Does being an artist & being great at marketing really go hand in hand? What would the music industry look like and become in the face of a collapse of the "big four" labels? Our society has gone from mercantile to industrial to post-industrial to an "information/digital" economy - is the music industry just at the end of an inevitable revolution (the likes of which we've seen many times before), and has it actually lasted longer than it should have? What does it mean now that we're not so attached to physical and material goods - we pay for things we're happy not to have physical evidence of - but at what prices? In a market where information and knowledge carry the most value what will that mean for the quality of music? Does the ease of personal distribution of music (starting your own label etc) create bigger stars of the top few who emerge from the masses, and what does it mean for the people who can put them there (it used to take a whole record company - now it takes Eskay at Nah Right or a big name DJ co-sign)? What can't technology replace and what will those things be worth in a technological era? Is art now more valuable as a live experience, a cultural artefact or a portable piece of information? ...Lots of questions - what do you think?
“To every problem there is already a solution whether you know it or not.”
-Grenville Kleiser (1868-1953)
With this in mind, I would like to attempt to identify the main problems that have threatened to destroy the vision that was born on the streets of Tin Pan Alley. I urge readers to add to the list and help me begin this journey towards resolution.
11 of the issues that make up the current Music Industry Crisis.
1. Internet radio is the future yet providers can not sustain growth due to growing taxes on streaming music and a lack of clear revenue models.
2. 360 deals strain everything and everyone causing countless problems yet they are a necessary evil for struggling funding partners (Labels, publishers, Management, etc. . ).
3. Social networks and other web 2.0 outlets provide easy and personal access to fans yet the growing number of networks dilutes the overall message and dramatically increases the time spent marketing.
4. Apple has been an incredible innovator in the quest to a brighter music industry. We owe them a great debt. However, their unprecedented high market share in digital music sales mixed with their stubborn and controlling business models leave no bargaining room for funding partners (labels, publishers, etc..). Growth and innovation in this important industry sector (music retail) is therefore stifled without the ability for competitive trials. In addition, Apple's 30% take on each track sold leaves little for the artists and song writers.
5. Physical Retail stores have lost the ability to turn a profit unless attached to a one stop business model (i.e Walmart, Hastings, Best Buy, etc.). As a result the true music pushers, independent music retail stores, are almost extinct.
6. Traditional radio, though still an important promotional front, has lost much of its glory to the on demand world of iPods, satellite radio, and Internet radio. It has therefore become increasingly more difficult to predict market trends without a standard radio format to follow. The result is a much higher risk/return ratio for funding partners (Labels, Publishers, etc..), which in turn limits the number of acts that ever see a major market entry.
7. The RIAA in an attempt to combat the growing number of music pirates, proclaimed war on piracy by means of civil suits with individual copyright infringers. Many average American citizens were made an example of with outrageous and bizarre settlements. The music industries' minds were in the right place. They had intended to create the perception of risk for stealing music and in turn, change consumer thinking. In the end however, it only generated a false image of a "Greedy Recording Industry". This wall between the consumer and the industry has instead furthered the cause for this viral pirating trend.
8. Video and audio sharing networks act as a breeding ground for the spread of illegal music in the form of audio and videos. These new networks cut into the profits of funding partners (labels, publishers, etc.) yet act as a wonderful way for independent artists and major artists alike to receive viral promotion. In addition, simple mathematics states that all of the illegal media sharing portals can not be shut down. Lawsuits cost money, and the recording industry doesn't have much. Instead, the industry goes after the major outlets one at a time. But for every 1 that is shut down, 7 more are built in its place. Let us just say that this fire is out of control.
9. And let us not forget, stealing music is still more convenient to the average consumer than buying music. In addition, the only way to fully shut down music piracy would be to turn on "Big Brother" and violate very important privacy privileges. Therefore, it can never truly be stopped as long as we live in a democratic society. The solution must lie in connotation and change. Though it may appear that the RIAA is doing more harm then good, they have it right. The battle ground is in the mind.
10. (Addition) The music industries, both production and business, are now intimately and infinitely tied to digital and to the Internet. The systems that govern digital music across the web are not yet fully realized by the core of the music Industry. A clear vision for the future of these newlyweds (music and Internet), has not yet been defined. The marriage is still rocky and working out its kinks. The solution can be found in the collective mind of the industry. To quote our motto, "We must unite to restore."
11. (Addition & Invitation) The Live Scene
The first round of comments from the Linkedin music business network laid claims to a crisis within the live music scene. The live scene has been neglected by this article. I invite anyone who works in live sound to help me analyse this market niche for problems. Your collective wisdom will greatly aid me in future editions of this article as I seek to once and for all define the music industry crisis.