Tuesday, December 08, 2009

10 Years That Changed Everything

As we near the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, we're seeing the typical year-end and decade-end lists that tend to make the rounds. As I think back on the last ten years, I see it as a time of major change for the music industry. Here is my list of some of the changes I have witnessed in the past ten years:
  • Digital downloads surpassed CD sales
  • Independent labels became major players
  • Established artists like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails successfully opted to release their music independently, rather than sign a new record contract
  • The ever-shrinking major labels lost their mojo, desperately clinging to outmoded ideas and suing children, the elderly, and dead people
  • Numerous distribution avenues emerged, allowing independent artists to get their music directly to fans
  • Social media emerged, allowing artists to interact directly with fans
  • A new generation of music consumers emerged, ingrained with the belief that music should be free
I'm sure I could come up with many more examples, but we'll stop there. Feel free to post your additions and thoughts in the comments.
All of these changes have left musicians and music industry types wondering where we will be when the dust clears. How do we make a living? How do we "monetize" our product if the conventional means no longer work? In fact, what is our "product," if not our songs? Many have come to believe that the way forward is to think of the artist as the product or "brand."
Meanwhile, the major labels are floundering. Frankly, they have lasted longer than I would have anticipated. One lifeline for them has been the popularity of reality television. If you doubt that, just look at all the buzz around Susan Boyle with her recent album release.
At this point, it's anyone's guess what the future will hold. Judging by what has happened in the last ten years, though, I'm convinced it will still manage to take most of us by surprise!

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