There has been a lot of speculation of late as to the future of the music industry. Having lived and breathed the music industry my entire life, I have some thoughts on this. But before we look into what might be happening, it's important to first note that there is a big wide and distinct line between what we think of as 'the music industry' and the music itself, including the people who create it.
Music was around for millennia before the music industry was conceptualized. There is evidence of cavemen having drums to bang on. My guess is they didn’t have a manager, agent, label or recording studios to help them along their musical quests. In fact, it wasn’t until Thomas Edison invented the phonograph player that music became widely distributed. When music became ‘a product’ instead of ‘a service’ – the music industry was born and like any company that moves product, and sells stock options, it’s important to grow, grow, grow. Always do better, put out more, spend money on what we know will work. This is how ‘genres’ started to get pushed. If you didn’t fit into a particular genre, then you didn’t really stand a chance of anyone wanting to promote you. How on earth would they carve out a space for you? Where would your product sit in the record stores? What radio stations would you play list at if you couldn’t meet up with their format of rock, country, classical, jazz etc.?
What is happening in the industry today is similar to what is happening in the auto industry. We have companies, huge conglomerates, who lost sight of what their customer wanted. Gone are the half million dollar budgets to put together an album that nobody will buy. Gone are the studios that thrived on those budgets, and gone are the inflated bank accounts of record company executives who made the wrong choices and buried the industry.
I read an article this week about recording studios and the fate of the big inflated studio. It intimated that you simply cannot put together a quality recording without using a major facility with all the latest and greatest gear. The funny thing about the article is, nowhere did it mention that you would also (and more importantly in my opinion) need someone with good ears, instinct, and talent to help you record your project. Interesting blind spot, don’t you think?
The way it used to work:
Artist would sign on to a label for a 1-10 album deal. Artist would record where the label stipulated and with whom. Artist had really no control over their publicity or how it was being managed. Artist had to pay back the label every cent, whether the label was actively promoting them successfully or not. Labels had final say on what the product sounded like and looked like. Until each album sold a certain number of units, it was not considered ‘obligation met’ therefore you could in effect be held hostage by a bad label deal for your entire career. I have peers that remain locked in deals they have little to no control over.
The way it works now:
Artists are being artists. They’re seeking out like minded people to record with. They are networking to find people with passion in the industry who will work with them to achieve a momentum based on true fan support activity. Artists are creating music for themselves and for their fans. They are doing this with minimal budgets, outstanding creativity and much less pressure from the corporate mindset.
Do I fear for music? Not in the slightest. I am truly excited to see a leveling off of the greed in the industry. It was this leveling off, in a time of enormous growth of interest in artists from music fans, which encouraged me to record a second solo CD this year. I recorded in our home studio, I spent roughly $5000.00 all in, and the only person I owe that money back to is me.
We should all feel excited about the future of music. When you purchase music today, through CDBaby, itunes, Amazon, etc. approximately 50% more of the purchase price is getting to the artist. But more importantly, the product has not been filtered through the corporate mindset. What you’re hearing is true art, unhindered. Trust that good will come of this.
You can preview my new CD, The Spirit of The Times – HERE. I am also giving away free downloads of the entire project for a Sign Up to my mailing list (just until Dec. 31st or when it’s widely distributed through the various networks early in the new year). I start rehearsals in January to support the project live. Everything is under control and I am as free as a bird.
Cover Art ~ Sylvia Armstrong