Paul Krugman: “I would have expected the Internet to be a leveling force…But, so far, that’s not reflected in the numbers.”

There’s a really interesting interview with economist Paul Krugman in Billboard which includes this quote:

would have expected the Internet to be a leveling force, because you don’t have to be promoted by a major company to find your audience. But, so far, that’s not reflected in the numbers. That may be because the algorithms at companies like Spotify are not democratizing the field as much as I would like. Or it might be that people are all pretty much the same — and they all want to hear Taylor Swift.

The Internet has made music much more democratic for its creators (anyone can make music with a minimal amount of money and effort) and its listeners (you can find just about anything online). So why hasn’t that democracy spread i.e. to concerts and sales? Has music tech (Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc.) just codified a winner-take-all system?

Or do most people just want to hear Taylor Swift?

Krugman also raises a point about ticket prices:

If, say, we had to pay $25 for a ticket to see a band at Bowery Ballroom instead of $15, and the artist got paid a bit more, it’s probably true that the great bulk of the audience would still come. So, I shouldn’t knock it. Organizing could make the difference between not surviving and barely surviving.

And while I agree that one quick and easy way for artists to make more money is by raising ticket prices, I’m not sure that’s the best move here. Wouldn’t lowering ticket prices increase access so that more people had a chance to see the bands?

But I agree that organizing is important.

His last point is worth noting as well:

The fact that Canadian musicians have publicly funded health care is not trivial. Policies that help low-earning workers, like health insurance and minimum wages, lead to somewhat better income for [them]…The majority of artists do not make a living, or they barely scrape by.

We have to do a better job of supporting working artists in this country.

Interesting food for thought here. Any thoughts?

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