How Can We Fix the Broken Music Industry?

Share this post

Announcing a future-focused report on the music industry by The Creative Independent and Kickstarter Creator-in-Residence René Kladzyk.

Back in 2016, Kickstarter launched The Creative Independent as a resource of emotional and practical guidance for all kinds of creative people. Since then, we’ve published interviews, how-to guides, and essays featuring the wisdom of well over 800 working artists—including writers, filmmakers, designers, musicians, visual artists, and more. We view everything we publish as an opportunity to better understand how independent artists can survive and thrive despite the challenges so many of us struggle with—from feeling healthy, to making a living, to finding balance while trying to do it all.

Through this work, we’ve seen how hard it can be to sustain a creative life, particularly in the music industry. For today’s musicians and industry professionals, there seem to be few tried-and-true paths to “success,” and even fewer indications of what “success” actually means.

The Creative Independent aspires to offer emerging artists resources that can help them make sense of the dizzying creative industries in which they operate. That’s why we launched a report on how visual artists are supporting themselves back in 2018, and it’s why today, we’re releasing a new report surveying the challenges that must be overcome to build a better future music industry.

To create our Music Industry Investigation Report, we partnered with Kickstarter Creator-in-Residence René Kladzyk. As a musician herself, and as the creator of the Future Music Industry list, René has unique insight into what it means to live and work in the music industry. Through a collaboration with René, we surveyed nearly 300 musicians and industry professionals to gather their insights, and then distilled the collected data into 10 key takeaways. While we know that the insights of 300 people can’t create a scientifically accurate representation of the entire industry, we do believe the collected responses offer a telling snapshot of what musicians are facing in the industry today, and where we can focus our efforts as we work towards a better future.

So, what does the report say, at a glance? Some of the conclusions might seem fairly obvious: the fact that by and large, musicians simply cannot support themselves through their music alone; the truth that the music industry is far more accessible to those with financial privilege; the upsetting lack of gender and racial diversity in industry leadership positions. Other findings are perhaps less obvious: that musicians’ friends and social circles tend to be the most helpful as they work to gain traction, and that less than half of industry professionals said their organization had a protocol in place for sexual harassment.

In addition to our Music Industry Investigation Report, today we’re also publishing a guide written by our collaborator René, titled How to build the future music industry we want and need. René’s article offers her thoughts on the report’s findings, and provocations for how individuals in the industry can come together to collectively build what’s next—from writing your own personal code of conduct and demanding diversity in the shows you book and play, to interrogating your reliance on digital platforms and beyond.

If you yourself are a part of the music industry, or if you care about the conditions under which the music you love is made, we invite you to view the report and read René’s guide. You can also explore our entire Music Industry Investigation series—which includes practical resources and prescient insights from musicians and industry professionals including Anohni, Fat Tony, Mitski, and many others.

We hope that this collection of information will be useful if you’re working to forge your own path within the music industry.

—Willa Köerner of The Creative Independent