“There was a time where you couldn’t record anything; you played something and it went into the wind whether or not someone heard it,” Bill Withers said. “Someone like Thomas Edison has come up with a machine where you can sing into it and it’ll play back your voice. So those people were going through the same type of transition that people are going through today.” -Hip-Hop DX
The quote above describes exactly what is happening right now. The music industry is on the decline. 2014 proved the weakest year for the industry as only ONE album went platinum this year (Taylor Swift). This is the first year this has happened. This means only one album has made millions. The article above pointed out some interesting points I’d like to reflect on and share. One point it made was that the “era” of artists striking it as millionaires is over. Now, artists, even the already-famous, have to do other things to get money, whether that’s make clothing lines, food-chains, or start acting. They listed the many reasons why it is occurring, and I will mention it, too, but I have some of my own ideas as to why I believe music is on the decline.
What is the Cause of the Decline in Music?
The Digital Revolution
The Digital Revolution is what Hip-hop DX and I both recognize as the main cause of the decline in the music business. The Digital Revolution is a period in time, rather an era, that reflects the sudden rise in technology, particularly of a digital nature. More people have access to technology more than any people before. Our society runs on smart phones, automatic paper towels, toilets, and sinks, computer laptops, ipads, video games, satellite radios, automatic cars, and greatest of all, internet. Thus, life moves at a fast pace. Of course, because of these modern inventions, technology has dissolved many businesses. I did an article about that a long time ago. I believe two years ago.
Read that article here:
Well, technology has finally gotten hold of the music industry.
What is the Effect of Technology and What has happened to Music as a Result?
There are several effects, some are more positive, some are very threatening to the future of the industry. Let’s start with the Cons, since they are various.
Threatening Effects of Technology Influencing Music Industry
1) Music is extremely accessible, while money is low
One main issue that threatens artists is that music is so extremely accessible nowadays as a result of technology.
Another issue is technology has laid people off from their jobs. It’s harder for people to find jobs. And most people are focused on paying for the more important things. Even if some people are well-off, they fear another economic crisis. Music is a last priority that many people don’t see the need to invest in.
Good thing the internet provides music for free on Youtube. At one time, people would want to hear every song on an album and buy the whole thing. But now people are satisfied with just hearing one song from an artist. At least it’s cheaper that way. Internet allows people to pirate the music online, so that interferes with sales. I mean, if people had a choice between pay for a song or get it for free, free would be the answer.
Then there’s itunes. You can buy only one song if you want to. You no longer have to buy the whole album at once. Therefore, artists today don’t make as much as artists used to. This is a good thing for people to some degree, as children will broaden their skills and not be so “star struck”. But it’s bad for the real artists who will feel their pockets emptying and their bills increasing.
2) Singles dominate the industry before albums
The decline in albums sales is also do to the rise in singles sales. People care more about songs than albums.
3) Fame is no longer a “big deal”
Because of Youtube and online SNS, it’s so easy for people to get famous. The competition has increased, even for the “elite” artists. I saw this to a lesser degree when Cassie got famous just from spreading her song on Myspace (back in 2006 or 2007?). But now, it’s feels like there’s a new indie artist showing up every other day and topping the charts every other month! Being famous is no longer a big deal for consumers. People are considering getting famous themselves, and so they see other artists as competition to their own sales! To add, some people just no longer get so hyped up over artists enough to obsessively follow an artist and buy every album. They like a song, dance to it, and that’s it.
4) There is an overall decline in quality and trust in the industry. Only the elites are reputable.
For the last couple of years, music has experienced an overall decline in quality. The “auto-tuning” really made people lose respect in music. Rap and Hip-hop took a particular hit after rap and hip-hop became more entertaining rather than personal and expressive. People lost faith in music. They recognized that no matter how talented a person was, the rewards were given to people who were “entertaining” rather than talented. It was disappointing to people who deserved a break, but were being out-shined by someone who was “goofy” and didn’t take music as seriously. The desire to be famous was put over the desire to express art.
People also lost trust in the industry because the media is putting a huge amount of emphasis on scandals. People are more reluctant to invest in an artist that they feel will soon let them down.
And then, there are the conspiracy theorists that consider everything to be the workings of the Illuminati…
Read more about that here: The Illuminati: What is it and is it a threat?
Artists themselves do not respect labels. Many artists have expressed their hatred of the industry, and throughout the 21st Century, many artists have expressed being controlled by labels. Thus, people also lost respect in labels and the industry.
The only artists thriving are the ones who have been famous for years. Most of them are veterans of music. But very few artists out today will experience the same notoriety artists who came out six years ago experienced. These people have developed a reputation for making good music. And people are sticking to who and what they know…Which limits new artists.
5) Expectations are higher, and Music is Global Now
With the bad reputation of labels, people are expecting artists to be more personally creative with music. At the same time, people also expect artists to have talent more than ever before. Auto-tune disappointed people, and many consumers are trying to find talent. Thanks to Adele, many people want to see a modern industry where talent is put before looks, sex, and weirdness.
Expectations are also higher because the competition is fiercer. Thanks to the internet, people can get hold of music all around the globe. There has been a particular interest in K-pop lately. At one time, the USA dominated the charts around the world. Today, we can’t predict the next rising star so easily…
Albums may not be going platinum in the US, but that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t buying music. They may be buying music overseas. Music across the globe became popular during a period when people were disappointed in American music.
Positive Effects of Technology Influencing Music Industry
There is one huge upside to all of this. There is a new “rebirth” of sorts. It is the revival of the “Starving Artist”. This may not seem like such an appealing name, but it can suggest something positive. The positive side is that without industry pressure, more people are free to express themselves in any way they want. Emphasis is placed on art, not money or fame. Music no longer promises more than it can deliver. Children will be more realistic in their career choices, or at least learn various skills just in case one of their goals backfire. Popular artists don’t have to worry about people putting so much importance on them. They can live more private lives and be more creative in their own work.
The real solution is that artists have to find new innovative ways to get around this issue, just as the quote suggests above. Back in the past, those people experienced a music transition where live bands were replaced by recording artists. Many live bands had to transition, but they found innovative ways to adjust. The same thing has to happen with modern artists. In order to be a strong force in the music industry today, you’d have to have excellent business acumen, and be a straight genius, almost insane really. The person must be aware of global trends, be extremely talented and entertaining, and must live a solid life with a good reputation, or be really good at making their life seem attractive to others.
So leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the decline in the industry. It makes me anxious as I anticipate the fate of music in 2015.