Is Anyone Listening? An Examination of New Zealand Musicians in the Digital Age
With major recording artist Thom Yorke predicting the record industry will crumble in “Months” (Hudson, 2010), and sensationalist headlines such as “iPods and Young People Have Utterly Destroyed Music” (Buchanan, 2009) becoming commonplace, this research attempts to determine the current state of New Zealand music in the digital age. Despite the doom and gloom coming from the press in regards to the music industry, musicians haven’t stopped continuing to record, release, and promote their music as the costs of doing so continues to decline with the advent of new technologies. This research looks specifically into the music hosting website Bandcamp and determines what methods New Zealand musicians are currently using on the site in an effort to get their music into the ears and onto the hard drives of fans. Although a large amount of research has been performed on the impacts of piracy on music sales, very little has been conducted on what strategies musicians are implementing to increase their exposure and connect with their fan base in the 21st century, with no specific research having been performed on the unique circumstances faced by artists in New Zealand. This paper first presents a historical overview of the music industry in the last century, as well as a summary of where the industry currently stands in regards to Copyright, distribution methods, and price models in order to provide perspective on the difficulties and variety of choices currently facing musicians. Within this research paper, several hypotheses were tested in order to determine what factors have a significant effect on the amount of exposure that an artist has received for their music. In order to test these hypotheses, the number of audio streams and downloads that an artist has received for their songs posted to the music hosting site Bandcamp was used as a measure to determine the amount of exposure that a specific artist has received. Due to the subjective nature of the quality of music which each musician creates, a survey was sent to over 500 New Zealand musicians whom provided at least one song for download on the website in order to gather as much overall data on the success generated by New Zealand musicians online as possible. A quantitative analysis was then performed to determine what social networking and music hosting sites are most popular with Kiwi artists; whether musicians are still creating physical copies of their works; and what licenses and payment models artists are applying to their songs. This analysis identified two important factors as statistically significant in terms of affecting the number of downloads and audio streams an artist receives on Bandcamp, the length of time that an artist has been present on the site and the payment model that an artist applies to their works. In addition to the quantitative analysis performed on the success that artists were achieving on Bandcamp, a qualitative analysis was performed on the motivations artists had for applying specific pricing models and licenses to their works. The results of this analysis found a nearly unanimous positive response from musicians who had applied traditional Copyright to their work when asked if they would allow their fans to share their music without expressed permission. This research also determined that a majority of musicians currently applying traditional Copyright to their works are unfamiliar, unaware, or uninformed about Creative Commons licenses, with traditional Copyright being applied more out of habit than a desire for their works to be protected under the rights granted under traditional Copyright. A discussion about what these results indicate for artists is also presented as a guide for future and current musicians looking to upload their music to Bandcamp, depending on the goals that the musician is looking to achieve with their music. Finally, this paper concludes with an analysis of what limitations are present in the results of the research, as well as where the need exists for future research.