I had an interesting discussion this week about the future of the music business. I suddenly envisioned that we might well be at the end of an era. Music listening for millions of years was something that was dependent of the moment that the music was performed. Then, by the end of the 19th century someone invents a tool with which music can be recorded. This invention leads to an age where people listen to music through wax roles, lacquer discs, vinyl discs, tapes, cd’s. A giant industry develops and millions are made. And then, 100 years later (a very short time when regarded in perspective of human history) we are done with that. The internet eradicates within a decade the necessity to distribute music on discreet physical carriers. Music is distributed without effort. The business model of the music industry has vaporized.
So, we’re back to the situation where a musician earns his bread by performing his music. Music labels are forced to reconsider their role, their position. They are no longer needed by the artist to distribute the music, their role as producer/financer of the recording process has become obsolete or at least risky in the light of the vanished distribution channels (upon which their business model was based).
It is time that we take a close look at what the listener actually is prepared to pay up for. Obviously the listener is not interested in high quality recordings. The massive consumption of mp3’s in favour of CD’s shows that the listener thinks mp3 quality is fine enough when given the choice between paying (CD) or (free/cheaper) download.
Sooooooh, what does this mean for me and my music? If small quality labels are unable to sell more than a few dozens of copies of releases of artists that used to sell more than a 1,000 where does that leave me? I guess my days of traditional releases are over. I am forced to take a new direction. My primary drive is to make music, but to have it heard by other people adds a lot to that.
I guess that, together with me, a lot of musicians will be forced back from the professional into the semi-professional level and from that into the amateur level. A lot of artists will quit producing music because they have to take care of a family.
Nevertheless: I am convinced that new forms of musical production and distribution will rise. Small, fast, low budget. At this very moment someone is already working on the right concept for the future.