What happened to the Music Business?

 … AHHH!! …

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The practices of the Music BUSINESS are despicable. As was explained by Steve Albini, (The Problem With Music) it’s like swimming in a trench of deep doo-doo. Not leisurely and not at your own pace but in a FAST, ChAoTiC and Competitive manner against many other parties; where you have to follow the rules of a ‘faceless’ record label.

The music industry used to be about the art, the music, and sharing this talent with others (ah, those humble times). So What happened to the Music Business? Well, this is what I think! The BUSINESS aspect of the music business became overpowering and took control. It has turned the industry into a business market. Strategic profit focused methods are being used to capture and trap artists to make money. After all, Artists are potential assets to the companies.

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Here’s what happens, A & R personals are released from the home base (the label) to hunt for talent. Many of these personals are young and hip just like the targeted Artists. This is done to better build a relationship between the talent and the agency. Once the A & R Rep’s have made contact with the band(s), they market, promote and get the artists to sign a deal memo that locks the band into a contract; where a LOT, a Lot, A LOT of times none of the promises made are met.

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Coming from a Business perspective, the methods used by record labels are quite brilliant. From the perspective of my business/accounting/marketing/finance learnings this business strategy is great for making profit. You get to choose your asset(s) and yes, assets (the artists) on one hand will depreciate (get old, lose fans) but only by small counts and if they lose value (disappear, can’t make good work) you can keep them in the books until they once again gain value but they can make it big and mind-blowingly continue to grow in popularity. Because you get to choose the artists you have more control over how profitable your investment can be. And like any investment, there are risks, but these risks are minimized per contract; and this is how the culture of the music BUSINESS came to be. It works, you choose your assets, your assets are only for you and your use – due to a contract, risks and depreciation limitations are minimized or controlled by contract, and by the end of it, the Artist(s) are paying you … so, what’s not brilliant about this business plan?

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But that’s the problem. The music business is acting like a profiting (product/service) business instead of the music industry it should be. Artist(s) aren’t products or a company’s personal asset. The music business has become a place of business and fraud. Because of this want for more profit combined with an opened opportunity, many can justify this pursuit to steal. Bands make the music industry stupid amounts of money but still remain in the hole or a deeper hole on royalties (which is pretty “doo-doo-ee” if you ask me).

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But this was how the Music Industry was ran before the internet. What’s changed? Today, this profitable BUSINESS strategy needs to be changed if they want to survive. With the new outlets available for Artists, signing with a recording label isn’t your only option anymore. Along with this, the recording industry maked almost all their money from full-length albums and with the decline on actual album being purchased, according to Micheal Degusta (Real Death of the Music Business), record labels are going to need to adapt to today’s world. So the question becomes, what’s the music biz like now?

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The music industry has to, now, compete with the inter-webs. The number of digital versions are growing while physical copies are decreasing. But this revelation isn’t big enough to “offset the losses of physical equivalents”. Many physical equivalents have reached their growth peaks and have become matured. Supply and demand is changing, constantly and the music industry will have to take a leap of faith, blindfolded, into an unknown future. Because the music industry is fighting a war against a “changing” world (that is controlled by the people), they should be scared of the uncertainties and the unknowns and yet why are people the ones who fear the industry?

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According to The Music Induwillstry: From Major to Major, Mark Mulligan (an analyst at JupiterResearch), “In 2007 it became clear that the recorded-music industry is contracting and that it will be a very different beast from what it was in the 20th century”. The unknown is scary and when you take away a beast’s candy, you awaken a demon. You’ve already read and heard, like many other individuals, about how monstrous the music business was before the age of the inter-webs and technology. Now that they have to get creative, it brings concern about what new despicable scheme they will create next. So, of course it makes sense that people are afraid of the music business.

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Something big is happening that will transcend time and space and you are either going to grow with it or be left behind. Truthfully, the music business is like every other industry out there. They have their good points and their bad points but (I cannot stress this enough) you have OPTIONS!! You don’t have to see the music industry as the evil business I’ve spent the entire blog talking about. You have choices. With the advance in technology and the increase in tools you can DO IT YOURSELF and/or TOGETHER with others or in partnership with labels (where you can negotiate the terms). There’s a brighter future for individual artists!

Works Cited

The Problem With Music

The Music Industry: From Major to Major

The REAL Death of the Music Industry

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