Dy’er Sez: A recent article from NPR is the latest sign that the music industry (or, at least, the part of it run by mega-corporations) is in serious decline. And, as usual, the blame is being laid at the feet of supposed illegal downloaders.
As a copyright holder, I fully understand the frustration of some artists (and, yes, music industry execs) when it comes to people downloading their music (product?) without paying for it. But there is a far bigger picture to look at, with regards to the slow-death which is looking the ‘Bigs’ in the industry right in the eye.
First of all, most people who follow the music biz are more than a little tech savvy, and they realize that there is no accurate way of actually tracking just how many people are illegally downloading music. Which means that the numbers of illegal downloads bandied about by the ‘majors’ are assumptions and guesstamates – ie, they are made up.
Some of the Lawsuits filed by the RIAA have received, deservedly, bad press. When you file multi-million dollar lawsuits against 70 year old grannies who can barely turn a computer on, much less be able to utilize peer-to-peer software, you end up looking like the bad-guy. Additionally, they are attempting to track illegal downloader’s via ISP’s; the big problem with that, of course, is that someone may be leeching your wireless signal to DL music but YOU get the blame. That’s like busting the neighbor for the meth lab next door.
Looking at the music coming out of the larger production houses, one can surmise that there is an even bigger problem. Not to throw stones, but a good example would be Lady Gaga. Sure, she can dance; she may even be able to sing (hard to tell with the amount of post-production effects used on her voice). But if you take a few early 90’s dance tracks (you know …the ones that are now sold on compellation CD’s on TV, with bands and singers you’ve only heard of if you were deep in the scene at the time) and put the side by side with Gaga’s recent offerings, there’s really not that much of a difference. Nor any reason to get (musically) excited.
It seems when listening to Gaga, or TI, or one of the numerous carbon-copy, formula driven ‘rock’ bands one can point to their clothes, or their dancing, or their flashy video…just not to anything spectacular or interesting in the music itself. In effect, what is being marketed is the style and personality of the performers, with music relegated to a by-product of the package. It seems that the glass-tower exec’s have forgotten that if you have a product people don’t jibe with, the you are not going to sell much of that product. Ultimately, people will find somewhere else to spend their money.
Another factor is competition. Back in the dim and distant 70’s, records (or cassettes or 8-tracks) were one of the few electronics-driven items one could purchase. Now we have DVD’s, CD’s, Video Games, and persistent on-line worlds all vying for that same entertainment dollar.
And, finally, the music industry has seemingly overlooked the fact that the entire planet is awash in a global economic depression. Sales of everything are down (dramatically, in some cases), and yet the seemed to be surprised that people would rather spend their $19.99 on food or their cable bill as opposed to a CD of over-hyped, easily forgotten, brand driven ‘music’.
There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth that has gone on about the ‘evil down loaders’, but it seems to me that there is a much larger picture to look at…and the industry execs are simply looking in a different photo album.
Story from NPR
Album Sales Hit Record Lows. Again.
by Caitlin Kenney
August 26, 2010
The month of August — like, basically, every month for the past 10 years — has not been kind to the music industry.
Between August 8th and 14th, only 4.95 million albums were sold, the lowest weekly level since Neilsen Soundscan starting tracking sales in 1991. This past week, sales were up, but just barely: just over 5 million albums were sold, an increase of only 2 percent from the record low.
As you can see from the chart above, album sales have been on a steady decline since their peak in 2000. Digital album sales are growing, but not fast enough to make up the decline in sales of CDs.
So far this year, album sales are down 12 percent compared to the total sales at this time last year, according to Billboard.
Music industry execs blame the dropping sales numbers on illegal downloads. Exactly what percent of music downloads are illegal is difficult to calculate, but estimates range as high as 20 illegal downloads for every legal download. As for the total cost of illegal downloads, it depends on who you ask.