Yesterday the New York Times ran a piece called ‘Music Industry Braces for the Unthinkable’. In the article analysts were quoted saying the first decade of digital music has failed and revenues from digital downloads has increased only 6% while the overall music market has shrunk 9%. The massive revenues lost from shrinking CD sales will never be replaced. Remember these are revenues as reported by the big 4 record labels which, following the logic of this article, represent the music industry.
Record execs quoted in the article say the reason for the lack of performance in the digital market is still due to piracy. Stronger anti-piracy measures being rolled out in South Korea and France that include cutting off internet connectivity for repeat offenders have been reported as having a positive impact on the industry and increasing the sales of legitimate downloads.
While not necessarily another death knell for the industry, the article makes clear the industry hasn’t a clue as to how to save itself. The most disturbing part of the article however is it neglects to mention how artists today can bypass the standard career path of yesterday (that includes winning the lottery and landing a record deal only to go into indentured servitude to the label until recording expenses are recouped) and manage their own careers from end to end.
The commercial side of the industry will continue to shrink and revenues will continue to decline but not exclusively due to piracy. The the ability for artists to record, manufacture, distribute, market and tour completely on their own with no help from a corporate entity will contribute significantly to the changing business landscape of the music industry. The level of success an artist can achieve on their own is limited purely by their talent, drive and efforts.
I’d be interested to know if there are any metrics showing how the current DIY approach to career management has impacted the commercial industry. The numbers are probably nothing more than a rounding error but it’s a start.