The Rising Crumbling Industry Essay

1444 words - 6 pages

Ever since the launch of the Apple iPod in the mid-2000s, the music industry has been fighting the digital scene for revenue through music. In this age of file-sharing, it is extremely difficult for record labels to profit off of music, which, in turn, makes it difficult for artists to make money off of music. Or does it? The state of the music industry today is indicative of a transition that is taking place within it. Before the mid-2000s, music was in a very commercial state. Music was made to be sold, and the business was so out of reach, fans did not have much say in the direction in which music moved. However, the power is shifting from the record label CEOs to the very fans ...view middle of the document...

Also, being on a major record label was beneficial in that fees associated with production, promotion, and touring (hotels, travel, etc.) were usually covered by the record label, whereas independent musicians pay those fees out-of-pocket.
Everything changed, however, in 2005, when Apple released its first iPod. With the introduction of digital music, music became available to everyone from the comfort of his/her own home. Not only that, but with websites and software such as 4Shared and LimeWire, music became available for free to millions of people. According to Mark T Bender and Yongsheng Wang of International Social Science Review, after the introduction of digital music via iTunes in 2003, the digital piracy rate jumped from 0.02 percent to 53.55 percent (Bender). Since then, record labels have been fighting file sharing for revenue.
So, if making money off music is becoming increasingly harder, shouldn’t there be a decline in the number of musicians in the business? According to research from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as reported by Mike Masnick of TechDirt, the number of independent musicians in the music industry has increased by 510 percent from 2003 to 2012, with independent musicians accounting for 90 percent of musicians in the industry (Masnick). The surge in full-time, independent musicians is due largely in part to social media. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, and more allow artists to release and promote their music worldwide, without record labels or promoters. Also, websites such as TuneCore revolutionize the distributing aspect of music, allowing artists to post their music on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and more instantly. TuneCore also allows artists to keep all royalties—something that was unheard of just a few years ago (Rosokoff). Easy access to promotion and distribution allows artists to cut costs while simultaneously building fan bases at a much faster rate.
There are limits and cons to this new avenue in music, however. The idea of a DIY musician sounds likeable and appealing; however, without the proper funding, making a profit off music can be very time-consuming and discouraging. Even with many fans, not much money is made off selling music, because file sharing is still alive and well. Some websites like Spotify, which is a website for listening to and discovering new music, try to help by paying artists royalties for every time their song is played on a radio; however, Ben Sisario of New York Times reports that Spotify, on average, only pays 42 cents per play. Such rates do not create sustainable income for musicians.
If album sales are not a reliable source of income for artists, what is? According to Peter DiCola of the Northwestern University School of Law, touring is the largest source of income for musicians (Ernesto). Soul singer Erykah Badu is famously known for saying that she “tours eight months out of the year to pay bills.” According to Donald...

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