The Music Industry is constantly changing. On the historical map of all things musical the landscape is almost unrecognizable from its former workings. Every aspect of the business has had an overhaul in a myriad of ways, from its very beginnings in how it is made, right down to its destination and distribution.
Of course, this is as it should be. Tastes and technology evolve over time and we as a species are always looking towards the future. Progression is exciting but there is something to be said for nostalgia. It has a massive role to play when it comes to an emotive entity such as music. So, it’s only fitting that every now and then when the tug of futuristic technology comes marching to the fore we are still a little rooted in the emotional ties of the velvety crunch of the needle as it drops on our first vinyl records. For some, the pull of avidly collecting a tangible musical journey is also what stops us from failing to drop that dusty CD stack off at the local charity shop.
So ok let’s go there. How has the medium used for playing back music changed for us?
Let’s tackle something a little embarrassing. Yup I’m looking at all of you who still have a CD collection. Those cracked and rheumy plastic cases sitting in their long skinny wooden slotted home, sad, chipped and forgotten in the corner.
I have to say my friend tells me she uses them in the car only and my mum STILL has hers, despite owning Alexa she just can’t seem to part with those long-collected CDS. I get it. After all I still prefer actual books to my kindle. It is nice to have something physical to hold but really and truly there is little room left for those shiny, scratched discs these days.
However, the same cannot be said of vinyl. Whether you remember them the first time round or not these slick retro discs with their crackling and warming melodies are back to stay. As a result, more artists are including vinyl in their releases and the popularity is steadily growing.
In January 2019 the sale of Vinyl records leapt up 15% from the previous year. It has become the new cool to collect vinyl and the awesome artwork on the covers is an added bonus. I know Gill and Will are enjoying theirs and it’s next on my Christmas list to invest in one and trace all those old albums I used to love way back when.
Gary and I recently watched the Apple release of the new IOS and it really is amazing how far we’ve come. How easily we have realized that futuristic world we fantasized about in movies and on TV.
Twenty years ago we were all vying for the best flip phone or spending free time making a pixelated snake eat a series of dots on our beloved Nokia. But to have music that could travel, we were struggling with a bag full of CDs and a dodgy Discman; the nightmare musical repository that didn’t fit in any pocket, jumped when you walked and played in creepy slow mo after chewing up batteries like the Cookie monster chows down his Chips Ahoy!
But jump forward to 2020 and a few iPods later, we all hold an entire music collection within our tiny little pocket-fitting phones. The entirety of the world’s musical offerings just a click away. In addition, we listen through wireless air pods that magically know when we have taken one out to talk to someone and pause politely to let us finish.
The future has arrived and it has changed the music industry forever!
I’m talking of course about streaming. By the close of 2019 streaming accounted for 80% of the music industry’s gross income whilst our old holographic buddy the CD has wilted to a sad little 9%. We have officially become needy little guzzlers of all things musical and we want that access to every song now and everywhere we go. Streaming is the answer to all of that greed but sadly for the musicians this has heavily impacted the income attached.
Everyone remembers the nightmarishly catchy song “Happy” right? Sorry for adding that to your inner head-radio play for the day! But at the time of Happy’s release, Pandora was the most popular streaming site. Despite a record amount of streams, Pharrell amassed a piffling amount of pocket change in the shape of $2,700 for a groundbreaking 43 million streams. Now imagine those sales translated back in time to record sales of the 1960’s or 70’s! This is all great for the consumer but it’s a tragic demise of earnings for the artists who work their butts off trying to write, record, promote and distribute their unique talent.
When it comes to the actual body of the industry so much has changed. I think we can all regrettably remember the continual musical shocks that hit us like a tsunami in 2016.
We said goodbye to legend after legend. David Bowie, Prince, George Micheal, Glenn Frey of The Eagles, Leonard Cohen, Maurice White form Earth, Wind and Fire just to name a few. It felt as if all the greats had cashed out and were now leaving us to our cheap-ass streams.
It also felt like we were a little short of living legends in the industry, but if truth be told we do have some awesome artists around to keep us going. And some of these artists are shaking up the business and trying to keep it real.
Dave Grohl for one is spear heading the old school trend of starting at grass roots. He is trying to incite the next generation of musicians to be real and authentic rather than a polished production that fits the status quo.
“When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, they think, ‘OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight fucking hours with 800 people at a convention center and… then you sing your heart out then they tell you it’s not fuckin’ good enough.’ Can you imagine?” he implores. “It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy an old fucking drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll fucking start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some shitty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-ass shit, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need The Voice or American Idol.”
We need more Dave’s in our lives!
Then we have Billie Eilish taking the industry by storm. It seems that more than just the kids are in awe of her unusual style of music, if not fashion. It works and judging by the amount of awards she has racked up that are probably weighing down her mantlepiece, the people that matter are in agreement. So, love them or hate them we need these oddballs to shake things up.
Take Lady Gaga, whether you like her music or not she is an incredible singer, creative performer, song writer and unapologetically weird in the way we want our celebrities; larger than life, eccentric and interesting! She uses her music to stand up for the eccentric, the unusual and those who are finding life trickier than most. Lady Gaga talks at length about her mental health issues and uses her music to bring the message of inclusion home.
Beyonce too has used her creativity to change the music game, but not just when she made a political and social statement with her amazing show making history as the first woman and person of colour to open Coachella. In 2013 she released her 5th album with absolutely zero promo to prepare the market. It had never been done before yet it was a huge success. She went on to be featured in the Guiness World Records for the fastest selling album and sold over 5 million units worldwide.
Another trend we are seeing more of is the introduction of a more diverse pool of artists in the mainstream and a real lean towards collaborations. K-Pop appeared out of nowhere and suddenly they were everywhere, the Puerto Rican song “Despacito” was played far and wide for months and racked up 6 and a half million views on YouTube!
Collaborations between artists of mixed genres and artists switching genres midway through their careers has also been a popular trend. Artists such as Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus jumped ship on their Country beginnings by climbing in to the Pop genre. It seems that artists are no longer tied by the shackles of one style of music anymore and any nations music can hit the mainstream and cause a stir.
You can’t blame them for trying. After all, the music business is a lucrative one if you know how to play it and are lucky enough to swim to the surface. Last year the value of the Global Entertainment and Media Market was a whopping 2.2 trillion US dollars with 2.4 billion in revenue from performance rights and 5.55 billion USD in Music Tour revenues.
Now we’re not saying we’re ready to start singing Scottish ditties to catch the international trend, or that we are preparing to do a backwards Taylor Swift and shift from Pop/Rock to Country but we are keeping our eyes on the industry and hoping that after Covid we will see more changes in the music industry for the better.
Now fess up who is still hoarding a little collection of CDs?
Stay Safe Guys