Only 535 pages left on your journey to becoming a rock star!
I wish there had been a music business 101 course I could have taken. –Kurt Cobain
Unlike what you might expect, this chapter will not be some boring presentation of how record companies work, but it shall be an analysis of what’s wrong with this entire industry. We will analyze the reasons why people buy less records than they did in the past, and thanks to the resulting knowledge we will be able to develop a strategy that shall help YOU to sell a whole lot of records in future.
Don’t forget that there are still artists who are selling millions, which means that there must still be people buying records. So we will have to see how we can turn those people into fans of yours, and thus make them buy your records. And if there are people who have never been buying records or who are no longer buying records, then we’ll have to see how we can change their minds by convincing them to buy your future albums.
You also shouldn’t forget that artists themselves are part of what we call the “music industry” too. If we want to find out what’s wrong with this industry, then this means that we also need to discuss the problems on the artist’s side. And you will soon learn that there are some serious problems with today’s artists indeed.
If you want to become successful on your own, then you’ll need to understand what’s wrong with today’s music and with the entire music industry. In the end we will need to answer the following questions:
Why aren’t the masses buying records anymore?
Why are some artists still breaking records by selling millions of albums?
Who are those artists who are still selling millions, and what makes people buy their records?
Who are those fans who are actually buying those records, who are those who still spend money on music?
Why are those people still buying certain kinds of music?
What kind of music do those people like, and what kind of artists are those people supporting?
Who will eventually buy YOUR records?
Those questions will have to be answered, and you might be highly surprised to see that the answers will be quite different from what one might expect.
YOU WILL SOON LEARN THAT THE TRUTH IS QUITE THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT EXPERTS OR THE MEDIA ARE TELLING US.
Most importantly, you will have to understand who your own potential fans might be.
IF YOU WANT TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL, THEN YOU WILL HAVE TO SELL RECORDS TO PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT PART OF YOUR OWN COMMUNITY, TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW PERSONALLY, TO PEOPLE WHO LIVE ALL OVER THE WORLD.
Therefore you’ll need to understand what kinds of people might actually buy your records, and what kinds of people will never buy any record produced by amateurs, by underdogs, or by artists who are not being pushed by the media. You’ll learn that people who might become fans of some underground artist are very different from those who will only consume mainstream chart music.
IT WILL BE OVERLY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND WHO YOUR POTENTIAL FANS AND BUYERS WILL BE.
This knowledge will allow you to produce a record that will make those people go crazy. It doesn’t make sense to produce an album that shall only please those who would never spend money on good music anyway, and it surely won’t make sense to produce music for the masses. All of this will be treated in subchapter 2.4 (“Your fans”), and I can already promise you that there will be some very interesting and important surprises. So please don’t ignore this chapter, as it will be overly important to understand the differences between music that people actually love, and music that everybody will ignore and nobody will ever care about. Again:
YOU WILL HAVE TO READ THIS CHAPTER, AS YOU WILL NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE MAY ACTUALLY LOVE YOUR MUSIC UND THUS EVENTUALLY BUY YOUR RECORDS.
All kinds of experts will tell you that you’ll need to follow trends and to make mass-compatible music in order to become successful, and some experts will even say that it won’t make sense to record an album at all. But those experts are all WRONG. You will need to read this chapter in order to understand why making good, great, or even revolutionary music will be a highly promising strategy.
Every business is there to make money, and making a record is business. This tends to be forgotten by many. –Giorgio Moroder
The first thing you need to know about the music industry is that it’s a business. It’s an industry, and popular music is all about money. It’s a huge multi-billion dollar machine. And it has always been like that. The sooner you will accept is, the faster you will progress.
Record companies, sometimes also called labels, are companies after all, as their name already implies. Any company’s goal is to make money, at least enough to survive, as it needs to pay its bills, it needs to pay its employees and its artists, and it needs to cover all kinds of production costs. Making some profit and growing as a business would be the ideal outcome. Larger record companies may be owned by other global companies, and they also may have a number of highly influential shareholders. Their primary goal will be to make all of their owners happy by making a maximum of cash.
