The Value of Music: Pitchfork weighs in

If you’ve kept up with our blog (I mean why wouldn’t you) you’d know we have a bit of a passing interest in the state of the music industry. With new music streaming platforms revealed every few months or so and the constant specter of declining music sales, the value of music is a mystery, and an ongoing online conversation exists trying to figure out what it really is.

Longtime Pitchfork contributor Marc Hogan has added his voice with an opus of a feature entitled “How Much Is Music Really Worth?“. This piece is essentially a giant economical analysis of the value of music, focused mostly on the shifting value of physical music sales. It includes several interesting infographics such as the one below, analyzing this shift in value.

In addition to his deep analysis of music itself, Hogan also covers topics such as live revenue and music publishing. He does a good job of examining all the facets of music-related income.

However, all of his explication seems to lead him to the inevitable truth that it has become more and more difficult to make a living as a musician. Hogan describes his experience with seeing the band Single Mothers on a tour that wasn’t making them any money, noting that most live revenue goes to a top 1% of performers.

Hogan attempts to end the piece on a positive note, noting that while some may think that music is worthless, worthless is just another word for priceless. He sets the value of music as transcending dollars and cents, which to him is what makes it worth the most. While I agree that music is worth more to me than most things, this seems like a sort of cop out… if the sole value of music is that people enjoy it, how will anybody afford to make it in the future? This is the sort of thing we’ll have to watch play out, I believe.