Over the past decade, much has changed in the music industry. The relatively short reign of the CD found its decline as a new generation decided it preferred downloading only the songs they liked. Now, music listeners are deciding they may like streaming music more than downloading using apps like Spotify, Pandora, (and soon Apple Music.)
In truth, what the end user listener (who you will remember is who the music is created for) has always liked is the most convenient way to access music. Streaming apps on their phone is great for listening like we used to listen to the radio, or records, or CDs. It’s easy, and we can dial in the music we want. Set it and….forget it.
But for musicians, songwriters, and others who are the makers of the music these folks listen to, the change is not so wonderful and helpful. In fact, the money that is made on the back end of the recordings is getting atrociously small. Streaming pays very little per stream, and you’ve probably even heard about artists like Taylor Swift taking her music off Spotify in protest (who needs all that small change anyway? Shake it off!)
As a person who makes and sells music myself, and works with people in every position in the music business, I can see how it’s easy to be really mad about all this. It doesn’t seem fair that the quality, money, and time invested reaps so little in return.
But as a student of music history, I also know that this is just another cycle in the history of music business. Not the music business, but the business of music.
Like the printing press, sheet music, the phonograph, the radio, the LP, the single, the cassette, the CD, and the MP3, streaming is changing the way the world consumes music. We might want to just quit crying and get used to it. It’s not going to switch back magically because we music types are mad about it. Like all those other times, we will either have to figure out how to monetize the music work we do in the current age, or do something else.
Many things in music haven’t changed. Live music is still as vibrant and effective as it has been since music was invented. You can even still sell product live. If you love music so much and are a musician or artist, you might best concentrate on getting out there and making it in front of an audience. If you are a producer, player, engineer, songwriter, or some other person involved in the making of music, it may be time to find your own niche and go after it because the “sit back and watch dollars roll in because you made or contributed to recordings” days might be over.
I find that those who are really the most fit to be tied are those who made tons of money in the heyday of record business (see the invention of the CD and everyone “re-buying” every album they ever loved on the new pristine format). The people who came up and flourished in the “days of wine and roses” where sales and money flowed like water, are the ones that are “suffering”. (This just in, many of these same people still make more than anyone else in the world doing music, but they are just disgusted that it’s not as much as they used to make).
The truth is everything has always changed in the history of music business, but then another way to make money always comes along. In fact, we are seeing new avenues for music now with YouTube, gaming, streaming, crowd-sourcing, and more.
Remember that when radio started, folks were outraged that their music was being played to people without monies being collected. ASCAP and BMI eventually began collecting that money, and people are still employed, paid, and getting rich off royalties today. But it took a while for this collection method to get stable and profitable as the technology grew.
Many folks, especially in music centers like Nashville, LA, or NY, are just very spoiled as a whole with how easy it has been to make good money as a songwriter/label/publisher over the last 30 years.
Ask any normal teenager or twenty something what they think, and they will give you a thumbs up on the state of music. They are happy with the way music is becoming easier to find and listen to. They are glad they don’t have to buy CDs for the one song they want, or fiddle with where to store downloads, when they can just tune in and access what they want, when they want. Kind of like we’re getting to do now with Netflix the past few years, and cable television for close to 40 years.
WHY THIS MATTERS
We have to remember that the end user listener is really who music is for. Our goal is that they listen. That hasn’t changed. We in the industry will just have to find ways to deal with the changes that have happened, and then as always find a way to make an income with our craft.
Or we could all go sell tires (until they invent flying cars, and then won’t we be mad!)
Have a great week!
Eric Copeland is a producer, songwriter, arranger, author, and a dozen more things that allow him to earn a living and continue to create all day. Find out more about him at http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com