THE PRIMARY REASON FOR A COMPANY TO EXIST IS TO MAKE MONEY AND TO SURVIVE.
This is true for almost every company in the world, and it is also true for companies in the music business. Of course there have been many enthusiasts founding their own labels in order to make great things happen, but in general you’ll have to accept the inevitable truth:
THE FACT THAT THE EXISTENCE OF RECORD LABELS LED TO SOME REALLY GREAT MUSIC IN THE PAST MUST HAVE BEEN A PURE ACCIDENT.
Record companies are about making money, not about creating art or about producing great music. This also means that you cannot blame the record industry for all of that bad music out there. If they can make more money with bad music than with great one, then this is perfectly okay. Because money is what this business is about.
Of course all of this is not really true, as we’re missing three very important elements here:
product QUALITY, and the
IMAGE of both artists and the industry.
Generally we can say that a business that doesn’t innovate – which means that it’s standing still for a longer period of time – will sooner or later get into trouble, as other businesses will soon take advantage of that situation, often coming up with better, cheaper, or alternative products. When it comes to music, then it’s not just a single business that didn’t innovate, it’s the entire industry that has been standing still. And we’re not talking about a short period of time here, we’re talking about at least 25 years, a quarter century, which is almost an eternity.
NOT ONLY DID THE MUSIC INDUSTRY FORGET (OR REFUSE) TO INNOVATE, BUT AT THE SAME TIME THEIR PRODUCT QUALITY HAS BEEN CONSTANTLY DECREASING.
If you ask critics then you may get slightly different opinions, but in general every critic will agree that music quality was highest in the 1960s and has been decreasing since then, getting worse with every decade. While quality only slightly dropped in the 1970s, things quickly got worse in the 1980s and disastrous in the 1990s. The 2000s have been more or less on the same level than the 90s, but I fear that the 2010s will in the end be even worse than any decade before it. We’ve discussed all of this in chapter 1 already, so I won’t get into the details once more.
We live in the age of the worst music since at least the 1940s. So we’re talking about an industry that did not innovate for 25 years, and whose product quality has been constantly decreasing for about 50 years. That’s just hilarious. If you think about this, then it must be a damn miracle that the entire music industry is even still around. As far as I know, no other industry has been performing that bad within the past half century.
Another big problem is the disasterous image of the entire industry as well as of the artists themselves. The record industry is perceived as being an evil beast, while most of today’s artists are just talentless puppets.
So it’s not a surprise that companies originating from other industries – mainly tech companies – have been slowly taking over some of the music industry’s former domains. Things will probably continue like that – with the result that one day Apple, Google, Amazon, and others may become fully operational record labels themselves, and kick the entire current music industry out of business. So again, here are the three main problems the music industry currently has:
The music industry did not innovate during the past 25 years.
Their product quality has been constantly decreasing during the past 50 years.
Both artists and record companies have negative images.
And here’s the inevitable conclusion:
AN INDUSTRY THAT SELLS BAD BAD PRODUCTS, THAT DOES NOT INNOVATE AND THAT’S PERCEIVED AS BEING EVIL WILL SOONER OR LATER DIE.
In the end it’s very simple. The most surprising fact, however, is that nobody in this entire industry seems to be aware of this.
But let’s stay positive – the fact that the music industry is in trouble and that music quality is very low right now may turn into a huge advantage for you, the unknown underdog:
IF YOU MANAGE TO PRODUCE AN INNOVATIVE KILLER RECORD, THEN YOU WILL BE THE ONLY ONE TO OFFER SUCH A GREAT PRODUCT, AND YOU WILL HAVE TO FACE ZERO COMPETITION.
You’ll soon learn how this can be done, but let’s stick with our analysis of the industry for now.