Death of the Music Industry?

death of the music industry?Just in case you missed it, Op-Ed columnist Charles M. Blow wrote a piece in the New York Times about a month ago, indicating that the music industry has about 10 years of life left in it, before it is officially dead.

In the article, he talks about the recent trends among young people, to listen to streaming music rather than purchase, or even illegally download, that same music.

…13- to 17-year-olds “acquired 19 percent less music in 2008 than they did in 2007.” CD sales among these teenagers were down 26 percent and digital purchases were down 13 percent.

…the percentage of 14- to 18-year-olds who regularly share files dropped by nearly a third from December 2007 to January 2009. On the other hand, two-thirds of those teens now listen to streaming music “regularly” and nearly a third listen to it every day.

This is part of a much broader shift in media consumption by young people. They’re moving from an acquisition model to an access model.

Accompanying his article was a graphic representation (see the image in this post) of the value of music sales in different formats over time. The image shows the decline of both vinyl and 8-track, and the rise and decline of both cassette and CD.

This graphic got a lot of attention in the last month. Some people ran through the streets crying out that the sky was falling, others calmly starting looking for new jobs…I’m kidding. It did get a lot of attention though.

The best analysis of the data represented by this chart, that I’ve seen, comes from New Music Strategies, who says You’re looking at it wrong.

His point is that the graph starts in 1973, but the music business was certainly around long before then and there was no crisis at that time. He points out that during that time period, a low point on the graph, new music styles flourished and found new audiences. He comparatively suggests that we could be on the verge of another such time.

The boom and bust pattern of each recorded music format adds up to an overall rise and decline of corporatism in the recorded music industries. Culturally, this could well be something to celebrate.

Personally, I’m hopeful for new and interesting musical forms and genres coming from the margins and being able to reach a significant audience.

Hmmm…how about bluegrass? It’s not new, but it is innovative. Perhaps this will prove to be a golden era for bluegrass music to reach new markets, find new audiences, and grow.

After all…

It’s cheaper to experiment now. It’s easier to reach an audience than ever before, and the economics are such that you don’t need for corporations to be making billions in profit in order to make a decent living at it.

My point is that the graph above only represents a crisis for a particular way of organising music business, and not for music business itself – and certainly not for music.

Put on your thinking caps folks, and let’s figure this out!