Oh….It is SO on now!


When I read media analyst Steve Johnson’s article (featured on our first blog post: “Are We Good Then?“) titled “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t” I was struck by two thoughts:

  1. This guy really knows how to gather info and talk STATS!
  2. Hey…waidaminnit….his conclusions don’t reflect my own experience, or for that matter…the experiences of anyone else that I know in the music business. What’s up with that?

Well, it seems I wasn’t the only one who had that opinion. In the article, Steven mentions an organization called The Future of Music Coalition. The “FMC” describes their mission as follows:

“Future of Music Coalition (FMC) is a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization supporting a musical ecosystem where artists flourish and are compensated fairly and transparently for their work.

FMC works with musicians, composers and industry stakeholders to identify solutions to shared challenges. We promote strategies, policies, technologies and educational initiatives that always put artists first while recognizing the role music fans play in shaping the future. FMC works to ensure that diversity, equality and creativity drives artist engagement with the global music community, and that these values are reflected in laws, licenses, and policies that govern any industry that uses music as raw material for its business.”

Pretty cool eh? I like these guys already. Anyone who puts artists first has my vote! But back to Steven and his article: in it he refers to data that he got from FMC that helped his optimistic spin on the current state of employment opportunities for musicians. As it turns out, FMC had told Steven that he had reached some questionable conclusions and suggests some edits that never happened. When they read the final article which was published on August 19, 2015, they were not amused. They wrote a rebuttal and the game was ON!

Check it out:

The Data Journalism That Wasn’t

OUCH! (I added the “ouch” part FYI)

A. The Data Journalism That Wasn't

Click here for the rebuttal article from FMC


And of course, Steven Johnson stood by his original article and published a follow up to his original story rebutted by FMC.

Can Data Capture The True Health of The Creative Economy?

C. Can Data Capture The Health?

Click Here for Steve’s Follow Up Article


And FINALLY (for now) not wanting to leave it there…FMC published yet another follow up with the very cool title of:

Musicians are Not Dentists: What Steven Johnson Still Doesn’t Get

B. Musicians Are Not Dentists

Click Here to Read The FMC Article

(As an aside, my former dentist in Texas IS a musician…and a really good one. So…funny title…but not completely accurate. Just sayin’…)


Therefore….who wins this epic back-and-forth? Are the musicians themselves the ultimate losers? Are things as rosy as Steven says?  At the end of the day, it is up to us: the artists, to make all of this right.

At this point I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by George Bernard Shaw:

I hear you say
I hear you say “Why?” Always “Why?” You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”

What are your thoughts? Lets have some more of your wonderful comments and sort this thing out!

14 thoughts on “Oh….It is SO on now!

  1. Elaine Lim September 24, 2015 / 7:06 am

    FMC certainly made very important points in their first rebuttal article. I agree with them when they questioned Johnson’s claims that live music revenue can substitute for lost recorded music revenue. Since touring costs are not reported according to FMC, we can never tell if the artists themselves have earned money. Some artists actually lose money since productions these days are getting more expensive. Because of this, I am now questioning whether musicians are faring well when they can’t sell recordings or earn in live performances. On the other hand, I disagree with FMC’s critique on Johnson’s sentiment that more people than ever are writing and performing songs for a living and more people are choosing to make a career as a musician or a songwriter these days. Even though how Johnson summarized the data was disapproved by the FMC, his bigger-picture view is what matters. If you add up the numbers of different kinds of musicians and compare the years from 1999 and 2014, there is really a significant increase in 2014. It does not matter whether you are a performer or a director/songwriter, the fact is that “creative thinkers” like musicians are not diminishing in number. At the same time, you notice around you that every state has many music schools that employ musicians. Also, there has never been as many music students as these days. With that, I say that the data Johnson interpreted is reliable. Even by just observing, you see musicians earning through mainstream jobs, or through jobs that were unheard of 15 years ago, like creative collaborations with other mediums of art.

    Johnson’s rebuttal to FMC’s rebuttal made me understand his first article better. While FMC is nitpicking a lot of the small details in the original article, Johnson restated his main point for writing that article. Johnson’s main aim is to point out the threat and the good that came out of it. There was certainly a big shift in the industry, yet, the number of musicians is still growing, if not, having the same ratio despite the population growth over the years. It is not an article that gives false optimism but it just gives a picture that musicians are surviving despite the technological change. His article simply points to new avenues where musicians are found to be working for a living.

