Let us be clear: our problem with Johnson’s article isn’t that he fails to conform to some doom-and-gloom scenario for artists working today. Indeed, there are a lot of new opportunities for artists, and those opportunities are worth celebrating. Most frustrating to us is that Johnson reinforces a false binary between pro-technology optimistic futurism and anti-technology digital pessimism. And that simply doesn’t describe the state of the contemporary debate about art and the digital age.
Fair enough. And the Future Of Music Coalition fires off some worthy criticism of Steven Johnson's numbers, which Johnson in turn has promised to respond to. It's all very much worth reading.
I feel the true state lies somewhere in between. I know a few musicians who are doing quite well for themselves in the present climate, and I know a few who have dropped out of the business due to financial frustration. I'm hanging on, though it's certainly a stressful arena to be making a living in. But I'm not convinced it's all that different than it was a couple decades ago, in terms of some musicians benefiting and others struggling into disillusionment. Admittedly, one big change is that there are a lot fewer stable music industry jobs. And artists working within the traditional infrastructure are feeling the pain (which isn't helped by labels adopting things like 360 deals). But I still think the emerging opportunities for creative people and independent companies, which the Coalition admits are "worth celebrating", are the real story here, and it's this shift towards autonomy that will define the future of music.