The music industry has changed beyond all recognition in the last 20 years. There are lots of reasons why mostly connected with the digital revolution. Do young music artists want a record deal with an advance or would they prefer to sell their own music? The record companies still face the problem of illegal downloads. Do they continue to release albums or opt to release individual songs? [Read more...]
In this modern digital age, it is not difficult to find free music on the internet. There is a wide variety of diverse sources, including YouTube music and even the social networking site MySpace. The websites listed below are classed in the top five:
Grooveshark is an online search engine with a user friendly interface. It allows music to be streamed and uploaded, played immediately or added to a play list. The most popular commercial music is catered for as well as more “underground” sounds. It is an ideal website for those who simply want music for free [Read more...]
Napster ruled the internet for several years as its most controversial record store. But there was no exchange of cash since it was a free file sharing site pirating music. Napster was closed down a decade ago due to legal action. This in turn paved the way for the emergence of iTunes and eMusic and much later Pandora and Spotify. [Read more...]
The forthcoming year looks to be an exciting one for new music. 2011 will witness the release of albums from new musicians, not to mention the reappearance of some long established acts. There has been much talk, with YouTube and free music downloads, about the commercial decline of rock and pop music. New releases from U2, Lady Gaga, REM, and the Arctic Monkeys should go someway towards reviving the art form. [Read more...]
The traditional image of the pop star as the working class hero has its origins in the 1960’s. In the explosion of pop music that signified a step change in post war social and cultural development. Bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and solo artists such as Tom Jones and Lulu are cases in point. These were authentic musical artists who came many from the regions and the “labouring classes” and broke free to challenge the status quo. Today the image of the pop star in the music for free era is just as likely to be that of the middle class James Blunt or Mumford and Sons.
The reality is a little more complex than traditional view would have us believe. Many in the 1960’s were from a middle class background. John Lennon went to Art School and Mick Jagger to LSE. They had to some extent, pretend to be working class.
The argument has taken on a new angle with a debate over the pop music’s changing social dynamics. A recent issue of The Word music magazine claimed that most artists in the UK charts were either privately educated or from high profile stage schools. It drew a direct comparison between the Top 40 one week in October 1910 and the same week in 1990. This uncovered that nearly 80% of artists in 1990 went to state schools
The 1980’s pop producer Pete Waterman believes that the results highlight and uncomfortable truth, that strings are frequently pulled in the music industry. Previously you could find a job because you knew about music today they want a CV. Is the same true of bands trying to make it? Those who think so point to privately educated artists such as Lily Allen, Chris Martin, Florence Welsh and Laura Marling.
But perhaps the public-state school debate is the wrong way to analyse the current music industry. In the era of YouTube music many new acts are past pupils of either the Brit School in Croyden or the X-Factor. Others argue that guitar based rock has ceased to be commercial enabling other genres to move into the empty market. The business models have certainly changed with the emergence of free music online and a greater emphasis on live music.
Google is in the process of setting up a new music service which will challenge Apple iTunes. This is an upgrade of its Android operating system (OS) Honeycomb designed to power the latest range of tablet pcs. Google Music’s intentions are uncertain whether it will offer a streaming service or opt for a download store. Although rumours on the grapevine suggests that there might be some sort of subscription fee involved.
This comes at a time when most digital musical owners have already decided upon their preferred service. iTunes users purchase over 70% of all songs on the internet. It is a closed system which guarantees success, producing downloads playable only on Apple products. This has dealt a severe blow to all potential competitors. But by selling lots of hardware the low level of profits from the download service is not an issue.
Those already listening to free music are probably doing so on services such as Spotify and We7. These sites offer streamed pop music with an advert inserted every few tracks. There is no incentive here for user to change the habit of a lifetime and to start paying for music.
