Covid struck a huge blow to the music industry. In 2020, live music all but ended, and artists lost two thirds of their normal income. However, it isn’t just Covid that has brought independent venues and artists to their knees. This is a crisis spawned and perpetuated by corporate concentration crushing the music industry.
ILSR’s Senior Researcher Ron Knox’s groundbreaking reporting in Wired — on monopoly power in the music industry — struck a chord. His article explains how the monopolization of three chokepoints in the distribution of music — record labels, streaming, and live venues — is making it impossible for all but the top artists to reach listeners.
On KEXP’s Sound & Vision, he spoke at length about the plight facing small, independent live music venues — both because of the pandemic, and because of a playing field tilted toward live music monopoly power. There’s now a real risk that corporate behemoths such as Live Nation and AEG will begin to buy out venue owners who could not survive the pandemic. As he explains, Live Nation is a live music monopolist, with $2.5 billion cash on hand and a steady flow of investor funding.
These are things that aren’t available to independent venues…The grave concern is that the choice becomes: Either go out of business, or sell out to Wall Street-backed corporate power. It’s a real and very dangerous choice small venue owners are going to have to make.
On WBEZ’s Sound Opinions, Ron connected the monopoly crisis in the music industry to the same structural issues in the broader economy. He explains, “When we’re talking about [music] streaming, we’re talking about platform monopoly problems. It’s the same thing you see with Amazon. Any industry that has to rely on these platforms for revenue and distribution is going to run into these issues, and that’s exactly what’s happened in the music industry.”
On The Capitol Forum, Ron also talked about how electeds and the agencies charged with enforcing our antitrust laws have allowed this consolidation in the music industry.
If you go back and you look at the history of these mergers, if you look at the Live Nation/Ticketmaster deal, the Sirius/XM deal, the takeover of Pandora […] the government approved the Sirius/XM merger because it said there are lots of other things for people to listen to […] It was essentially the equivalent of saying, yeah, if people don’t want to watch their TV, they can look out the window.
Kevin Erickson, the head of the Future of Music Coalition, called Ron’s music monopoly reporting “great and timely,” and said it drew “the straight clear line from the frustrations in the music ecosystem to Congressional action.”
For Ron’s insights on music monopolies and antitrust more broadly, follow him on Twitter.
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