Less Money, Mo’ Music & Lots of Problems: A Look at the Music Biz

Though few dispute the magnitude of the change that has hit the music business over the past 5 years, the consequences remain widely misunderstood. To restore growth, the music ecosystem must first reconcile their wants with what can be.

The disruption of the music industry has undoubtedly benefited consumers, but for many on the inside, its consequences have been both profound and painful. Artists finally have direct connections to their audiences, but they must fight through more noise than ever before. Distribution is no longer constrained by shelf space or A&R men, but a stream or download generates royalties many artists decry as untenable. Audiences can now enjoy more music, more easily and in more places – yet the amount they spend is at an unprecedented low.

Music may have been the first media format to be upended by digital, but it remains deeply challenged even as video, publishing and gaming continue their path forward (however modestly). If the industry hopes to restore growth and fix the problems with today’s streaming models, it needs to confront its evolution: how have ecosystem revenues – from albums sales to concerts, radio plays, digital downloads and streams – changed and been redistributed? What is the underlying value of music? Did streaming erode this value or correct it? What’s the logic behind streaming royalty models and where are its flaws and decencies? How can it be improved? After 15 years of declining consumer spend, it’s time to stop focusing on what was or “should” be. Industries don’t rebuild themselves.

PART I: HOW WE GOT HERE

The Decline of Recorded Music Sales

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