Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Really Makes Up The "Music Industry?"

Chris Castiglione wrote a thought provoking article over at Music Think Tank the other day regarding what really makes up "the music industry."

Chris cites a number of articles regarding the demise of the music industry as we know it, but postulates that the death of the industry depends on how you look at it. Until Music 3.0, the music industry revolved around the major and large indie record labels and their subsidiaries, with their trade organization (the RIAA) leading the way. The RIAA has long been the propaganda arm for the majors and those in the know would take their missives with a grain of salt. The further we get into M30, the more totally out-of-touch the RIAA (and hence, the majors) becomes with their pronouncements. That being said, it's foolish to believe that this is the totality of the music business.

In fact, there's more music being consumed than ever before, according to several recent studies, although it's being consumed in different ways and forms, which doesn't fit into the old Music 2.5 model at all. We all know it - everything has changed. The difference is that some of us change with the times and others (the major labels) don't.

So what is the music industry today? Certainly the major labels are a big part of it and still sell an enormous amount of product both digital and physical goods. That number is declining like  crazy (at least 10% a year) so the "industry" as we knew it isn't central to what the industry is today. Publishing is doing as well as ever and even growing a little (a fact hardly ever publicized) so that's not a factor either way. But parts of the industry that were just a rounding error a few years ago now have a significant impact on its overall strength.

The live concert business is growing slightly in revenue, but having a tough time selling tickets lately. Live Nation (soon to merge with Ticketmaster) and AEG have gone into the management and promotion business, cutting deals directly with the artists and bypassing agents and smaller promoters. That's become a bigger part of the industry than days past.

Music licensing is a bigger business than ever even though the individual fees have decreased. There are a lot more revenue streams thanks to the ever increasing number of cable networks.

Brick and mortar record stores and traditional broadcast radio have declined in importance in the "industry", but Internet radio and online music stores like iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody and Spotify continue to grow. They're now a big part of the industry.

But  perhaps the largest part of the industry is the one that's the most difficult to count, and that's the thousands and thousands (maybe even millions) of independent artists that now have the ability to deliver their music directly to their fans, who consume it in silence, oblivious to Neilsen Soundscan ratings. That's the core of Music 3.0. Even though we haven't had a huge breakout from this group yet, you can be sure that's it's coming.

So the music industry has gone from being built around the major labels to a much more diverse group of related businesses. No one sector dominates like before even though they may be formidable. But the leveling of importance between the industry sectors continues as we speak. Music 3.0 is about artistic democracy, and democracy always comes slowly.

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