The State of the Industry

A couple of articles in today’s USA Today talk about the state of the music industry, how online dowloading music piracy is killing record sales and the lack of good new music coming out of major record labels.

As a musician (check out my folk-rock-blues band Oak) I have a few thoughts on these matters.

So the music industry sucks. When was it ever EASY to land a record contract? And make money?
With the rise in computer technology and use, it’s easier than ever for a musician or band to record their music, promote themselves through the web, and get their name out to an international audience. While there may not be as many independent labels, there are many more independent artists, doing it themselves.

There will always be big players in the industry whose primary focus is the bottom line and giving back to stockholders. That’s life. That’s business, especially in the U.S. I think the reason music sales are sagging is because the music is formula and stale. Yes, the Beatles are outselling “hot” new acts. That’s because the Beatles are good – they have/had talent and made good music.

I bought the Beatle’s One CD myself a few weeks ago. Like most people alive on the planet today, I’ve heard their music before. But this was the first time I had to a CD-quality, 27-songs-in-a-row Beatle-fest. What struck me was how imperfect their music was — in the sense that you can hear individual voices and instruments.

Most of the stuff on the radio is so tweaked, so synthesized and compressed and reverbed that it’s barely music anymore. It’s certainly nothing like a live, original creation, produced by human hands and voice. The Beatles sound like 4 guys playing their instruments and singing — all together, all in harmony, all in accord with each other. But you hear them and you can just about see the 4 of them singing and playing, on stage, on a cloud, in your mind somewhere.

If big record companies took some chances on people that sound real, we’d have some good music on the radio. And people would listen to it. And advertisers would keep on advertising and we’d all keep on grooving along.

Does dowloading music kill record sales? Maybe. Maybe it does drive up ticket prices at concerts as artists have to make their money somehow.

My music’s available online for free. Take a listen. Download it. Give it to your friends. Really. But then, most of the shows I play don’t charge a cover. The coffeeshops and bars make their money to pay us from the drinks and food you guys buy. I might have a different perspective if I were a big name, unable to play for 40 people in a coffee shop. I hope not.

Read the articles: