Prospecting, Sharecropping, and the Recording Industry


Digital-era disruption has had a significant impact on the recording industry and the business of music more generally. Digital-era music disruption draws attention to patterns of continuity within the recording industry. Notably, despite widespread use of digital technologies for the creation, dissemination, and consumption of music, core recording industry business models largely still draw from the predigital era. Recording industry business models have long been compared to other exploitative business models based on debt, including the sharecropping business. Business models in the recording industry have been a source of dispute by a broad range of recording artists, including highly successful ones such as Taylor Swift. These models have also reflected racialized patterns of extraction that have particularly disadvantaged generations of African American artists. This Article considers the impact of racialized extraction patterns in the recording industry for the racial wealth gap. It also discusses the need for alternative business and compensation models for all artists in the recording industry.