This brings us to a much bigger debate does the emergence of digital either music for free or paid for duly reward artists? It was claimed that Lady Gaga for 1 million plays of her hit Poker Face on Spotify received just £108 in a single year. The traditional approach was for a band go out on the road and use live music as a way of promoting their album. Now with digital pricing it means that albums can cost as little as £5, and are instead used to promote their tour. It would seem that music artists are unlikely to see much of a return for some time to come.
The real winners are the record companies, which would welcome the arrival of Google Music as a challenger to the dominance of Apple. This means big figure licensing deals, much larger than they are presently realising with Google’s YouTube music streaming for free. Apple declared its 10 billionth iTunes’ music download, selling songs at a price of 99p. It now appears inevitable that Google will join the fray.
There has been an explosion in live music in the UK, spending on concerts and festivals having exceeded that of traditional recording. The PRS estimates that in 2009 live music generated £896 million compared with £904 million for the recorded music industry. Glastonbury undoubtedly played its part but lavish concerts by music artists such as Led Zeppelin, Barbara Streisand, Take That and Rhianna on a regular basis have also lifted its profile and popularity.
This change has clearly been driven by the rapidly increasing number of festivals, 664 in 2008 up from a mere 12 in 2000. Britain now has more music events than any other country. People view them as fun and sociable and can spend as much as two or three weekends annually in attendance. Between 2003 and 2008 the percentage of adults aged 15 plus going to a rock concert once during the course of a year increased by half from 22.8% to 34.4%. New trends have emerged such as “picnic on the lawn” held at country estates, for example, Blenheim Palace.
Tickets sales increased by almost 20% to £1.9 billion in 2007, with nearly £1.05 billion spent on popular music concerts, £500 million on classical and £200 million on jazz. There has been a discernable shift in the age of those attending gigs with long established pop music acts such as Tom Jones, Bruce Springstein, The Monkees and Neil Diamond garnering the “grey giggers” market. These are people in their mid forties to mid sixties who are willing to pay higher prices for tickets.
The music industry itself has also undergone huge change as the internet has brought down the price of music. Indeed spending on recorded music reached its zenith at around £2 billion between 2001 and 2005. In the past, the focus was on LP’s and CD’s but album sales have crashed. Today with the triumph of the download and YouTube music, not forgetting free music, the price has fallen dramatically. Hence CD’s and downloads are seen more as promotional tools used to sell tickets and merchandise. Live music is where the profits lie. Before purchasing my tickets for live music events I often compare prices on outrate.co.uk.
There is a real danger that music for free and the corporatization of festivals will precipitate its final collapse.
The compact disc was introduced in 1982 and proved a great commercial success. But in the midst of the current economic crisis, an already struggling music industry has turned to other ways of generating income. Direct download sites such as iTunes and the music for free video network YouTube flourish as part of a new complex business strategy. To all intents and purposes, the CD has the appearance of suffering the same fate as vinyl and being consigned to history.
There is considerable evidence that consumers are no longer inclined to go out and buy a CD. According to data released recently by BPI for 2010 UK digital albums grew by 30.6 % while in the same period the market for CD albums declined 12.4%. This is on the back of a constant and ongoing decline. The picture in the US is broadly similar, figures released by Nielson Soundscan for 2007 shows that CD’s made up 90% of album sales in the US, with digital making up the other 10%. Two years on and the figures had shifted to 79% CD’s and 20% digital.
The truth is that some music artists such as the country group Lady Antebellum and Justin Beaver is selling well in both formats. This demonstrates that there are a lot of fans who simply want to spend money to support the artist. One obvious advantage of digital downloads is the opportunity to provide an immediate fix. An individual who hears a song on television or YouTube music which they like can then download it almost immediately creating an instant hit.
There is hope for the CD here and evidence that it is likely to be around for the foreseeable future. It is no longer a mass market product but more of a niche item serving a tiny but committed band of followers. There are plenty of examples where pop music albums are selling in huge figures. While young artists like Ke$ha take a bigger piece of the digital cake the opposite is true when it comes to older artists such as James Taylor.
This of course doesn’t consider the impact of live music, free music and illegal downloads.