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Who's killing the music industry?
I’ll be honest, watching the music industry collapse has been demoralizing and disheartening at times. –Trent Reznor
You want to know who’s responsible for the downfall of the entire music industry? Piracy and the internet of course! Well, this is what music execs and all kinds of experts are telling us at least. But that’s a lie, it’s an excuse. In the end, record companies are just blaming external factors to cover up their own incompetence. It’s a fabricated truth, and piracy has been the perfect scapegoat for all of the industry’s problems as well as for the mistakes made within the past 30 years.
The internet could even have been a huge opportunity for the whole music industry, but major record companies missed the chance.
In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the music industry was incredibly successful, and nobody was worrying about anything. Great artist were producing great records all of the time, and there was at least one killer album coming out every month. The audience was happy, and cash rolled in just like that.
The industry was making billions, because there was at least one new record a month that everybody absolutely needed to own.
It was like a dream come true, the perfect money making machine, and nothing could possibly go wrong. In the late 80s and in the 90s, music quality had considerably dropped, but the newly invented CD generated more cash than ever, as people were re-investing in music they had already purchased, just to get the new, more reliable media. In the 1990s, people started to buy more and more albums, while singles became less important, an effect which further delayed the crash, although the ultimate downfall was inevitable.
The success of the CD covered up the rising problems caused by low quality music in the late 1980s and in the early 1990s.
At the end of the 20th century, music sales peaked. In 1999, the average US citizen spent $71 a year on music, more than ever before (the data has been adjusted for inflation). Shortly after, the decline started, numbers went down to $26 in 2009, and kept falling afterwards.
People don’t want to see a whole lot of crap anymore than they want to see one piece of crap. –Wayne Forte (ITC)
Some people hope that streaming will bring back the glory of the old days – if you pay $9.99 a month, then this means that you’ll spend almost $120 a year on music, which is more than the average person spent back in the glory days. But don’t let yourself being fooled by those numbers:
While streaming may be great for the record companies and tech providers, it will be very harmful for artists who will want to produce great music.
One very important detail you will have to keep in mind is the following:
The music industry makes much more money with albums than with singles.
So here are some very important things you’ll absolutely have to remember:
Albums are much more important than singles. Both artists and record companies earn 10 times more money by selling an album than by selling a single.
Radio, TV, and charts all focus on singles. The music that gets most of the air play doesn’t necessarily generate most of the money, and those artists who really earn a lot by selling records are often completely absent from the media.
The masses buy singles, while music lovers buy albums. Albums allow artists to show their full potential, they are generally more interesting than singles, as non-single songs don’t have to follow restrictive rules.
Artists who sell lots of albums make more money with music than those who mostly sell singles. You’ll be surprised to see that the clowns you can find in the charts are not necessarily the ones who make most of the cash in this business, even if this is what the media are suggesting.
This leads us to a very interesting conclusion:
Real artists who sell albums to music lovers are often making more money with their music than pure entertainers who sell singles to the masses.
This is one of the reasons I’ll recommend to produce albums by the way. The second reason will be that albums allow for much more freedom, while singles have to follow pre-defined rules. If you want to create real art, a real masterpiece, then this will usually not be possible by producing hit singles alone. We’ll soon analyze those things in detail, and then you’ll fully understand what has to be done in order to become successful with your own music, by creating great albums that music lovers will actually want to buy.
Since the early 2000s, record companies have been focusing more and more on selling singles.
This trend is (at least partly) the result of a strategical shift away form supporting real artists (who were traditionally focusing on recording great albums) to relying on producer / puppet combos (who are now mostly focusing on pure chart success, and that’s only possible by producing singles). This again is the result of the fact that record companies shifted their focus from young adults to kids.
We will further discuss the problems of singles chart success in the following chapters, for the moment you should just keep in mind that a short-lived single will never match the importance of a successful long-lasting album, even if we’re talking about a number one hit. Online stores further fueled the single-buying trend, as fans are now able to easily pre-listen tracks of an album before they decide if they should actually buy it.
A lot of people do talk about the demise of the album, but I still believe that if an artist tries hard to make a great album, people will buy it and listen to it as an album, rather than just a collection of random songs. –Moby
Thus the masses are much more focused on singles nowadays, while albums were a lot more important in the timeframe from 1950 till about 2000. We’ll soon get back to that problem too. Today people are more selective while the music is much more short-lived, which results in a huge loss of money for the industry. People buying singles is the result of the industry’s mistake to only push singles as well as puppets / entertainers who just care about chart success and quick money.
Real money is being made by selling albums. Real artists produce albums, but the industry doesn’t care about real artists anymore.