The Internet & Music…
The internet has been a growing and integral part of society over the past ten years and while many industries have embraced the technology, a large section of the music industry sees the internet as a destructive force. While I somewhat agree that file-sharing is partly detrimental to the music industry, I do not think that the artists involved are losing out because of the illegal sharing of music files.
There is no doubt that the sales of records and CD’s have dropped dramatically over the past three years, but there is another angle to look at. Record companies take most of the money made from the records and only a small portion of the sales actually go to the artists, therefore we have to look at the other aspects of the music industry. Gigs allow some artists to make money and this is further enhanced by merchandise sold at these gigs. Live revenue on the part of the artists has grown over the past 5 years and this shows that in some ways the music industry is thriving in this new age of the internet.
There is a simple explanation for the figures and file-sharing is a big influence on these figures. The sharing of music files allows people to find a lot more bands as there is no restrictions such as price and accessibility, the ease of distribution over the internet (in terms of artists) has become exceptionally easy, with sites such as Last.fm, MySpace and the many music blogs. While people may decide not to buy these new bands’ albums they may go to one of their shows and this is because there is no substitute for live music. It allows for a much more even playing ground for bands and allows bands that aren’t backed by big record labels to be a presence in the music scene.
On the other hand, record labels are an vital part of the music industry and bands like The Dandy Warhols would never have made a name for themselves without the backing of Capitol, there is obviously no way to know whether they would have made a name for themselves, but record companies have the ability to push for their artists to be played on radio and other mediums.
The big question is, “Can the music industry survive without the presence that record labels have at the moment?”, because at the rate at which revenues of these record labels are dropping, the music industry must face the fact that record labels will have a smaller presence and independent artists will be more prevalent in the coming years. It seems that the record labels are unable to find a strategy that will allow them to stay in the state that they were in before file-sharing became a part of life. They have tried the all-in-one record deal that allows them a share of the artists revenue from merchandise and gigs, but this is coming along slowly, another strategy is to stop file-sharing all together and the idea at this moment i to punish people who do it, this will send out a message to other people and it may prove to be a deterrent. But what the record labels are up against is beyond their control. In the UK alone, over 90% of people admit to downloading music illegally, this shows us that it is the way of life to most people in the UK, and possibly around the world and until record labels change the mindset of society, nothing can really be done.
So what does all this mean exactly?
In terms of the structure of the music industry itself there may have to be a restructuring of the way record label operate and make money, to be perfectly honest I don’t care what happens with record labels’ profit margins. What I do care about is the state of music in ten years time. I personally believe that independent artists will be a much larger force on the industry and there will be a larger focus on these bands. There may also be a resurgence in the quality of bands live shows, bands will have to be a presence on the live scene and this may bring about the end of bands that make music specifically designed to be played in the studio. It is unclear whether file-sharing has a positive or negative influence on the music industry, but what is certain is the fact that the way we see and hear music will change dramatically over the next ten years, whether it is for the better or not.