Sunday, December 9, 2007

Final Post.

As part of the entertainment industry, the music scene is something that virtually everyone is interested in to some degree. Everyone has their favorite artists and favorite albums. That being said, a research blog is a great way to compile information about music and the music business.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, the music business is shifting to a more digitized format. More and more, music is being consumed through downloads and the internet. So, having a web log on the music business makes a lot of sense. Much of the research that one compiles is found directly from music websites. With millions of people trolling the internet for information about music and current trends, blogs are a great source of information. Some of these people who manage to navigate to a music blog will have access to lots of good information and possibly be able to offer some comments themselves.

There is a good chance that I will continue to post on this blog as I find out more about the trends in the music industry. As I have made clear, we are currently experiencing some pretty exciting, fast changing times. In the near future, I think continuing to post on this blog will provide useful information about how the business has changed and continues to do so.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Future

The major labels we know, like Capitol and Sony BMG will inevitably break up into smaller, more independent labels with much fewer signed musicians. Many of these will rely on the internet—probably downloading—for their advertising. As that happens, consumers and artists will see a leveling of the playing field, so to speak. No longer will there be the ultra-popular, multi-platinum pop stars. Jazz and classical music will be just as available as rock and pop and consumers will be exposed to new artists.

The shift is happening now, of that there is no doubt. For the artists and music, this is a great thing. The shift away from the big business side of music will hopefully bring out some of the too-often-ignored artistic side. As the huge, conglomerate record companies of old collapse into new business models, executives will be forced out of their comfort zones. Struggling to stay in business, their focus will necessarily shift from manipulating the artists and making the most money possible, to staying fresh and interesting in this new, exciting scene.

The Artists Take Back Control

Presented with the above information, it is obvious that if they want to stay in business, record companies are going to have to change with the times. The internet and its accompanying ability to download is directly antagonistic to the interests of the old industry business models. However, with the internet comes loads of potential for thoughtful industry professionals to tap with new ideas. Both artistShare and SpiralFrog are two great examples of new ways artists and music businessmen are adjusting to the new scene. In the near future, I think we will continue to see a shift away from the old recording contracts and artists signing on with specific record labels. Many more artists will start to take advantage of the ability to take control of the business end of their music that the internet provides them. The artistShare site is the best example of artists truly owning their work.

The work speed and availability of information that the internet provides makes it much easier for artists to manage themselves. All of their press and contact information as well as all as their CD sales can be managed through a single website. Contacting people about booking for shows and tours is easier as it can be facilitated through e-mail and the website as well. With this lack of need for record labels and agents, much of the middleman aspects of the music business are being cut out. Therefore, it will continue to become harder for major record labels to stay in business.


Since the internet and music downloading have come into play, the attitude of consumers has changed drastically. People are so used to being able to get the music they want for free that there is no point in trying to stop it. Well aware of this fact, SpiralFrog is experimenting with a new business model. Through their servers, SprialFrog offers free, legal music downloads. They make it legal by selling advertising on their site rather than charging users for the service

Launching this month, SpiralFrog has already signed a deal with the Music Publishing Division of EMI to gain access to their copyrighted material. The deal covers the entire music catalogue, but only for tracks which have an agreement with the artist's recorded label. This means that half of all music will be available when it launches.

In order to make more music available additional contracts will need to be negotiated. Universal, for example, is known to be the industry's largest recorded music group. Fortunately, many of its artists are signed to EMI Music Publishing so the contract negotiation is not so much of a stretch. For other, smaller recorded music groups, the contracts may take more time. Regardless, the library of free music that will become available for download through SpiralFrog is huge.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


So far the examples I have been discussing have covered only mainstream artists. That was in order to make clear the significance of the occurring trends in the music industry. The recent shift away from record labels that Prince, Radiohead and other hit bands are just starting to experience actually started in less popular genres and has been working it's way to the top, so to speak, over several years.

In 2001, a professional musician and computer programer, Brian Camelio started a website called ArtistShare. Frustrated with the apparent futility of seeing financial returns with record labels, he designed the site as an alternative. Artists who sign on get their own site on the ArtistShare page. As Camelio states: "Here at artistShare it is our goal to put the "art" back into the word artist. Our patent pending process allows fans to experience an artist's project from its conception to its fruition. Through artistShare, artist projects become a unique and rewarding experience for the fan."

In order to gain access to content, fans donate money. There are different options for fans who wish to contribute. They can spend $16.00 or so and simply get a copy of the CD. They can spend a little more--up to about $30.00--and get the CD and some extra material, like a booklet or some photos, along with it. Finally, there are the Bronze (limited to 10), Silver (limited to 5), Gold (limited to 2) and Executive (limited to 1) participants who donate $1,000, $2,500, $7,500 and $18,000 respectively. These people gain total access to all the content and information, signed special edition copies of the CD, personalized DVD messages from the artists, the ability to attend the recording session of the album they are supporting, VIP and backstage passes to the bands performances throughout the year and more.

