10 Music Industry Trends & Questions For 2009

Guest post by Kyle Bylin

Arrows both ways
1. Falling Behind – Ten years ago, The Record Industry had The CD Release Complex and knew exactly what to do.  Now everyone else is taking fans to the future that they used to determine.  Instead of leading the way, they're left holding the hands of innovators and squeezing tightly when they get scared.  Have they been so focused on yesterday's problems that they aren't actually finding tomorrows solutions?

2.Groundswell – Defined as, “A social trend in which people use technologies to get things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.”  Has thinking against the grain been a logical way of fighting file-sharing?

The RIAA suing The Music Industry's customers wasn't a strategy, shutting down their Internet isn't either. The Wisdom of Crowds will retain its superiority over industry.  There are people who wake up in the morning because the challenge of finding new ways around these roadblocks excites them.

Artists don't understand that giving their music away, getting a ton of MySpace friends, and flipping the funnel six months later will never work.  Free by itself isn't a strategy and those who did thrived by doing got lucky.  You need to make money along the way and have a business model. 

3. Pirate Software – It remains to be most efficient system for getting music.  You can download AC/DC's Complete Discography, a 3GB torrent containing 276 songs at 320bps, in a few hours on a good day.  Even that isn't the problem, its that you can put over ten into the program, fall asleep, and the next day everything will be done.  There are many people who haven't crossed over to torrents due to their steeper learning curve.  What happens when next generation file-sharing becomes as easy as its predecessors and harder to stop?

4. Paradox of Choice – Does a large array of options discourage music fans because it forces an increase in the effort that goes into making a decision?  Even if this paralysis overcome, its easy to imagine that you could've made a different choice that would've been better.  Back in 1995, if you bought a bad CD you could blame The Record Industry.  Today, there are systems in place to prevent this and you're left with only yourself to blame.  I own three hundred plastic discs that aren't relevant to me anymore and to me this is an example of how I'll never know what kind of music I'll like, even a year from now.

5. Music Overload – Its both exciting and disheartening to wonder, but is there too much music?  The CD Release Complex was a way of regulating the flow of content between artists and people.  For those who buy music The Paradox of Choice is a reality, but what does it mean for pirates?  File-sharing allows them to fail at trying everything while committing to nothing.  They download more music than they could ever possibly listen to.  Have you ever listened to music for 45 days and never heard the same song?  Pirates have.

6. Searching Alone – Searching for music online doesn't have the same feeling as combing through selections at a local record store.  Walking through the isles at Best Buy, Walmart, and Target is an experience that's feels lifeless at best.  If you need help, the likelihood of an employee giving you real insight is questionable.  Big box retail and online music are more efficient, but with them do we lose the sense of community local stores gave us?

7. Not Local – Its estimated that this generation will have 10 to 14 jobs before their 38th birthday.  Before they turn 44, its estimated that they will have moved 9 times.  This concerns me because that means that the local artists and record stores aren't so local anymore.  There are plenty of people who've been uprooted by this economy with possibly less money.  How long does the average person have to live somewhere before they settle down and support local causes? 

8. Mental Walls – With all the talk going around about engaging your audience, telling a story, and leading a tribe, do we forget that the mental walls around artists still exist?  Most people don't realize how transparent the walls arebecoming.  We've been conditioned for years to believe that rock stars are untouchable.  Turning around and saying that you can now interact with a select few gets confusing.

9. Attention – There's too many artists for people to actually pay attention to.  How many artists can the average person could realistically follow?  How many newsletters does a fan want to receive before its considered too much clutter?  The concert industry makes it easier to participate just by showing up, but do you run the risk of being overbearing by hoping for more?

10. Specialization – As we narrow the gap between search and discovery with music online, we're in turn empowering new mavens to declare their social status.  Music fans have an endless array of choices to explore and filters to help them with sorting.  However, specialization in itself becomes a problem.  We are becoming increasingly individualized with habits entirely unique to us and and our taste.  Does specialization make it harder to find people, with similar tastes, willing to participate in your interests?

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  1. We need to make a DIGG Music type system where any song you come across on the internet can be Dugg and placed onto a single site sorting system where the best material floats to the top. You can then sub catagorize music for different tastes with the best still being at the top. Each song link takes you back to the internet presence of the musician so they can make money on from their site – music downloads, gear, life show schedule, etc.

  2. From a Musicians standpoint, this sounds really pompous….But honestly, you raise some great points. Here in the post modern area we’ve dropped all barriers to entry into art. Especially music where computers can cover, alter, or create technique no one would have ever imagined. So anyone can make anything. Anyone can sell anything for any price. And anyone can promote anything. I think we should all look deep into our hearts and really ask if we truly believe in our music, our promotion, and our products. If we’re making it for other reasons then we should stop.

