top of page
  • Writer's pictureChristopher McHale

Hey Joe, the music industry is that guy on the street with a busker's hat.

The changes in the music industry have eaten away at its core so that only a dried husk is left. What ideas can lead this important industry forward?

I put a lot of the breakdown of the music industry on the heads of musicians. I do that because the music industry I joined as a young musician was a place with a defined career path. Generations of musicians before me had worked to build unions and performance royalty organizations.

There were contract structures to define roles and compensations. Music support people like mixers and producers had fees established. People expected to make a living. I bought houses and sent kids to college. And all that is gone.

I'll play all day and you give me a buck.

Performance royalties have not increased in thirty years. Union work is almost impossible to find. And the music industry? That guy on the street with a busker's hat? He does not know what he's doing.

The changes in the music industry have eaten away at its core so that only a dried husk is left.

What ideas can lead this important industry forward?

Performance royalties, better contract structures, and support for musicians are all things that could help lead the music industry back to its feet. But without a coherent plan or guidance, it seems unlikely that anything will change soon. The future of the music industry is unclear, but I remain hopeful that things can and will get better for all involved.

Derailed sales are breaking our hearts today

As the wheels came off the wagon, I worked hard to convince young musicians not to undercut the markets. Not to sell themselves at rates 80% below what we had established. When I joined the industry, older musicians taught me the lay of the land and I followed the rules. It benefited the community and the future of the music industry.

But the young musicians I talked to didn't want to hear it. They wanted to play, and they will do it for free. And who can blame them? With no performance royalties, no union work, and an industry that has lost its way, what other choice did they have?

Passion beats dollars every time

Look, when I was a kid playing in bands we rehearsed all day, we lugged our gear across town; we played three sets and took home $75 to split five ways. I get it. But we were working for a carrot on the stick that was reachable.

When the band broke up, I left town and went to New York and found a viable way to make money from music. The industry was there. There were ways in. There's was a return on my investment. I still moved from a passionate center, and it will always take passion to work in the creative fields, but at least I could pay my rent, and start a family and dream. I didn't have to hype my way to the top. I could work my way to the top and when I got there, there was a there there.

No more, players. Now I simply do not know what to say to young guns with shiny saxophones.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

The horse is out of barn and long gone now. It’s not only the music industry, but the entire creative industry shut down. In this elitist economy, I see no clear path to economic security for creative workers. Even the ‘hit makers’ are working for far less these days. It’s back to square one after 120 years.

It's no secret that the music industry has been in a state of flux for the past few decades. With the rise of digital streaming platforms and the ubiquity of illegal downloading, artists and labels have been struggling to adapt to the changing landscape.

In recent years, we've seen a dramatic decrease in record sales, plummeting profits, and mass layoffs throughout the industry. Even Hit Makers, those responsible for creating the biggest chart-toppers, are now working for far less than they used to. It's clear that the old system is no longer sustainable. So what does this mean for the future of music?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. The industry is at a crossroads, and it remains to be seen which direction it will take. One thing is certain: There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief.

What we need is a new song

The music industry is in a state of disrepair.

So what?

Honestly, it's always been a bit of a hustler's paradise. No one is making any money, true, but they once paid Chuck Berry in a Cadillac for millions of dollars in royalty Mo Green put in his pocket.

So what changed?

Well, when Chuck figured it out, he starting raking it in. The music industry has always been a survival contest, but at least there were prizes, man. You can't eat followers on social media.

The busker is always happy on a good day, but that's not indicative of the health of the music industry. We need new ideas to fix this problem.

Of course, I’m not one to sit at the gated community hoping a passing billionaire will drop a penny in my busker’s hat. So I’m interviewing some of the brightest minds in this business to see what ideas are out there. I'll share some who I get some that makes sense, and if you have any, please let me know!

Now let me play you my new song. My hat is right there. Thanks.

Christopher McHale is an award-winning author, composer and producer, struggling to be human in a broken world, just like the rest of us.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page