Looks like the music industry is heading for a complete collapse. Years of gorging itself at the trough of the CD (where they were were making crazy profit off each sale), they are now reaping their rewards:
IN 2006 EMI, the world’s fourth-biggest recorded-music company, invited some teenagers into its headquarters in London to talk to its top managers about their listening habits. At the end of the session the EMI bosses thanked them for their comments and told them to help themselves to a big pile of CDs sitting on a table. But none of the teens took any of the CDs, even though they were free. “That was the moment we realised the game was completely up,” says a person who was there.
The music industry has declined from its heyday of the 80’s, but it was in this decade that it began its inevitable decline. The music industry discovered the profitability of “disposable music”, also known as the “one hit wonder”. They promoted one pop hit after another, and learned that they could produce music on a CD (which cost very little to manufacture) and sell it for outrageous markup until the average customer was paying up to $20 for a CD containing 1 hit and 8-10 other songs of questionable value.
I developed a rule in the late 80’s when buying music. I would not buy an album if 1) the first song released by the band was a cover of another song and 2) the band did not have 3 songs off the album that I liked. It was actually a pretty good rule. For Soundgarden’s “Superunknown”, I had heard “Spoonman”, “Black Hole Sun”, and “Last Wave”, so I picked up the album and was satisfied with the album. I went against my instincts and bought Smashmouth’s “Fush You Mang” after hearing “Walking on the Sun” and discoverd an album full of audio garbage. Did I really want to spend $20 to hear one song? No, but that’s what the music industry was forcing upon us.
Now, in the era of digital downloads, the music industry now faces a dilemma. No longer does the music industry reap large rewards off of one single. Instead, iTunes sells the song for $.99– a far cry from the profits they were reaping on the CD. The insane profits they are reaping on CDs are fading, and the music industry is no longer going to be able to operate as they had in the past.
Personally I hope we return to the era of good music. It’s a bad sign when the biggest tours around are The Eagles and the Police. Maybe instead of 30 bands that sound the same (Sugar Ray, Smashmouth, Barenaked Ladies, etc.), we can start exploring and promoting better music.
Here’s some advice for the music industry: watch YouTube. It used to be MTV that would promote music through videos, but as they don’t anymore, YouTube is a good gauge of what is popular and what isn’t. Just ask “OK Go”, who had a very clever video and a good song. YouTube and its ilk are also a good place for industrious bands to produce their own music videos and get some exposure, exposure that used to come from signing to a label.
I’m not exactly sad the music industry is facing inevitable decline. It’s time to put music back in the hands of the people, not music producers who have given us the tired pop hits from Britney, Lindsay, Paris, Hannah Montana, and a host of other lip-syncing Madonna wanna-bes.