By Belinda Rogers For Holodigm Academy : 26th Jan 2023
Is The Music Industry Dead?
Most independent artists today would feel a firm yes was an apt response to this question. We’ve all been there haven’t we?
Somehow, it’s costing US money to let people hear our original music. Even knocking on all the shiny internet music doors seems to meet with a virtual Fort Knox type brick wall. Opening them even a tad costs more money, with no guarantee of anything changing barring your bank balance to the negative.
Without doubt, the old paradigm of the music industry has long since gone. The idea that you will be ‘spotted’ by A&R on a major label and lifted to the top where you’ll be world famous is no longer applicable for 99.9999% of us. As our very own John Hartmann states, you are your own record label.
That you can ‘sell’ your music to your fans has also largely been knocked on the head – because, well… streaming services for starters… Cars don’t even have CD players in them. You’re stuck with selling CD’s at your gigs alongside t-shirts and woolly hats with your logo on them for any sort of financial input, and if you’re lucky, receiving an absolute pittance in music revenues from streaming giant
The number of venues available to you as an unknown band or recording artist has also shrunk, and of those that are left, some don’t pay, and some pay less than they used to.. ‘it’ll get you exposure..’ don’t you know?!! People have thoroughly gotten used to being entertained virtually at home as well, so I suspect there’s less music listening public out there prepared to pay to see musicians in general.
Why do I say all this? Many reasons underlie my thoughts…
THE INTERNET EXPLOSION
Originally, many believed that the internet explosion would make for a truly fair playing field. We could all get our music out there, no barriers, no record label companies vetting our product or demanding we followed the latest trend. And this is TRUE. We have direct and limitless access to our potential fans and numerous technically advanced DAW’s to create release standard music at home at a fraction of the cost it was in the past.
However, with so many musicians, genres, and songs out there, including the song produced by your pet dog, it has become an ocean of noise and distraction. The only way to get noticed is to pay for people’s attention by becoming your own master marketer (or pay someone else to do it for you). More money out the door for all the social media advertising (they don’t like showing your stuff unless you pay).
According to Spotify, they upload 100,000 plus new songs a day. How are you going to get the attention of potential fans? What hope have you of them discovering your music? We’re in lottery territory here for sure.
Even following the mantra of starting small and building by word of mouth is difficult in these times. Your potential fans are so dissipated amongst so many social media platforms and ‘tribes’, not dissimilar to the fate TV stations have suffered in terms of viewers per program. The freedom to choose what you listen to or watch at any time of the day or night has had a significant knock-on effect. You are your own radio DJ, your own TV programming creator.
Moreover, an interesting article from MBW (Music Business Weekly) came to my attention a few months back with this headline…
I gleaned from this that consumption of new music is receding in preference to catalog music (that’s music that has been released and is older than 18 months in other words). You can bet that if it’s doing that in the USA, it’s likely a trend across the world. Ask yourself, if you wanted to listen to some music, isn’t there a tendency to listen to something YOU ALREADY KNOW!
Luminate produced a mid-year report in 2022 (Luminate has basically taken over Nielsen Music/MRC Data for gathering music statistics). From the report, we can see by the following graphs what the reduction is in current music consumption compared to catalog.
People are listening to older music, music they’re familiar with and it’s a trend.
Source: Luminate’s midyear 2022 report - DIGITAL SALES (FORMERLY NIELSEN MUSIC/ MRC DATA
You can see the problem. So what’s the answer?
The Positive Think
I believe there’s still a way to make a living from being an artist. You may not be plastered on the front of Billboard magazine or fill an arena such as Wembley Stadium (U.K.), or AT&T in Dallas U.S.A., but you can make at least a living wage and maybe become unknowingly famous.
The article that gave me this mental lift from the doldrums of what I’ve perceived to be going on around me in the music industry, was recently featured in the not so cerebral Daily Mail newspaper in the UK.
It references failed 80’s pop star, King Chill, who is now 56 years old
It details his failed attempts at becoming a pop star in the 80’s. He can’t even read or write music, and yet despite the odds, he has become successful enough to live a pop stars life in Wales, UK! How did he do it?
He decided that on listening to his sister’s masseuse music at her business, that he could do a far better job. Along with his wife who has an ‘Enya’ sounding voice, he produced recordings of his own ‘spa’ music and sold them at mind, body and spirit shows. They sold out.
Now his tracks are everywhere from Spa Resorts to TV programs such as ‘Friends’. His songs have massive streaming numbers. And yet, nobody knows who he is!
I believe this is the template modern artists need to aspire to. Find your niche market and target them. It might not be what you’d envisioned, it might not get your face on the front of music publications or TV, but it could provide you with a financially stable income doing something you have a passion for.
MOTTO: NEVER GIVE UP. If you are passionate, and talented, there is always a way!