Sunday, June 1, 2008

The music industry is healthier than it has ever been

How's that for a controversial line? But I mean it. Here's why I think this:
We hear over and over again about how bad off the music industry is. Labels are bleeding money all over the new carpet, firing workers faster than a frat boy can down beers on a Friday night. This is true. What this means is not that the music industry is suffering. It means that big labels have lost their footing and they don't know what to do. The world and the industry have changed and the labels tried to sue us back to the stone age to stop the progress of illegal downloads, etc. In the process, they've pissed off the people that they were supposedly set up to serve. They did not respect their audience and let them know it. Now I'm not saying that their task was an easy one, but hindsight says that they messed things up even worst than they were.

And they still don't know what to do. Watch out, because they are like a wounded bear, lashing out at anyone around them.

But Mr.Old Skool Review, what do you mean, the industry is healthier than ever? Aren't the labels taking it up the old pooper scooper? Why, yes they are, dear little johnny. But that doesn't account for all the other facets of music. I submit that we are actually in a golden era of music, with more options than ever before to choose from. While the 800 pound gorillas are suffering, the real winners are everyone else. This is a time when a band like Wilco, or the Flaming Lips, or the Dresden Dolls, or Feist, can make a living as a musician. These bands don't need to constantly hope that a label "discovers" them so they can have the fame or fortune. They can post their music to their myspace page, sell digital music via emusic, even itunes. Right now many of the local bands in STL can be found on iTunes. ITUNES! Back in the old skool days, you released a cassette or 45 and prayed it would fall into the right hands nd the only people who bought a release from you were your parents, friends, and someone who saw your show.

The model has changed from the taste-making decisions being in the hands of the powerful few, to being in the hands of all of us. From a musical economy of the haves and have-nots, to a burgeoning middle class of professional musicians who can make money year in, year out and not worry if they are going to be signed (or dropped).

It's an exciting time. I'm just glad I don't work for a large label.


Sheafisher said...

amen brother. the big record companies had a golden opportunity to get ahead of this internet "fad" but instead they fought it to their own demise. stick a fork in their butts and turn them over, they are done and they don't even know it.

one the weird emerging phenoms of this social networking collective wisdom of crowds thing, is how much bandwagon hype can catapult a group into internet stardom. i'm thinking of clap you hands say yeah and vampire weekend, where mp3 blog mania created the next big thing. then they get signed and likely disappear after a few years.

i don't need record companies anymore. i don't need to be told what the top 40 songs are. i can listen myself through a gazillion different ways and decide that myself. now if i could just get a refund on the 1000 cds in my basement.

dale (yeah i found your blog and subscribed via rss)

The Management said...

I would also like to point out that smaller labels - more nimble labels - seem to be reaping the benefits of the new era of distribution. They've relied on word of mouth for ages, and have really been able to use the digital shift to their advantage.