Publishing & Songwriting

The Sad State Of Music Industry Coverage

image from ibreathetheunderground.typepad.com The echo chamber of the blogosphere consumes us.

News breaks everywhere. But what does it mean? There seems to be so few interested in saying something, expressing their opinion, and engaging in the deeper discourse.

Writing is hard. It isn't for everyone. However, there are plenty of big questions to be asked about the state of the music industry and there aren't nearly enough people asking them.

Practically matters. There are number of writers that are pursuing actionable insight and distilling their knowledge for artists, helping them make money.

You could argue that once we've achieved that feat, nothing else matters. As long as we're finding ways to pay creators, the dialogue about the music industry is secondary. I'm growing less interested in the industry part, who's being fired and hired isn't compelling. Nor is the news of the Beatles finally coming to iTunes.

It's a story of old rivals making amends and the assured continuance of the move to digital. Maybe now Steve Jobs will aim to actually surprise us. After all, it doesn't seem like Google will anytime soon. It's possible that we'll get Spotify for Christmas, but don't count on it. Yet, there's still much to be excited about.

Music Reimagined

For instance, Aweditorium makes me wish I owned an iPad. The crew behind Thesixtyone, quite literally, has their hands on something here. Why does the app matter? As Luke Lewis explains, "Because Aweditorium does something quite profound: it restores the tactile, visual element that disappeared from music with the advent of the mp3." That's powerful. It enables fans to touch music again and engage with it. The items that are scattered across the web, assembled in one place, allowing fans to enjoy the music on the surface, but dive deeper if they like. And it reattaches art to music. It ties the music to brilliant HD images.

In using Thesixyone, I've noticed that when I encounter songs from the site outside of their interface that they feel naked without the nice images that accompanied them. Music on an iPod never felt naked to me. I have a feeling that as more people interact with music through Aweditorium that music will feel bare again. When it's not conveyed with the assorted and instantly accessible tidbits about the artist and videos of them playing their music, it just won't be the same.

The app has limitations. Shortcomings such as being skewed toward hipster approved indie rock and having a somewhat shallow catalog, but there's plenty of room for the idea to grow. It also fuels the thrill of discovery, as there's a chance for serendipity to occur. The absence of search and readily customizable channels means that users might encounter actually something they hadn't expected. By chance, a song could surprise them. That's the lacking element of many music discovery platforms, they don't know that I've discovered the same music for ten years. Granted, even though these systems are being designed with the mass-consumer in mind, they like surprises too. This reminds me.

Say Anything

Music industry commentary is like that, there's less surprises to find now.

There's a story to be told here and it's being lost somewhere in the race to headlines, top ten lists, and the firestorm coverage of anything Apple does.

Yes, Jobs could wake up on the wrong side of the bed, get anxious about the state of music, and charge forward without major label approval. There could be another small music revolution from Jobs. We just don't know. He could do it.

But, what writers are taking the time to profile the different archetypes of the new music consumer? Who's trying to figure out if local ecologies of music culture are thriving while the old institutions are dying? Who's trying to discern the characteristics that define fans that actively support music and are active participants in their cultural lives from those that take a more passive approach?

Who's taking a hard look at the emerging music consumption system and determining whether or not it encourages a passive fan to get more involved or to just push the button and be entertained? Who's questioning the health and sustainability of the social ecology of music culture online? Who's curious if nonprofits and professionals are winning the fight against the flight of music and arts from schools? Who's documenting the middle class of musicians and distilling the fiction from reality? Who's asking big questions at all? If you have something surprising to share, interesting remarks to make, or an idea you'd like to write about, comment below. Say anything, but say something you mean.

Connect (kyle.bylin [at] gmail.com), but share below too.

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9 Comments

  1. Who is ???? You Kyle…you and only you! And even with all the terrible grammar and under use of spell check it’s still only YOU !

  2. Kyle I feel you man.
    I beleive that people dont care about the “business” of the industry…except those that are in the business. For the consumers we all know that they just want music..good, bad, and everything in between.
    Like its been said a million times by music journalist and bloggers everywhere, including myself…it all falls back on the content creators to deliver something worth people to buy into.
    Its up to content creators to let the common listners know and trully understand the state of the industry. Will the common listeners care…maybe?

  3. A respectful discourse is always appreciated.
    People in the music business don’t care about the music or the art. They care about the bottom line. I think the job of those in the industry is to embrace emerging technology and apply it to their respective clients to try and leverage them for a profit. Unfortunately I have first hand accounts of meeting people in power at these labels who have no idea what they are doing or talking about. People who just sit back and abide to try and make a profit.
    It’s the job of those up and comers. Those who have an opinion need to state them and do so in a manner that questions the tired old tactics.

  4. Loved the heads up on Aweditorium. Maybe there is hope for music afterall, even though it will all be streaming? Good job Kyle with Hypebot et alt. I am a pretty disillusioned and lost DIY musician lost in our digital age and that really made my day:)
    Peace
    Vega

  5. Kyle: “If you have fans or followers or customers, no matter what you do, you’ll annoy or disappoint two percent of them. And you’ll probably hear a lot more from the unhappy 2% than from the delighted 98.”- Seth Godin
    Personally, I agree with everything you’ve mentioned here, particularly the “Say Anything” section. There is a seriously disappointing lack of intelligent discourse on the state and direction of the music industry. Like most media today, the discussion seems to be centered around talking points, meaningless statistics, and the person who yells the loudest The most disturbing part is that the lack of discussion probably means a lack of change and innovation. How do you change a broken industry without talking about the problems and sharing new ideas?

  6. Interesting and thought-provoking post, Kyle. It’s a motivation to take up thinking and writing again.
    The problem might be that most people don’t have time to contemplate on these matters. There just trying to run their business. But that shouldn’t stop you to instigate the discussion

  7. Anyone that agrees on that almost nobody opens their mouth about the state of music and all downloadable or streamable arts, I encourage to check out http://www.fff-fighters.com
    I have been preaching about this for a while and I am being mostly ignored (especially by musicians) which is kind of odd as I am not threatening but explaining why it is important to support the art you like.
    I teach guitar to a lot of students and I successfully convert all of them to buy their music again, which is astounding. I am telling you: It’s not that people do not want to pay for music, but they need an explanation WHY it is important to support it rather than just take it. And they all get it. I see it happen every day.
    I think that it is especially odd that most musicians ignore this issue, caved and just live with it without doing anything to improve the situation OR illegally download themselves (teachers too).
    It is time for a dialogue between artists and art fans. Somehow a beef has been created which is absurd when you think about it.
    Great work Kyle,
    Fight! for art. It Keeps Dreams Alive.
    Vega

  8. I think this is a poor attempt to gain foothold on Hypebot’s competition by attacking.
    Since there are a growing number of options to read about the music industry instead of just stopping here like the old days.
    I think it is weak to complain about music industry coverage if in fact you are doing “your” job. It should not be a complaint. You should be too busy to even attempt such an article. Instead the space should be used for posting a more useful story for musicians.

  9. There are serious flaws in this argument. You are complaining about blind coverage of Apple, hirings and firings, etc., but this article follows a string of such articles that YOU wrote.
    So, you are just ranting against yourself? Makes no sense.
    Also it’s TheSixtyOne with a ‘t’

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