Saturday, February 19, 2011

Death of the Music Industry?

I don't know if it is really death, but certainly serious atrophy. I'm not all that sad to see sales back to 1993 levels, nor would I call that a death knell, but it is bad news for record moguls. If the CD trend continues and digital sales only grow at the present rate, it could be back to pre-85 sales levels in no time, and this is not a good thing.

The record companies, at least the major players, probably deserve their fate, if for no other reason than for being greedy bastards who have made a series of remarkably stupid moves (SACD vs DVD-A anyone?). Anticipate the future? These guys can barely respond to it.

But when most of the loss in sales is due to illegal file sharing (and don't kid yourself, it is), the artists who make the music also get robbed. Corporations may not get my sympathy, but singers and songwriters and players of instruments deserve a better fate. Yes, new music delivery systems are coming into being, and some people are accepting those new retail outlets and purchasing digital downloads, while others are buying CDs and vinyl on the internet. But compared to CD sales in the 90s, sales are gone. There may come a new paradigm, but it should protect the product from theft, somehow. Probably not any of the ways that that have been tried, but somehow.

Is music gone? No. Are young people listening to music? Yes. Do they buy it? No, at least not many from what I can tell. And I suppose there are plenty of older music fans that have gotten on board as well. Why pay for a product that you can get for free? Because there is an artist you are stealing from. If you were stealing a painting, or a piece of stained glass, or a sculpture, you'd have to pick it up and run, and hide it somewhere, and find someone you could sell it to. But music, you can put it on the internet for anyone to take, and you can go there and take all you want. And nobody gets paid.

I don't like the big record companies, but I'm an ardent fan of artists. The changes we are seeing are bad for artists that make music. The artist's situation isn't just different, it is worse. And eventually it will mean that there will be less high-quality product on the market, because you can't make a living making a product that most consumers steal. So who's going to be attracted to that life?

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