    FMC’s second rebuttal made great points to consider as well. It challenges Johnson to look more closely into the complicated web of different classifications of musicians and have first hand information through interviews. I agree that this is a way to make a more accurate conclusion. which changed my mind once again whether I totally agree with Johnson. I guess the lesson learned here is that there should be a more balanced presentation of truth. Balanced in a sense that the things that happened are not perfect. There is always pros and cons in every situation. And Johnson could have looked into the other side more.

    Despite the very upfront rebuttals, I admire how civil and “educated” they communicated with each other. I hope that FMC should just publish an article, since they have the data and they know what But with their exchange, I am thankful that they are sincerely shedding a light into the art world. They do care.


  2. Junxiang Kuang September 24, 2015 / 8:57 pm

    ooooooooops, these articles are very profound, and brilliant. Thank you Steve that you post these instructive and amazing arguments, even though these texts take me much of time to read it!

    Ok, at first, I want to say no matter which side of the arguement, they have their own opinion and provideing evidences respectively. But, the balance in my heart inclines to FMC gradually after I read all of the articles above this time.

    It seems Johnson do really is nonresponsive and misunderstand FMC’s critiques. In my opinion, FMC is more objective than Steven. Of course, music is a complex industry, also for dividing the edge of musicians or a music worker. It is soooooo comprehensive topic. Perhormance artists, musical educator, music producer so on and so far so forth. You can say all their job is involved in music, so it is too hard to tell us what exact number of them or their income by putting some specific date of some groups of people. So the date he find to tell us the increase situation of the artists is not that reliable to me anymore. Furthermore, some people might argue for Steven that we so not focus on the details, and he just tell us the main trend of nowadays situation. And there is a question I want to ask following. ” How can you know or be sure the optimistic environment he say is correct?” I mean this is very controversial topic, different musicians have different answers for this top. Some of them may support themselves well by their music, some not. And, if this is a scholarly research, authors should provides evidence as detaled as they can. And it have to be.

    Finally, I still of the environment of music and musician can be rosy and booming in the future. This is the same point that Steven and FMC strike the balance. All of us should think it will be better. Musicians will no be the losers, never and ever!


  3. Lynn Baker September 24, 2015 / 10:22 pm

    Maria Schneider with the Council of Music Creators and an associated group called Content Creators Coalition have published their letter to Mr. Johnson’s original article. Check it out:


  4. Eunha So September 27, 2015 / 5:50 am

    Reading these articles back to back made me rethink about Johnson’s article “The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t”. When I read the Johnson’s first article, I was so fascinated by what he was presenting that I believe most of what he was saying. I took his data as a fact. However reading the article on F.M.C. The Data Journalism That Wasn’t completely changed my view. I agree the data’s that Johnson was providing cannot be “the fact” of the musicians’ lives nowadays compare to 1999. F.M.C. clearly gives so many reasons why the data Johnson was giving (E.S.M.I. number and data from O.E.S) can not be fact, but the one that stood out to me that “there is no such thing as an average musician”. The article Johnson wrote is strongly focused on musicians who tour and work with the audience whom get the most benefit from pro-technology optimistic futurism. Musicians are individually special; it is not possible to average out their creativity and source of income accurately. I can relate this to myself being a jazz musician and creating my own music, and I am a perfect example of one of those non-average musicians.

    There is also a miscommunication between these two sides. F.M.C. is arguing that misusing those data as a true factor can lead to “[reinforce] a false binary between pro-technology optimistic futurism and anti-technology digital pessimism”, but Johnson explains “But as a society, we still find it useful and instructive to look at, say, national unemployment or G.D.P. statistics, even though there will be “different answers for different employers” inside those numbers”. Even in this sentence, Johnson is avoiding/missing F.M.C.’s fundamental point in the argument. This to me is just an excuse. Who is the society? the musician society or the general population? I thought his article was for the musicians, but Johnson’s response (Can Data Capture the True Health of the Creative Economy?) to F.M.C. made me think that he maybe wrote it to encourage a generation of musicians who are worried about their musician career path. It is disappointing to see that he is just trying to justify his first article, instead of directly approaching the questions and concerns that F.M.C suggested to him.

    I understand all the researches that Johnson has cannot be all in one article. However if that was the case he should have written more then one article about this topic, or publish a book. It is okay to not be able to talk about everything in one article, but it is not okay to insert certain data that could “mislead” the reader to support his thesis (for example, making that believe a non fact as a fact).

    I still agree with Johnson that musicians do get more benefits then harm from the technology, but Johnson need to let the reader know there are many different variations depend on each musician.

    What do we do now? That is a tough question to answer, because I am still figuring it out myself as a musician. I think it also depends on what is coming in the future. The technology is changing so fast we do not even know what will happen next month or year. I believe the best think to do is to stay updated with technology.


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