The Decommoditization Of Music: How The Net Hurts Artists, Fans & The Industry [VIDEO]

image from www.google.comThe net has been bad for music in ways that most don't realize, says pop culture critic Simon Reynolds: "Obviously, it’s been really bad for record labels. It’s been pretty bad for artists. I mean some artists have made it work, but not a lot."  It's not a new theory, but one he restates well: music has become too easy to get and therfeore less valuable, a trend Reynolds dubs the decommoditization of music. WATCH:

Share on:


  1. The Internet is the single best thing to happen to artists, ever.
    A single artist can now reach BILLIONS of people with very little overhead, and without signing their soul over to a record label. Labels may be F’d, but artists and consumers now have the ability to listen to any music, any time, anywhere.
    For any artist who actually values reaching audiences, as opposed to just making a buck, the Internet is the most effective tool one could possibly imagine.
    This guy doesn’t even make a coherent argument to back up his ridiculous claims.

  2. Simon Reynolds is right, as usual. Pretty brilliant.
    When will musicians realize digital music mostly favors tech industry.

  3. Whenever I see or hear discussions like this, where a party takes a polar side of the argument “internet good for music/internet bad for music” I have to laugh. While I understand that there are consequences/reactions to change and all parties need to have knowledge and understanding of what change is doing, it’s counterproductive to look back and claim the best days are behind you. I love when the old guard laments the “good ol’ days,” it just exposes those on their way to extinction.
    What would make this discussion the most valuable information available would be if the rearview mirror perspective was countered with the attitude of “here’s where we are, here’s where we think the opportunities are going forward.”
    While I agree that on a basic level of understanding of the economic principle of scarcity/supply as it relates to value, we have to recognize that how we measure “value” with a new generation is different than the traditional financial measure. It will take time for people who seek to earn a financial return for their musical efforts to recognize the new opportunities that surround them. (And how they figure that out will be as individualized as the solutions they create.) Where music used to be the “scarcity” that created value, I strongly believe that experiences (live performances, events, cyber-listening, etc) are where the new paradigm has tremendous immediate opportunity. Artists and those wanting to participate in the commerce of music need to refocus along those lines to engage right now.

  4. Drew, you are a an idiot.
    Majors are doing extremely well. It’s pretty astounding.
    It’s musicians that are hurting. Ask most new musicians.

  5. The internet has changed many business models. Look at bookshops. There’s no way to stop it so it’s best to figure out how to get the most out of it for you.
    Choice creates boredom? No, I think it creates stress. There’s just too much out there and there’s so much social pressure to know about the latest thing. The growth of content will, as Simon says, create filtration services (a new type of hierarchy). So you’ll find yourself courting filtration services instead of record labels. And so it goes on…
    Try and keep life simple. Choose a few tools that suit you and your fans and stick to them. Don’t give away your music for nothing in the hope that someone will like it. Instead proactively find the fans that will like it and will be happy to pay for it. Value yourself and your music.
    The internet is not the only way to connect with fans. Take the time to really understand who your fans are and how they prefer to find and listen to your music, hopefully for many years to come.
    And when you get a fan, shout from the rooftops. They found you. They liked you enough to sign up. Look after them. They are like gold dust. Create a real and lasting relationship with them and you will have a successful career.
    I urge you to take a break from your screen. Take a pen and paper and have a think about what you want to achieve. Look for common sense answers. Take the best bits from the past to benefit your future.
    The Fan Formula

