Are musicians above working for ad revenue?

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There has been an ongoing battle between the music industry and the creators and distributors of technology that makes digital music a reality for millions of customers. The music industry's complaint has long been that they're not getting enough revenue this way (even though it's a fact that Apple sends 70% of its revenue from digital downloads to the music industry), and that the musicians likely suffer the most when music is distributed digitally.

Illegal downloads are certainly a problem, and I'm not sure where I stand on the issue of sharing digital music with friends and associates. But that issue aside, there remains an issue that is just as serious: How to generate revenue for the music industry? Of course the industry wants to maximize its revenue from music downloads. Technology companies want to make it easy and attractive for customers to get and use music downloads.

This week Paul McGuiness, the manager of U2, spoke at Music Matters in Hong Kong. One of his most basic complaints is that ISPs have been using music to draw in consumers and get revenue from subscribers, but that musicians aren't getting their fair share from this economic model. How can they help? He says they should filter content that goes over their high-speed connections so that the paying customers of ISPs aren't cheating musicians by sharing music. I just don't see this as a viable solution to getting more money in the hands of musicians.


But here was one of his more interesting comments, in my opinion: That advertising-supported content is beneath musicians, and he doesn't want "artists reduced to the status of employees working for glorified ad agencies."

Is he serious? Advertising has long been supporting content on television, radio, and in print. But it's too far beneath musicians? Attitudes like that are not going to do much to bring additional revenue to the music industry, and closed-minded approaches to generating money from music don't seem to be getting the results musicians would like.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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