It is not anything new to say that the music industry is going through a systemic transformation. How it is changing, however, is where people tend to disagree. Theories precognate everything from the demise, to the success, or even to a rebirth of a new and greater industry.
John Hartmann, manager and agent for many 60’s and 70’s bands such as “America,” and creator of Holodigm, believes that the music industry is heading into a Renaissance. With The Digital Age in full swing, artists no longer need record companies. This self sufficiency does two things. First, it stops the flow of money to huge music corporations such as Sony and Warner. Second, it allows artists to reinvest all the income from the band back into their own success. Hartmann sees a larger focus on live shows in the future, which provides a closer connection between the artist and their fans.1
Others see doom for the Music Industry. YouTube, a free video streaming website, is a huge discussion for large companies like Warner Music Group. “Between January and October of 2009, when Warner Music Group (WMG) removed all of its music from YouTube due to a licensing disagreement,” two researchers found that WMG sold around 10,000 more records. They further speculated that $130 million is funnelled away from the whole of the industry’s profits via YouTube every year. However, YouTube has been compensating record companies an average of $125 million per year which essentially negates their losses.2
Billboard, of the famous Billboard Charts, has teamed up with Twitter to create real time charts based on Twitter trends. Large websites like Facebook, Myspace, Spotify, and Bandcamp are ensuring the digital audience is bombarded with talent in cyberspace. “Each day, around 600 GBof data is created by Spotify users as they listen and share songs, create playlists and use in-platform apps.” 4
An article placed in a Music Trades Magazine 2013 census finds that the price tags previously excluding amateurs from creating professional music is collapsing as well. “The total quality and expensiveness of a high end keyboard synthesizer are now available in software versions for a fraction of the price.” Music Trades points their finger at technological advancements, since “the technological forces that have enabled Apple to cram a telephone, computer, camera, and internet device into a palm-sized package have also made it possible for audio manufacturers to offer increased performance at a reduced price.” 3
Our concept of the artist has even begun to drift. “What once referred to ‘disc jockeys’ who spun albums on turntables, and then migrated to CD players, has evolved into a broad category that includes mixing loops of prerecorded music, including techno, electronic dance music, and house music.” 3
Companies like Inspired Instruments, creators of the YRG MIDI Guitar, are filling the market need for electronic musicians to perform songs live, rather than using loops on a pad. Bliss, a psy-trance artist and owner of a YRG Gen 2, recently went on tour with a full band to accompany his electronic loops and synth riffs.
The YRG is so inexpensive ($250.00 USD) that it isn’t just popular musicians that can use them, guaranteeing the masses a chance to show their skills as musicians in a genre that until now just displayed composition ability.
No one knows where the music industry is heading. Technology is not going to stop growing, and its up to the artist and the industry to grow with it. Recent technological advancements take a huge chunk of income from the old industry, but the internet is finally beginning to be seen as a platform for so much more; one that can enhance a live experience rather than take away from it. What’s your stance on this issue? Is the music business dying or just coming to life? Is technology helping or hurting?
2. Lovelace, Craven. “Music: Does YouTube Help or Hurt?” The Post Independent. N.p., 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <http://www.postindependent.com/news/entertainment/11037611-113/youtube-music-industry-labels>.
3. Notes on the Music Trades Magazine April 2013 Census
4. Byfield, Britton. “Big Data + Customization: A New Era for the Music Industry.” Umbel. N.p., 23 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <https://www.umbel.com/blog/entertainment/music-industry/>.