For less mainstream artists and those who have a small, niche group of fans, this method has proven much more lucrative than signing with a record label. One artist who has had incredible success since her shift from a label to ArtistShare is Maria Schneider. Considered by many to be one of the best and freshest modern big band composers, Schneider has been nominated for several Grammy Awards and won one in 2005. Her first three albums were recorded with a label and she lost considerable amounts of money with each one. Therefore, when she was presented with the ArtistShare option in 2001, she was only too ready to jump on board; what did she have to lose? Now, when she sells a record, she sees all of the money for it. She is doing much better for herself and continues to write and record music prolifically.

Tying this all in with my previous post on the internet, it is interesting to note that Schneider's Grammy winning album, Concert in the Garden, was the first Grammy winning album to have all online sales. ArtistShare is just one such new business model that musicians are benefitting from. As this trend continues, I am sure we will see many more appear.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The influential internet.

I think everyone would agree that in the last decade or so, the internet has vastly changed the ways people consume. One can have a Google search yield literally thousands of results for almost anything one types in. Online superstores, like Amazon, have made easy work of finding and buying obscure or foreign merchandise. With so much so easily available now, people's concepts of music consumption have changed significantly.

Through my research, it occurred to me that new methods of music production and distribution are directly related to the effects the internet has had on modern culture and consumer ideals. So far, it seems that consumers and artists are benefitting the most from these methods while the record companies and music stores are struggling to find their place. As we all know, over the last few years, the internet has allowed for the widespread practice of illegal music downloading. Why should people pay for an overpriced CD when they can download it for free? Obviously, the industry and the artists cannot make music free. Soon, there would be no more new material and no professional musicians in the world. That being said, you can imagine the shock felt by record companies when both Prince and Radiohead released their latest albums, essentially, for nothing.

TIME Magazine published articles about both album releases. Each of the articles, "Why Prince's Free CD Ploy Worked" and "Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want", cited recording company executives who sounded stunned and depressed by the unprecedented freebies. A European executive talking about Radiohead said: "If the best band in the world doesn't want a part of us, I'm not sure what's left for this business." As it stands, he may be right. After their respective album releases, both Prince and Radiohead sold out every one of their concerts. Their decision to give away free music has certainly endeared them even more to their fans. Could it be that artists are finally breaking free from the greedy, oppressive recording companies? When asked about their decision to take such a risk, Radiohead's Thom Yorke replied: "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'F___ you' to this decaying business model." Even so, artists cannot and will not continue giving their music away for nothing. Doing so would quickly clear the world of professional musicians.

I believe these freebies came about as a result of how the internet has changed artists' and consumers' ideas about the music business. Prince, Radiohead and other top selling, established bands may be able to afford the occasional freebie, but the vast majority of artists cannot. It will be a while yet before record companies and music dealerships disappear; in fact a while might mean never. Whatever becomes of the industry, it is obvious that we are at the beginning of a huge shift in how music will be consumed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Up until now.

For as long as it has been possible to record music, there have been record companies. Throughout most of the last century, when music was recorded, it was done so by such a company. The artists would sign, often exclusive, recording contracts and their recordings would be mastered, produced and sold by the company. As is now widely known, these were not always the best deals for the artists. The companies would take huge percentages of the money earned from record sales, not to mention the ownership rights they often obtained over the material recorded. Nonetheless, before the days of internet and music downloading, this was the most likely way for a performing artist to be successful.

Today, not much has changed between record companies and their signed artists. The contracts almost completely favor the companies. If one is a pop star whose records are constantly going multi-platinum, this is not so much an issue. The money coming in is so great that it hardly matters what percentage the record company takes. Unfortunately, for less mainstream artists, it is nearly impossible to see any returns for one's work if signed with a record label. With the development of the internet and the potential for music downloading, some artists have discovered new potential for self-managing, production and selling their material.

On the other hand, there is of course the potential for the artist to lose even more money, as music is so freely available for illegal downloading. However, the exact magnitude of the loss experienced by the industry seems to be in dispute. Some claiming that the record companies and artists are losing so much to illegal downloading as to nearly put them out of business, where others argue that illegal downloading has had no real effect on the number of record sales. Whichever the case, the record companies current strategy seems to involve going after music pirates as harshly as possible, filing huge lawsuits whenever they can prove an instance of illegal downloading.

Recurrent posts will explore the changing nature of the music industry; specifically how production and distribution mediums are changing. I will analyze the issue both from the perspectives of the artists and the industry. Hopefully, through my research I will gain some interesting insight on the latest trends emerging in the music business.