Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Nashville's musical middle class collapses

Nate Rau
Jan. 5, 2014


As world-renowned artists like Taylor Swift, the Black Keys and Keith Urban have been hoisted up as evidence of Nashville's it-city status, the music industry has actually been in a state of unrelenting decline.

Since 2000, the number of full-time songwriters in Nashville has fallen by 80 percent, according to the Nashville Songwriters Association International. Album sales plummeted below 4 million in weekly sales in August, which marked a new low point since the industry began tracking data in 1991. Streaming services are increasing in popularity but have been unable to end the spiral.

The result has been the collapse of Nashville's musical middle class — blue-collar songwriters, studio musicians, producers and bands who eke out a living with the same lunch-pail approach that aconstruction professional brings to a work site. In fawning national publications, Nashville has emerged as a glamorous place populated with music celebrities. But in actuality, making a living at music is a rather gritty chore.

Independent songwriters like Reilley work under pressure-packed year-to-year deals. Professional musicians like Chris Autry, who plays bass for the New Dylans, are constantly on the hunt for a shrinking number of well-paying gigs. And working drummers and producers such as Ken Coomer, who plays drums for the band, earn a living project by project.


NSAI chalks up the decline of the songwriting profession to the rise in music piracy, the loss of album sales and the increase in popularity of streaming services like Spotify that don't pay songwriters as well.

Herbison has been advocating for more favorable federal laws to, as he describes it, pay songwriters a fair market rate for their work.

"I'd challenge the premise that there is much of a middle class anymore," Herbison said. "It's the haves and have-nots."


tags: music business

No comments:

Post a Comment