Becoming a rock star: It's possible, but unlikely

Artwork by Chris Strouth

Makes No Sense At All captures the visions, ramblings, and memories of Chris Strouth, a Twin Cities-bred master of music, film, and everything else.

I get a surprising amount of emails from people asking questions about how to succeed in music, how to get publicity, and how to get music heard by others. These inquiries seem to be  seeking how to get what it is these nascent creatives think they want. In reality, it's not that they can't get the right answers, but they are asking the wrong questions, and most definitely at the wrong time.

We are in the post-music age. Music is no longer the force leading popular culture. Sorry, it just isn't. Sure, tour revenues are up, but so are ticket prices are too. In pure economic terms, fewer people are paying more. The dollars go up, but audience is essentially squeezed out of the market. If you can't engage its hard to be part of the culture. Music is now less a stand-alone and more part of a bubble. It's all merged in with merchandise and software. A concert is no longer just a concert -- it's an "experience."

In terms of pure numbers, music takes take a back seat to video games. In 2013 the total gross revenue from touring musicians was $4.8 billion worldwide while the recording industry itself is worth approximately $15 billion (2 percent sync rights, 7 percent performance rights, 39 percent digital rights, and 51 percent physical sales). The whole shooting match is worth about $20 billion. Which sounds pretty good till you realize that the video game market tops in at $93 billion for that same period. This includes sales of video game console hardware and software, online, mobile and PC games, but doesn't include money from films and TV shows based on games, or merchandise like action figures or terribly clever T-shirts.

Want to feel worse? The gross revenues for fantasy football, which is just a U.S. thing, come in at $15 billion. Or to put it another way, the global music economy is worth $1 billion more than what Facebook just paid for the What's App messenger service. The movie Frozen grossed a little over a billion dollars on its own, so that movie is equal to about 1/20 of music worldwide. Not including the platinum record that it got for music sales. And about those platinum records: There were all of 17 in the year 2013. One of which was a holiday album by the Robertsons, the Duck Dynasty clan. Though platinum, singles beat albums by a hefty margin.

Erik Hess
You're looking at this photo for purely musical purposes.

Music barely even scratched the Google year-end trend lists. Just one entry in top 10 trending, and it was "The Harlem Shake," which, let's be honest here, isn't about the song at all. Of course, the number one "what is " query was "What is twerking?" While it seems to be about music, it is really about ass jiggling. In fairness people confuse the two often. In music's favor, the top 10 most searched people were all musicians: Miley Cyrus, Drake, Kim Kardashian (sad as that is to consider her as such), Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, and Kanye West. Of course, that said, how many on that list do you think are being Googled because of their music?

Are you depressed yet? You should be. I would love to tell you how many songs were released in 2013, but it is actually impossible. There are traditional release methods, songs on the iTunes store, songs put up on Soundcloud, Bandcamp and other streaming sites, and let us not forget the YouTube. Now the largest search engine for music, YouTube has on average 93,600 hours of video added daily -- which mean 36,164,000 hours added last year, which equals 4,000 years worth of non-stop watching. I am guessing a good chunk of that is cat videos, but a lot is people waiting to be a viral sensation and good chunk of them singing songs.

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