This blog explores how the music industry has changed and where the future of the music industry lies. It is based on my belief that digital’s influence on the music industry is a double-edged sword. Spotify makes accessing and storing music easier (remember.this.mp3?), and referring to my Jamaican roots, dancehall, was born through the digital age, and this genre in particular could be made much more easily than its predecessors. Gone are the days of needing a label’s backing to launch and sustain a career, instead having a social media account alone can get you very far.
So, what are the disadvantages, and what is the future of the music industry? Will technology kill the music industry? Can the music industry survive the streaming era or will the music industry collapse and die? (These are my own thoughts, I don’t see every release so there may be examples going against my ideas, this is just what I have noticed as a consumer)
IS THE MUSIC INDUSTRY LACKING INNOVATION?
Of course, we have the ground-breaking Spotify, but I mean in terms of music marketing today. One of the issues I have with the music industry today is that social media seems over-relied upon and yes, I know this is something that can connect artists to many fans cheaply (I am a digital marketer so I know it’s uses), but in such a creative and content-rich industry, I’m craving MORE to be done, both on and off social media. A question to consider might be: did social media kill the music industry? (As for this ‘more’, you will see it when I launch my company 😊 ).
IS IT TOO EASY TO BECOME A MUSICIAN?
Dancehall, unlike its predecessor Reggae, Ska and Mento needed no instrumental skill as sounds could be made electronically, so someone who plays no instruments, like myself, could technically become a star, and this applies across the industry. This is great for me, but could we see a decline in how many top musicians can play instruments, and at the same time, a rise in those who make music simply because of how easy it is (in theory)?
Combined with the ability to use your social media to launch your career, I think we have changed our expectations for music – just look to some concerns around ‘mumble rap’, which might answer why some believe the music industry is dying and cannot be saved.
ARE WE LESS CONNECTED TO MUSIC?
For me, I love when I can feel someone’s passion through their songs and recognise that they truly love music. Extending the first two points, will this remain in the music industry in the future? Also, losing the emotional connection to this art form seems likely when I think about how we can just jump on Spotify to get an album, instead of physically buying it at a shop 10 years ago, which is one of many concerns around the music industry vs technology and digital vs physical. Back then, this would have been a luxurious, rare occurrence that you deeply treasured. Of course, I will still wait up for a new release, but it feels different.
WHY DO WE CARE SO MUCH ABOUT NUMBERS?
A lot of the music achievements I see are based on streams, likes and views – I’m sure we’ve all seen an artist celebrate being #1 on iTunes, or achieving X amount of views in 24 hours, and this to be expected given the popularity of streaming services.
(If interested you can check the 100 most streamed songs here: https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/06/14/spotify-most-streamed-all-time/)
It seems strange as music is an art form, and very subjective, therefore being hard to quantify. Another common thing is to compare numbers of today to those of yesterday, but this wouldn’t be done with money, when we know inflation exists. Saying ‘X achieved 40 #1s, beating Michael Jackson’s record’ seems silly; the world has changed a lot, so are we really going to make comparisons?
This intensive focus on numbers has caused the following questions to be asked about the music industry and streaming/the internet:
- Can the music industry survive the streaming era?
- Will streaming kill the music industry?
- How will the music industry make money in the future, and how does the music industry make money today?
- Are there any ethical issues in the music industry?
AND WHAT, IF ANY, ARE THE LONG-TERM IMPACTS ON MUSIC?
The most obvious impact might be turning this art form into a numbers game and blurring the lines between numbers and talent, and the failure of the music industry in the future.
Another issue in the music industry is the legitimacy of streaming achievements: there are ways to navigate the system, from repeatedly playing a song until it charts high, having ‘streaming parties’ to break records and just look into Post Malone’s ‘Rockstar’. To be honest, such actions are likely to be taken because of this number-obsession, making the idea of a #1 potentially meaningless, and the songs there for false reasons, which might make the music industry seem corrupt and dying.
Even if this is true, music/charts are often interpreted as a product of our cultural, economic, political and social situations, eg All I Want For Christmas is usually high ranking around Christmas time, as you would expect. Imagine AIWFC randomly started charting in June because of a ‘streaming’ party, would this be representative of the time? (Of course, no song will fully represent everyone’s experience, but generally you might expect some type of connection to the general population). When we look back years from now, what would we make of this random June charting? This is the picture that I am trying to paint regarding this numbers obsession: it could paint a false image of our current times through music.
NOTE: With music being subjective, there will be a variety of answers surrounding the candidate, which is amazing and something that I encourage in today’s music economy.