From a letter from contributor and reader Lou Carlozo:
"I'm at a crossroads. I have a professional home studio that continues to grow and has done well in the Chicago market. I'm blessed to work with artists whose music I really enjoy. Much of this comes thanks to a good day job that allows me to turn down gigs with bands that would have me pulling my hair out! But after three years, I find myself wondering if it's time to take a big leap (and a big loan) towards a more first-class facility. Part of me says no — that the music business is in a crappy way and that I have a distinct advantage keeping low to the ground overhead wise (the studio is in my basement and turned a nice profit in 2003). Yet I also sense that I need to do something if I'm to grow beyond the world of producing local band demos and albums. Based on the feedback I've gotten from my bands and people in the business, I seem to be ready for a next step."
From the conclusion of "The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales An Empirical Analysis" by Felix Oberholzer and Koleman Strumpf:
"...the financial incentives for creating recorded music are quite weak. Few of the artists who create one of the roughly 30,000 albums released each year in the U.S. will make a living from their sales because only a few albums are ever profitable. In fact, only a small number of established acts receive contracts with royalty rates ensuring financial sufficiency while the remaining artists must rely on other sources of income like touring or other jobs."
For those of you out there who are making a living recording music full time, where does that income come from? In my world it sure ain't the record business. I've been paid $150 from a major label once, and that was to reimburse me for a reel of tape. I've done a tiny amount of work for smaller labels, like Kill Rock Stars, K, Prank, Sub Pop, Cavity Search, Cravedog, Darla and others, but not much. Most of my income comes directly from the artists — money they've saved up from gigs, saved from their day jobs, charged to their credit cards and/or borrowed from family. This is money hard earned or hard to pay back. For a band self releasing 1000 copies of a CD they'd need to make at least $5000 or more back to cover a modest recording session at my place and CD pressing. That looks like an easy task if you figure it's $5 per CD, but we all know how hard it really is to sell 1000 CDs on your own. Plus that still leaves no money to live off of or put towards the next album.
People keep talking about how the music industry is in a slump. I'm not so sure. Many of the people I've met through Tape Op stay busy, and most of it is work paid for directly from the bands and artists. We stay busy, independent albums keep coming out, and music is being made. Should Lou open a bigger studio? I don't know, but remember what a precarious position we are in as music recordists.
Sound engineering is one of the few jobs that has seen the income become lower over time. There used to be few studios, and they were filled with knowledgeable, trained staff. Now there are many studios with all levels of gear, staff and experience — just ask Walter Sear! Is this good or bad? I don't know. But keep it in mind if you wish to make a career in music!
"The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales An Empirical Analysis" is downloadable at www.unc.edu/~cigar/papers/FileSharing_March2004.pdf
Visit http://futureofmusic.org for more real information on the music business.