There are few industries as fragmented and as difficult to define as the music industry.
From independent musicians and recording studios to major labels and renowned music venues, there are dozens if not hundreds of elements that make up the industry as a whole – and they aren’t always connected or integrated in any discernable way.
But if you have a passion for music, and you’re determined to build your own music business or be a part of the industry on some level, here are seven things you should know about the state of the music business.
1. Most musicians are early adopters of new technology. Whether it’s the latest social media or crowdfunding platform, musicians are often the first to take new tools for a test drive, and some find success this way. For instance, independent musician Daria Musk found traction on Google Hangouts.
2. Sometimes, there’s no rhyme or reason for success. This is particularly true with something as personal and subjective as music.
3. Technology is changing the way studios work. LANDR is an online tool that automatically masters recorded music – and reportedly, the finished results are quite good. Ongoing developments in technology continues to reduce the need for traditional big-budget recording studios, and the production process is being automated more and more. Home recording equipment is also affordable and high quality.
4. The blockchain may be the future of the industry. The technology underlying popular cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, is known as the blockchain, and it may offer a way for more music businesses and musicians to monetize their work without third parties taking a larger slice of the pie. But the current industry structure is preventing this from moving forward.
5. It’s the only industry with Payola. It’s illegal for radio stations to play music on-air in exchange for money unless they disclose it as “sponsored airtime.” Sadly, corruption continues, and mainstream airwaves are dominated by top 40 music, which represents the extremely popular minority. If you thought Arctic Monkeys was “independent”, you’re not even scratching the surface of the independent majority.
6. Music streaming is a growth market. And we’re going to continue to see innovation and new developments in this area. There may be dozens of streaming sites now, but that number will likely rise to the hundreds, and maybe even thousands.
7. Human beings may not have creativity cornered. As it turns out, machines are capable of producing beautiful, emotional music, something long thought to be impossible. Will this change the way music is made? Will it make musicians obsolete? It’s hard to say.