acts?

    The reality is that the new media makes more money for programmers and digital business not musicians.

  2. Allan Dann says:

    I think Gaynor makes some good points about unsigned artists making money, though you do have to be very successful to make any real money like that. But I’m not sure why she said that 100 years ago there were no idols standing on stage. Singing stars like Vesta Tilley, Lily Morris, Ella Shields and Marie Lloyd were worshipped by the public, had strings of hits and had live audiences of thousands. When Marie Lloyd died around 90 years ago over 100,000 attended her funeral! Madonna would be pushed to equal that.

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  5. Sir says:

    Really! I really don’t need to sell 12k a month to make min wage. Especially if I own my own music. lol

  6. CtrlSPATIE says:

    @sociable

    New media can be a moneymaker for composers and music producers, especially for games and video.

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