Mick Jagger on the economics of music

by on May 27, 2010 at 10:04 am in Economics, History, Music | Permalink

…people only made money out of records for a very, very small time. When The Rolling Stones started out, we didn’t make any money out of records because record companies wouldn’t pay you! They didn’t pay anyone!

Then, there was a small period from 1970 to 1997, where people did get paid, and they got paid very handsomely and everyone made money. But now that period has gone.

So if you look at the history of recorded music from 1900 to now, there was a 25 year period where artists did very well, but the rest of the time they didn’t.

Jagger, of course, studied economics at LSE and is known to be a fan of Hayek.  Hat tip goes to Jerry Brito.

1 Gut May 27, 2010 at 10:08 am

He is also the primary datapoint for the observation that economists do it with models.

2 Delirious May 27, 2010 at 10:24 am



3 David R. Henderson May 27, 2010 at 10:42 am

He was a fan of Hayek while at LSE. That was well before he was paid.

4 pmp May 27, 2010 at 11:05 am

I’ve heard that Mick-Jagger-Likes-Hayek story before.

At the risk of pooping the party, can anyone show me evidence that it’s not apocryphal?

5 MGH May 27, 2010 at 11:13 am

In 100 years the swarm of innovation in the music industry is profitable only for the last quarter. The Jagger short Wave theory of crisis?

6 xxjjjnn May 27, 2010 at 11:19 am

I believe that when Jagger was on SNL he mentioned Hayek. I also vaguely remember the interviewer idiotically saying, “That means you’re a Keynesian?”

Somebody post a link if you can show what really happened please…

7 pmp May 27, 2010 at 11:31 am

Okay, it looks like there’s proof that Jagger likes Hayek. My skepticism was unwarranted.

8 Jim May 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm

“There was a war going on, the Nixon thing was happening. Tax was through the roof. It was very difficult. The end of the ’60s felt very strained. ”

Anybody care to guess what “Nixon thing” was happening at the end of the 1960s?

“I remember it well. Every bit of it!”

Sure you do, Mick. Sure you do.

9 Dan in Euroland May 27, 2010 at 2:04 pm

There is a difference between records and touring. How much do the Stones make on their tours? Or The Boss? Isn’t it over $200 million?


Yea, a previous article about Lady Gaga that T Cowen linked to mentioned how much the big acts make from touring. IIRC gaga said that it was b/w 40M-100M for a two year tour cycle.

10 Attila Smith May 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm

@Gut: that’s very, very witty!

I saw Mick Jagger interviewed on French television a long, long time ago.The journalist told him that someone had written a thesis about him. As Jagger didn’t comment, the journalist started explaining what a thesis was.
Jagger told him he knew what the word meant,and knew that Ph.D’s were written about him, but that he was disappointed that the Sorbonne would allow that.
I have never stopped admiring him for this incredible modesty and the intelligence he displayed throughout the whole interview . I confess that I had snobbishly assumed that a pop-singer could not be especially clever. I was quite wrong.

11 matt May 27, 2010 at 3:29 pm

it should also be noted that most bands don’t make money because, well, there just aren’t many good bands worth paying to see,etc.

12 Will May 27, 2010 at 4:55 pm

It’s not just records. Because he’s a songwriter he’s made a steady fortune just on that since he was in his twenties(and it continues) and he’s always made a fortune from live performances—–neither revenue stream shared with any record company.

13 Spider May 27, 2010 at 6:22 pm

libert: “Another possibly apocryphal story about Mick Jagger at LSE: he supposedly rode his motorcycle through the library. And for those who have never been to the LSE library, that would be quite a feat.”

Nice try, but the current LSE library building was acquired by the university in 1978, long after Jagger was a student. And they renovated it, producing the spiral staircase that you linked to, in 2001.

14 josh May 28, 2010 at 8:16 am


Who are you?

15 noodlepie May 28, 2010 at 9:35 am

I think Zeppelin was one of the first bands to start actually making money from a producer when they pushed Atlantic into actually paying them what they thought they were worth. That fits Jagger’s 1970 timeline.

16 Mike Finley June 16, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Jagger has also said that, were he not a rock star, he might be a Chaucer scholar.

17 Sebastian Pigott July 27, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Record companies really took advantage and probably still do. No wonder the Rolling Stones tour so much because the real money is in the touring. http://www.sebastianpigott.net

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