  6. In many ways I agree with this. I know an awful lot of great musicians and I can’t say I know a single person personally that has reached millions with the internet. It’s the same old game, you have the potential to reach billions but the reality is, it’s the same game. I know a lot of very hard-working, very talented musicians who can’t make enough for ramen noodles from internet sales while a bunch of shmucks with turntables and loop software get lots of gigs and even hustle the live music venues.
    It is what it is though. Competition for people’s attention is the game and if you have something interesting, it competes; however, don’t tell me that musicians have it EASY due to the internet. Exposure and distribution deals are still a factor the major labels definitely control. The Internet is inundated with shlock and as an entertainment coordinator even I get frustrated trying to find good stuff out there and I’m actively seeking them with an educated ear.
    The internet hasn’t made it easier for good musicians to get their stuff out there; it’s made it easier for every jackass to get their stuff out there and that makes it harder for the legit guys to break through the static to an audience. Imagine going to a concert and every jerkoff in the crowd brings a guitar with them and is singing out loudly so that you can’t hear the act on stage. Eventually you’re going to stop looking there for good music.

  7. Mr. McBain, name-call me all you’d like… who at “Majors” is doing extremely well? Sales are in the tank – when you can chart within the top 25 of sales leaders and be selling less than 20,000 units a week – that doesn’t bode well for “Majors.” When the failure rate of acts released keeps creeping further north of 90% (and your roster’s sales can’t be sustained by the one or two superstars left in your stable) – “extremely well” is fantasy and denial being told to stockholders and yourself.
    As far as “musicians that are hurting” – yes, many musicians who still bank on validation and handouts from labels, they’re hurting. Musicians (such as myself) who watch for opportunity and keep themselves prepared to take advantage of changes – our music careers are on a positve trend.
    As far as “new musicians,” I’m not sure who you’re referring to. Are they like “new college grads” whose expectations of job placement aren’t tempered by the realities of the market – well, that’s life. I routinely cross paths with many “new musicians” who might meet that description here in Minneapolis, and it usually takes three to five years for them to find their feet…
    As far as being “an idiot” you can call me what you like, but this idiot is making a living as a professional musician, studio owner, songwriter, and consultant of sorts. My colleagues and clients might disagree strongly with your “you are a an idiot” position.

  8. why should musicians work without pay? do plummers do it for love? do doctors? do actors? get real… obviously you’re not good enough to be a professional so you celebrate being a hobbyist!

  9. Reaching audiences is great, but the problem is that without being able to sustain that passion full-time, you’re left with very diluted art that feels disposable and will never fully flourish, hence the perpetual loop we’re in right now with flavor of the week artists and lack their of sustainability. The current model does not allow bands to be profitable enough to do it full-time anymore, EVEN IF they’re successfully reaching millions.

  10. The net makes it nearly impossible to find an audience, but easier for an audience to find you; the trick is to be worth finding. If you think there are no longer middlemen, you’re sadly mistaken; the two key differences are that today’s middlemen aren’t paid directly by the fans but by advertisers on their illegal download sites and that musicians, instead of receiving a fraction of the revenue they generate from a label, receive nothing at all. http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/stories/102411adwords#6YxitLX4zUEaSBW-o_NwXw

  11. “A single artist can now reach BILLIONS of people with very little overhead, and without signing their soul over to a record label”
    And this statement is EXACTLY why the net HURTS artists! Most artists have this statement branded in their brains…without realizing millions of OTHER ARTISTS are doing and thinking the same thing!!! The last thing someone wants is to be bombarded by several artists, every single day, to buy their music! Sheesh…we already have to deal with online ADS…talk about overkill!!!
    The net CAN BE used effectively, but most artists don’t think of innovative ways to market themselves. Throwing up a tweet or FB message every hour is NOT effective marketing!!! Just because millions of potential listeners are available online, doesn’t mean they will actually BUY a record! There are physically over 300 million people in the U.S….But they won’t know you, the artist, exists if you don’t ENGAGE them.
    The net has made so many artists LAZY. You would have a better chance hitting the STREETS, selling your music at malls or festivals, for example. But even doing THAT needs to have a strategic plan!
    Too many artists, not enough fans…And that’s because we, as artists, don’t really care about a FAN…we just care about the SALE…THAT’S REALLY THE PROBLEM overall!!! If you take the time and effort to focus on BUILDING with FANS, the sale will happen with not much effort. Think about that…

Comments are closed.