BJORN’S BLOG: How much money is in today’s New Age music business? I have had the pleasure of talking with a music business insiders, both in the US and Europe, on this exciting topic. They all tell the same story; they are proud of the artistic aspects of their work, but their businesses are going through a seemingly endless period of change and uncertainty. The golden age of New Age music is but a fading memory and many are giving up. Others see the unlimited possibilities in today’s music economy and embrace the streaming economy. Here I will try to give a presentation of the money in today’s New Age music business.
When it comes to money, people tend to be very secretive – especially in the US. I have therefore promised not to tell any names in this article (with an exception of Enya…) – and it is all an estimate, though I have seen the financial data referred to below. However, a presentation like this will never be perfect unless all artists submit their information – which is not likely to happen… Take it for what it is.
The New Age music economy is, depending on how you choose to look at it, both an ant and an elephant. If we choose to think of the New Age music business as all music sold with a New Age-y sound, including licensed music for TV, movies, games and apps, the economy is a billion dollar business with “real” companies and investment possibilities – or, like the above mentioned elephant. Though here we are talking about the ant, which is; the artistic, album publishing New Age music business, with artists who sells little music for licensing and live off album sales, playback royalties and live performances. Here the typical business is a minor label or a one man (or wife and husband) operation.
The New Age music business has a lot in common with the business side of jazz and classical music. The once big niche genre labels are today mostly controlled by the biggest labels in music, whose main interest is re-releasing old material. Little or nothing is invested in the development of new artists. BGM and Sony’s 1996 purchase of Windham Hill Record is an example from New Age music of this.
With that out of the way we can ask; how much money is in the New Age music business? First we must have a number of artists on the New Age music scene. It is impossible to give an exact number, but a fair estimate based upon albums released over the last 3 years is between 300 and 500 internationally. These are active, professional artists.
It is far easier to give a number of New Age music publishing labels, which is around 20 – though only very few are dedicated, genre oriented (about 5). To compare, in 1989 – in the beginning of the Golden Age of New Age music – there were 150 dedicated labels according to P. T. Birosik’s The New Age Music Guide.
We know a bit about how much a true New Age music superstar – Enya – makes a year; about 3 million dollars. So if each of the top 10 artists make 50-70% of this, 1,5 million dollars a year, that amounts to 13,5 million dollars. Their income is likely to change from year to year. Enya will for instance make a lot more in a year when she has a new album out. We can round up the “top 10” artist income to about 20 million dollars.
I have seen financial data for a two artists in the 10-100 category (which is a poor foundation for statistical approach, I know), and a yearly income (before taxes) of somewhere between 750.000-500.000 $ is not uncommon. I this category the top artists can make somewhat more while the artists in the bottom will make somewhat less. Few artists in the 10-100 category are likely to make more than 1 million $ a year. They make about 45 million dollars.
The New Age music business has a lot in common with the business side of jazz and classical music. The once big niche genre labels are today mostly controlled by the biggest labels in music, whose main interest is re-releasing old material.
The top 100-200 category are making somewhere between $ 400.000-200.000 a year (before taxes). Here many will have day jobs as well. New Age music artists often work as meditation teachers, wellness coaches or therapists – or something totally unrelated to music. An estimate here is that they together make about 30 million dollars.
Artists in the 200-500 category are largely non professional artists, and are making between $ 200.000-20.000 (before taxes). The total income here will be around 25 million dollars.
It is of course a non verifiable number, but it is something we can work with. In terms of economy we must not forget other professionals, such as New Age music promoters and music label executives. The number of New Age music promoters in the US have been steady around 5, but this number is falling. A New Age music promoter can make about $ 250.000 a year. The same goes for a New Age music label executive. To my knowledge about 30 people are today whole time employees in New Age music labels in the US and Europe. Total income here will be about 7,5 million dollars.
If we accept the above numbers, how much does this amount to? A number we can work with is 150-200 million dollars. That is a lot of money. But for a complete business economy it is not music. Normal strategies for analyzing business opportunities are showing nothing but red lights; The investment possibilities are virtually non existing, and the risk for loss is very high. This can be said about most music projects – true – but New Age music is especially high risk since many artists doesn’t do live shows and have their income from royalties only. Many artists in this category is also heavily dependent on CD sales, a market that is almost gone.
Is there still money to be made in New Age music? Yes! is my answer. There is still a market for New Age music – both today and tomorrow. The real challenge is the shift from an economy based on CD sales to a streaming music economy, which demands a much more active presence on internet. It must also be said that the fall in New Age music economy is likely to continue for a few years more until the CD format is entirely gone. First then will we see what kind of money is in streaming for artists in our genre.
Hopefully the business model too will become more lucrative for artists and labels. One thing is certain though; the underlying premise is still intact; If the artist is good enough, he or she can still make millions on New Age music – but it will not be easy money. It never were, really.
Above photo copyright Martina_L – BigStockPhoto.com