Incentivizing Top Musicians

Texas A&M Journal of Property Law (2019 Forthcoming)

20 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2019 Last revised: 28 Jul 2019

See all articles by Guy A. Rub

Guy A. Rub

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law

Date Written: July 22, 2019


The high social costs of our copyright law system are traditionally justified as a necessary evil to incentivize the production of more and better information goods. One would, therefore, expect that as copyright becomes stronger, and as the affected industries' revenues increase, productivity will improve. Glynn Lunney’s recent book, Copyright’s Excess: Money and Music in the US Recording Industry, however, shows that, at least when it comes to the recording industry, such a correlation does not exist. This is especially the case with respect to leading musicians, who seem to have reduced their productivity during the industry’s most profitable years.

The incentives of top and wealthy artists to continue to create receives relatively little attention in copyright law literature. Those incentives likely do not fit within the overall framework. The formula “money equals incentives” is quite crude with respect to most people, but it seems simply erroneous when it comes to those artists who are already very wealthy.

This essay explores the forces that drive superstars’ creativity. It suggests that the main motivations for the creativity of the ultra-wealthy are likely to be rooted in their internal joy from creativity and, possibly even more, in the entailed social-psychological rewards. It concludes by considering some of the possible implications of this incentive structure and with a call for copyright law to focus on the monetary incentives of marginal artists and not those of the ultrarich.

Keywords: Copyright, Music, Incentive Theory

JEL Classification: K00, K11, K31, K34, L13, O30, O31, O34

Suggested Citation

Rub, Guy A., Incentivizing Top Musicians (July 22, 2019). Texas A&M Journal of Property Law (2019 Forthcoming). Available at SSRN:

Guy A. Rub (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law ( email )

55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States

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