James Surowiecki essays in this week’s New Yorker that touring not only pays musicians better and more reliably, but it’s booming. “Hello, Cleveland” has good numbers and good writing.

The most concise observation comes from John Perry Barlow (via Surowiecki):
We are seeing the Music Business being replaced by the Musician Business.
The Music Business (labels etc) used to control the most valuable and expensive assets — production, distribution, costly studios, access to shelf space, promotion — but now the Musicians control the scarcest assets, therefore the most valuable, their performances live, their presence.
All goes to show that ole Walter Benjamin was wrong in his “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” As a work becomes more available the desire to experience the original increases, not decreases. The “aura” is stronger mysteriously to me — and to ole Walt — as the reproduced materials become better and more accessible. Our fetishism of the creator, the original, is growing as we become familiar with the works even in an indirect way.

“It’s funny that, in an era of file-sharing and iPod-stealing, the old troubadour may have the most lucrative gig of all.” (Surowiecki)

Roger McGuinn removes the “may” from Surowiecki’s sentence as he talks to USA Today’s Kevin Manley (in the context of music piracy in China and elsewhere):

While visiting USA TODAY last week, Roger McGuinn, who led the Byrds in the 1960s, said he earned just 0.0007 cents on each early Byrds album sold. He adds that although Arista Records sold 500,000 of his solo album, Back From Rio, McGuinn never got a penny. In other words, thanks to the machinations of the recording industry, McGuinn has never made any real money on even his most popular recorded music.

Yet he’s done OK and now has a forward-thinking business model. He has a Web site, www.mcguinn.com, where he posts free songs. McGuinn made his most recent solo CD [Limited Edition] by recording it on his laptop and paying to have copies produced and packaged. He sells the CDs online and at concerts and says it’s the first time he’s ever made a profit on an album.

The online music, the CD and a stalwart Byrds fan base all fuel interest in his live performances, which often sell out small venues. That’s where he makes his money. McGuinn is apparently not lavishly rich, but he seems comfortable and is still making music.