The evolution that has taken place in the music industry over the last 15 years is quite staggering. The entrance of the internet onto the world stage has revolutionised the way music is bought, marketed and shared. It is not only the depth of the changes that are occurring, but also the increasing rate at which these changes are taking place. New technologies and processes are becoming outdated almost as soon as they are first officially adopted. Love it or hate it, the world wide web is here to stay, and it has irrevocably changed the business of music.
How music is purchased – Traffic to brick and mortar music stores is decreasing at a steady pace. Stores have had to entirely rethink their sales strategies and embrace a vision that is larger than just the sale of music. The mp3 has made it possible to purchase music from the comfort of your own armchair or bed. The possibility of CDs becoming completely obsolete in the not too distant future is not that far fetched at all. Gone are the days of buying an album containing 3 or 4 songs that you like, with the rest that you have to tolerate or entirely ignore. Now, you buy only the songs that you know you want. This has resulted in a decreased revenue for record companies and artists because the guarantee of the sale of a complete album no longer applies. A greater emphasis is therefore now placed on the release and marketing of “singles” in an attempt to boost profits.
How artists gain exposure – Along with the internet, came the artists ability to market and promote themselves with unprecedented efficiency. Loading an mp3 file onto a social networking site like MySpace is significantly easier than the time, money and effort required to organise a gig to achieve that same goal. Not only that; instead of playing their song to 50 people in an obscure club somewhere, that song is now immediately available to millions of potential fans around the world at the click of a mouse. It is therefore not unheard of anymore to find bands that are bringing in significant income and gaining substantial popularity, without a record deal having ever been signed. There is also a greater degree of interaction between the artists and their fans, which further cements the connections between them which influence sales.
How music is shared, copied and stolen – One of the biggest challenges facing the music industry is the issue of music piracy. The available technology makes music theft incredibly easy, and incredibly cheap. The impact on music business revenues in recent years in incalculable. Pirates around the world are now stealing music as easily as customers are buying theirs, from the comfort of their own homes. CD-R, P2P (Peer to Peer) and torrent technologies have made music piracy an issue that gives artists and record labels alike a great deal of concern.
As these and other issues continue to alter the face of the music industry, it seems that one rule is becoming more and more clear. For the artist, record company or retail business, that requirement must be, adapt or die.