Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Music in the 21st Century

I read a thought provoking article this morning from CNET called: “Will Recorded Music Survive the 2010s?”  My guess is that the current trend which is described in the article will continue and that big studio produced albums will be “a thing of the past.”

Like he argued there will be less money in the music industry, because musician will produce and market their own music through social networking sites like facebook and myspace and they will upload self-made videos to youtube with links to places where you can buy and download their songs.

Because of these trends I see music becoming more local; more community oriented. Bands will work their local area and if they are lucky they will become regional, but only a few will become truly national or global. The reason for this is that social networking is a targeted form of marketing that uses a bottom-up distribution approach rather than the top-down distribution approach that major record companies currently have in place.

A good example of this can actually be found here in Korea. The EV Boyz  are a community based band that has self-produced and self marketed their own music. They primarily are entertaining the expat community here in South Korea and their facebook site reflects that.

But many other bands and not just one band here in Korea are using this approach. There are tens of thousand of bands to be found on facebook and other social networking sites. Youtube is also filled with the music of both amateur and struggling professional musicians.

But music marketing isn’t comprised to just those sites. An article posted to Mashable: the Social Media Guide called “Social Music: 5 Essential Tools for Marketing Your Band”  listed five web sites especially designed to help musicians market their music and their bands using a bottom-up, grassroots approach.

This will also make music conferences like SXSW even more important. In fact I would not be surprised to see even more of them in the future. SXSW has already inspired similar festivals elsewhere, including North by Northeast (NXNE) in Toronto and West by Southwest (WXSW) in Tucson, AZ.

The author of “Will recorded music survive the 2010s?” seemed to think that this loosening of music industry control was a bad thing. He made the following statements:

You can’t record the sound of a band in a great sounding room, unless you have a great sounding room. No wonder most new recordings sound so contrived. Just because you can make a record at home doesn’t mean you should.

He has a point. The sound quality may not be as good, but in some ways at least in terms of diversity and creativity I believe the music scene will be better. The music industry will certainly become less hierarchical. Music will be driven by the artists and their communities of followers which might create opportunities for more collaboration and experimentation. 

Personally, I feel that the record companies deserve what they have got. I remember when I was a college DJ in the late 1980s just as the transition from vinyl albums to CDs was being made. I read an article in the College Music Journal that said CDs were going to be great for consumers because compact discs were so relatively cheap to manufacture. The article describe how typical production and distribution cost of CDs ranged from .20 to .50 cent a unit compared to .50 to .75 cents per unit for vinyl and cassette tapes.

The article went on to predict that CDs would usher in a golden age for music consumers, that is, significantly cheaper music. But that actually never happened. CDs did usher in a golden age for the music industry as they gouged consumers with prices that were 20 to 30 percent higher for CDs than vinyl or cassettes.

The music industry exploited technology for its own purposes and now they are dying because of technology they cannot control. Perhaps if the music industry had looked beyond short-term profits in the late 1980s and early 1990s they would have avoided alienating their consumers. But that is a what if that simply never happened.

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010