Word around the block is that the music industry is dead and if it is so I say… good riddance! The day of going into your local music store to cop the new release from your favorite artist is now over. When music went digital, access to it became very easy. All you had to do was hit some buttons, download some software and enjoy free music. I personally am not really for illegally downloading music but I do believe it was necessary to change the state of the music industry.
Growing up as a teen in the late 90’s and early 2000’s I remember hearing stories of famous artists, who I envisioned to be living in the lap of luxury, suing their record companies, because though these artists were selling millions of albums, they were still broke. It is no secret that record companies take advantage of artists and seek to control their art to make sure that it doesn’t push the status quo too much. These record companies do a great job of manipulating young artists who want to be able to make a living sharing their art with the world. They fail to tell these artists that once they sign that contract they are now owned by the label. Sure, they will wine and dine you, spend money to revamp your image and make you feel like an A list celebrity but the truth is, that money is really more like a loan.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ song “Jimmy Iovine” comes to mind when Macklemore speaks of being in the co-founder of Interscope Records office being pitched a record deal. The song ends with Macklemore telling Jimmy Iovine, “I appreciate the offer, thought that this is what I wanted. Rather be a starving artist than succeed at getting fucked.”
So, here we are in the digital age which makes sharing your music with the world as fast as a click of a button. New artists hitting the scene are more than willing to release their music for free or even do the ‘pay what you want’ method. While this is understandable for new artists to do this, it can also be dangerous to the cause. Since the release of iTunes, Spotify or any other streaming service, we can now see the devaluing of music. With this current atmosphere, which reduces a song’s value to 99 cents, you really have to appreciate the efforts of Wu-Tang Clan who released a 128-minute, 31-song album entitled “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” and only produced one copy. The plan was to take that single copy to art galleries across the globe and charge visitors a price to listen to the album in its entirety. The Wu-Tang Clan stated that the idea behind this is to restore value to the art of music. Apparently it is working, as they claim they have been offered 5 million dollars for the very rare record.
So, where do we go from here? I’m not sure what direction it is going or where we want it to be, but I do know the old model failed and the present model is no good. I’ve heard ideas of subscription-based platforms that would allow the artists to keep the majority of their earnings and make a residual income and these ideas give me hope. But can value in music be re-instilled into the minds of a generation that has been filled to the top with radio’s flavor-of-the-month style that trances you with songs that contain empty lyrics and hypnotic beats that leave the listener always wanting more? Well, one thing that is for certain is that the music industry as we knew it is dead and hopefully we are headed towards something better — something that puts more value on music as an art and more cash in the creator’s pocket. So raise a glass and join with me in saying R.I.P. music industry!