  3. Local will rule the day….a real world place to connect and make relationships that have three dimensions. Although many may/will move, they will, however, need a local “meeting” place to connect to the communities so to feel, well…..connected. Their geography on the world map may have changed…but the human needs to be in the midst of other human beings will always exist. The place for connection will/has changed…but the need is part of an evolutionary process that hasn’t changed one bit in over an eon. Ever see a bee pollinate a flower on a computer screen?..looks good…but nothing real about it…be the bee…find the flower…pollinate it. That’s real.

  4. @ Scott—You raise an interesting point about a music centric digg platform. I’m sure there’s a likelihood of something that coming into fruition. If a wide scale and diverse crowd got a hold of it, everyone could benefit from at least knowing that its an option.
    @ DH Bennett—Its possible that some of the concerns I’ve raised could be overestimated, but this is more like a template for exploration. Maybe, due to how under the radar these concerns are, they are underestimated. Either way there will be more in-depth analysis’s of these to follow. Thank you for commenting and complimenting my points. These are from the perspective of a digital native.
    @ Mitchell Fox—Very well put. My main contention is how long to you think it takes for ‘local’ to feel local again? Everyone lays there roots down through different processes and time lines, but when does supporting the local scene come into play for most?

  5. 1) Yes
    2) For record companies, yes. For everyone else, no.
    3) Certain parts of the industry will realise it can’t be stopped.
    Become the source to which others come for new material. Control where and when the content enters the market and know how to monetise that position whilst encourage supporters to share the content, build your following and maximise the potential income from your next release.
    4) No.
    Individual choice, to a certain extent, is already inspired/driven by the media and this will continue. There will always be ‘taste-makers’.
    Wrong choice?… Who cares if it was the wrong choice, it was downloaded for FREE in the first place!
    5) How could there ever be too much music? – It’s not as if there are loads of people out there that are into every single track ever released by every recording artist in every genre in every country in the world. It would be impossible for one person to listen to all that, if not insane!
    6) No.
    We recommend using Facebook/MySpace/LastFM etc etc to find your new musical community and Amazon/LastFM also offer great recommendation services (if your new friends don’t share your taste in music). Most people are influenced by friends/the media and go online/into a store knowing what it is they want so there’s always going to be an element of community about it.
    7) Moving house isn’t a new phenomenon – people have been doing it for years!
    If the local scene is buzzing, it will sell itself quicker to newcomers than if the scene is a poorly promoted unprofessional show with shit acts in shit venues.
    8) It’s not confusing at all, the interactions are still really limited (to protect the artist)… and stalking is still illegal.
    9) If purchasing music/merchandise/tickets etc is how you define ‘follow’, then that’s determined by how much time and money individuals are inspired to invest. Has that not always been the case?
    The number of newsletters received before a fan unsubscribes will be defined by how much mail the individual is already receiving and how many acts are being followed. When unsubscribing to newsletters, one assumes the individual will unsubscribe starting with the least favourite act first.
    If you pay for a ticket to watch an act perform, that’s what you should expect to see. Unless otherwise stated, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MEET THE ACT. Get over it!
    Funny how the word ‘fanatical’ is now associated with terrorism ;o)
    10) We are social beings with an individual identity. Niche markets are, by nature, much smaller parts of the overall market than others. With technology increasing and improving ways in which we communicate, .
    Musical taste is like religion. Whilst many may share your faith, not everyone will believe it to be the true path to enlightenment. Where there is difference in faith, let there be respect and tolerance. Where there is similarity or unity, let there be a celebration.
    Kind regards,

  6. Thats easier said than executed. That simply creates a web styly goose chase. A focal point is needed so the system can be administered, maintain and upgraded.

  7. Before the Beatles, rock music was over by the novelty records or the “how to improve your golf swing” records in the record stores. I’m old enough to remember that. After the Beatles, millions of aspiring musicians got the idea that not only could they express themselves and have a lot of fun but that they could get INCREDIBLY WEALTHY doing what they loved. The basic
    and inarguable truth is that this is a complete fantasy. Whenever a new band breaks it is not only competing with all the other bands on the block, it is competing with EVERY BIT of music that has ever been recorded and marketed from Beethoven to the Sex Pistols. The expectation of wealth that came with the success of the Beatles is a fantasy that has driven the music business for 40 years. Who got wealthy? The Stones, The Beatles, Elton John, and perhaps 20 or 30 other acts. There is only so much room “at the top” and those “up there” certainly are not coming down from their perches. As a musician that has traversed the business trust me. Get what fun you can out of your career but when it stops being fun, forget it. You arent going to get rich. Read Dan Kennedys Rock On. Good picture of what “BIG LABEL SUCCESS” is really all about.

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