Workers Compete Against Other Workers
From "Free Exchange," The Economist's blog:
"The biggest problem that musical artists have is not the recording industry. The main problem musicians face is other musicians. There are too many of them.
The reason almost no musician ever makes much money is that there is a huge excess supply of people who want other people to listen to them sing or play an instrument. When all the primates are vying to get up on stage to impress the other primates, there's little reason to pay the primates much."
Amen. A couple points from a recovering musician:
1. Music is a "tournament labor market," like the market for acting and the market for crack cocaine (see Freakonomics, the chapter "Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live With Their Moms?"), where there are the select few who win the music tournament (Prince, Christina Aguilera, Norah Jones, BB King, Eric Clapton), and then everybody else - the thousands upon thousands of "struggling starving artists" all over the country. Talk about a "disappearing middle class" - music NEVER had a middle class, it has always been a few rich tournament winners and thousands of poor artists trying to make it to the top, with almost nobody in the middle income category.
2. The problem ALL workers face is other workers! There are many effective ways to reduce competition from other workers: form a union to restrict the supply of workers (autoworkers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc) or create occupational liscencing laws to restrict the supply of workers (doctors, accountants, lawyers, barbers, appraisers, etc.).