The death of the music industry? The rambling of a man that knows little but talks a lot

 In Brain Fart

The RIAA and the BPI are always throwing their toys out of the pram

The Twittersphere is always abuzz with chatter on any subject you can think of, from knitting and crochet right through to amputee/goat porn.

The inter-connected planet will live on right now allows us to keep up to date with people’s lives minute-by-minute. And, to me, this is a great era to live in.

In my little lightning-fast inter-connected world, I came across a retweet via my UKG pals Control-S talking about the “REAL” death of the music industry.

There’s an opinion among lots of artists that they are missing out on sales due to people stealing their music. Something you hear a lot of grime MCs (coincidentally or not).

The retweet was an article from Business Insider discussing the Record Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) revenue and how sales are down.

I didn’t expect it to provoke such a reaction, but I’ve just shat my brains into this post. Read on if you dare.

Firstly, the article made me chuckle, because essentially it only served as a correction to another analyst’s misinterpretation of the figures. It’s an article of corrections. And it’s possible that the original tweeter took this as the title talks of the real death of the industry, and not the real truth of an existing story as it was supposed to be.

Corrections or not, there’s still a very clear message: Music sales are down. At least, they are for the RIAA.

US Music sales. Graph courtesy of Business Insider

US Music sales. Graph courtesy of Business Insider

I immediately questioned – “Why is this?”

I don’t think there’s one catch-all answer (like piracy for example as the RIAA would have you believe) to what has happened.

My theories started as a tweet reply to Control-S, but 140 characters just didn’t do.

I see lots of different factors that may have all played a part. And I don’t necessarily believe the “death” of a population-raping industry is a bad thing.

In an era of manufactured pop music & MTV, I start to think that their decisions have lead to their own downfall.

This industry has continually stuffed contrived “pop stars” down the throats of the people, and I think an increasing number of people are switching off to this – especially the older generation. You get to the stage where the charts belong to teenagers and kids – teenagers and kids that would rather spend their money on sweets. Or drugs and alchopops. The older generation is not interested in what Justin Beiber is singing about. I’m sure her smile is lovely, but is she as dirty as Christina Agurilara in a coal mine?

The multi-million dollar music video is the promotional vehicle of choice. They said video killed the radio star. I question: has video killed radio because it’s infinitely more accessible?

For years, the music industry used the radio as one of its main avenues of promotion, and sticking to the same model they migrated this to music video channels on TV. Music becomes more accessible. It’s also being played earlier and earlier before release. By the time a song hits the street a teenybopper could have heard it 9000 times on MTV Base. Why are they then going to pay for something they’re bored of?

Take one step further into our new inter-connected world and you have YouTube. Justin Beiber is now saying “Baby, baby, baby” millions of times over and it’s a beautiful thing.

Now, music videos on YouTube controlled by the industry didn’t always exist. You can ask again – why is this?

The music industry wanted to protect their old business model. Music on radio and on their “new” radio which consisted of music channels. But there was a problem. The problem of free-flowing information. People no longer need a huge corporate machine to be heard: They have the internet.

The rise of MySpace started to give airtime to any band that wanted it. Anyone could start a page, throw some music up and get immediate feedback.

The music meritocracy begins.

Throw YouTube into the mix and you have unknowns getting airtime to a potentially unlimited global audience via the digital medium. People that didn’t conform or fit into a checkbox for an ageing industry are suddenly getting noticed. And it starts to take ears away from the mainstream.

They say the cream always rises to the top, but in a coffee cup owned by cynical industry they’re only taking diary products from their own farm. The internet allowed for people to get their coffee elsewhere.

After Johnny Bigbollocks at the top of Bigtime Records started to notice this, they decided to jump on board. You now have channels on YouTube like Vevo managing the videos of every large pop star you can think of.

Now, they are making money off of ads. How much money I don’t know. But this is another revenue stream they are getting from music. Is this accounted for in the RIAA’s figures? I don’t know, but it probably isn’t.

The point is, ads are another revenue stream and it’s an evolution on their traditional ways of selling. I surmise – did they do this too late? I believe they should have been looking at different revenue streams years ago when they could see sales dropping. Instead they rallied against governments to back them in stopping piracy, which they believed was responsible for their declining sales.

They want governments to protect their fledgling business model. GOVERNMENTS. TO PROTECT THEM. What? WHAT?

Every other industry evolves or dies where needed. The music industry tries to get copyright legislation passed to protect the way they do business.

The result is law such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the US. The DMCA has given a lot of powerful people the ability to take content down off the web before proof of an infringement has even been demonstrated. Terrible.

There’s also the issue of Digital Rights Management (DRM). Many people hypothesise that the public were initially switched off to digital music due to DRM restrictions. This is a debate in itself that could be contradicted with the massive popularity of iTunes and its (initial) DRM’d music files. But then again you can contest that Apple’s innovation in the form of the iPod caused this.

What if the music industry invented the iPod? Would the figures still look the same?

Now don’t get me wrong, I think people should be paid for their work. But this is a can of worms in itself in regards to music.

In regards to big artists, I’d like to know how many of they are getting revenue shares on their new streams such as ads on YouTube. They may be standard in today’s artist’s contracts. But I bet it’s not.

I’ll admit, I’ve stolen music. I only really steal music from “pop” acts where appropriate. Being a garage DJ I want to support my scene. So where I spend my music money is strictly on garage. I’ll spend (on estimate) between £40 and £80 a month on independent artists via digital means. It used to be a lot more when I bought vinyl.

It’s the music I listen to most days all day, so it’s the music I will support and pay for. I’m supporting with my money.

Other artists I may listen to occasionally outside of garage. I don’t have a rationale as to why I’d steal their music to be honest. Maybe it’s because the music is so accessible anyway that it doesn’t feel like stealing. I don’t know. I do know that I do NOT want to support organisations like the RIAA and the BPI which have made a living out of raping artists and shoving contrived shit down people’s throats.

Another factor I threw into the mix – music is art.

Think about paintings. Why is every painting not the same price?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I pay for what I think is worthy of my money. I draw a similarity to someone that would pay over the odds for a painting that they considered worth it because they believed it to be that value.

It’s not a complete parallel, and you could argue that maybe replications of paintings are all the same price. But that’s how I see it. I pay for the art I enjoy the most.

How do you get more people to pay for music? If I knew the answer to that question I’d be making a lot of money at Sony Records right now. But I don’t. What I do know is I will continue to support the artists I enjoy

What conclusions can I draw from these ramblings? Not many. I think my main point is industries such as the RIAA and the BPI should have innovated sooner. Then they might not have screwed the proverbial pooch. And also, the rise of the internet brought the rise of many a talent that would have been lost as little as 10 years ago.

If you made it down this far I appreciate you reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have any in the comments below.

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