Is The Music Business Really Dead?

We live in the Information Age. With just a few keystrokes, we can find anything we want to on this amazing internet.

A simple search can yield everything from a recipe for blueberry pie or detailed instructions on how to fix your washing machine, to the ability to buy a new car at auction or pick up your favourite tune on sites like iTunes or Bandcamp.

Herein lies the rub for musicians.

It is quite common to hear people decry the internet as the death knell for performers trying to make a living
and it seems that many musicians feel that they are at the rough end of this deal.

Are We All Doomed If Major Record Labels Are In Trouble?

The major record labels who, in the past, held all the power in the industry, have been complaining that their revenues are falling because the internet allows people to illegally download music, therefore stealing potential income from them and, of course, the artists signed to them.
If we are to believe the labels, the media in general and the people who whine because everyone else is whining, artists are doomed as a species because there is no way to make a living any more.
So, were we better off before this internet thing took off?

Can’t We Go Back To The “Good Old Days”?



Let’s look at the “Good Old Days” properly.

We’re talking about the days when the only way to make a recording was through the major record labels. These companies had the vast resources necessary to produce high quality recordings as well as providing a powerful marketing machine to get the product into the hands of the fans.

That was the upside.

The other side of the coin was something like this.
The label (generally) owned the rights to your recordings (plus your compositions, through their publishing arm) and you would receive a tiny percentage of the profits, only after the label recoup expenses (from the big advance they gave you…no free lunch, people!).

The label also had the right to withhold the release of your recording!

Think About It.

Your life is in hock to this company on a promise to get your prized music out to a wide audience. The A&R guy who signed you leaves the company for pastures new (very common!), the new guy doesn’t dig your stuff so the album is shelved.

Literally.

So, no album release, no rights to take it elsewhere. Plus you still owe them your house and your first born.

To my tiny brain, aside from the odd McCartney or Metallica, that is a Win/Lose proposition. The artist is often on the losing side.

Prince, George Michael and others made a public stand against that system and I could totally see their point of view but, at the time, there wasn’t a clear alternative to it. Today, we have many choices of how to record, promote distribute our music without signing our lives away or remortgaging the house 5 times over. This internet thing can help us do it.

Isn’t The Internet Killing Music?

The internet? What about all this media coverage, focusing on dire record sales, illegal downloading, filesharing. Etc? Isn’t the internet the enemy of the artist?

Luckily, we already have many examples of artists who have achieved success either predominantly or totally through the power of the internet.

Like anything new, there is often plenty of resistance, fear and confusion around to throw us off the scent of what is a remarkable opportunity for artists of all genres.
We can now produce our own music for much lower cost without sacrificing quality, we can build our brand and promote to our listeners directly.

Aren’t Music Sales At An All Time Low?

That depends on where you choose to get your information. The media will tell you that music sales are down.
The problem is that mainstream media are not aware (and why should they be?) of what’s really going on.

Think about the term “mainstream”.

When I hear that term, I think “General Practitioner”.
Nothing wrong with GPs but there’s a difference between them and the specialist (Cardiologist, Neurologist, etc).

In this case, the specialists are the people who are out there, making it work, right now.

The truth is that there is more music being sold by a wider range of artists and genres than any time previously.

The funds are going direct to the artist, not being funneled through the major labels so the numbers don’t register with mainstream media, hence the negative headlines.

Today, we have more control over our music, our fanbase, our careers than ever before.

So Where Do I Start?

Change Your Paradigm

Forget the naysayers in the media and commit to taking charge of your career. My philosophy is that if I want to achieve something, I look for successful examples, not people who focus on why it can’t be done.

Learn From The Masters

Are there people in the music world who have already conquered the internet?
Of course!
It’s your job to find out what they did and apply those principles to your own career.

The Fans Are The Key

If you have a large fanbase, get them involved in your process (social media, crowdfunding, competitions where they can win a signed album or even a chance to sit in on your next recording!). Engage and respect your fans.

• “But Mike, I Have No Fanbase!”

No fans yet? Perfect opportunity to research how to use social media to build a strong, targeted mailing list of raving fans of your music.

Important Note!!!

Bear in mind that currently, most people get list building badly wrong!

So, to be clear, Don’t Spam Your Friends by CC’ing them in bulk emails/texts or blitzing them
with “check my album” posts on facebook or Twitter. Learn how to use social media “socially”
to attract your fans.

If we embrace these changes, we will find that the music business is very much alive!

But that’s just my view…

What do YOU think?

Is the music business really dead?

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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)


  1. Sergei Rusakov
    3 years ago

    It is good to see you saying correct and positive things and pointing to the right direction! It is rather rare insight in the world full of half-hearted attempts, slap-dash toe-dipping and despondency as a chosen reaction to a well-deserved failure. My own view of strange levels of (dis)interest in music today revolves around the fact that quality of reproduced music at the point of reaching (eager?) ears of the majority leaves so much to be desired that, as fan of music, both live and recorded, I feel that we need a wide scale, massive campaign promoting huge advantage of high resolution music as opposed to MP3 at 128 kbps and streaming at 96 kbps which is what majority gets. Via their smartphones with those puny stock earbuds to add insult to that low-res injury. 1.7 billion do just that.
    I am recording live concerts in DSD format with top ribbon mics (pure silver XLR cables are about to arrive to bring further transparency!) and I recently decided to plan a regular series of tribute DSD albums to our greatest musicians of the past. Live in the studio, with high resolution streaming too. This is, in fact, how I came to your website and saw this article on the subject that is so close to me. I was looking for a way to contact you to see if you find time to participate in our planned recordings. I am familiar with the quality of your playing having seen you live a few times in the past. Foley is another gentleman whom I would like to see taking part. The first two tribute albums will feature material of John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix. I am sorting out the details at present. Support of key manufacturers of high res. portable music players and agreements with musicians, in principle, to take part. Please get in touch as you were my top choice from the outset.
    Regards. Sergei sergei@interda.com 0790 999 0961

    The project has several aims:
    – to promote music of great musicians of the past to new listeners
    – to promote music itself with an emphasis on importance of its sound quality
    – to promote today’s high quality (and inexpensive) audio equipment, especially new portable units
    – to promote DSD! – this new digital format that sound like analogue and offers wider frequency response and dynamic range compared to high speed magnetic tape of old (high res FLAC will not be ignored).


    • Mike
      3 years ago

      Hi, Sergei!
      Very sorry, I’ve only just seen this post from you.
      I hope you got everything off the ground and the
      project is progressing well?

      I’m honoured that you thought of me (especially in
      the same breath as the great Foley!).
      Unfortunately, I don’t really do “projects” and
      haven’t done for several years, simply because of
      time and energy constraints.

      I have multiple projects of my own that are
      really only getting started now, as I focussed so
      much on playing other people’s music and learning
      from the masters for the last
      30 years (which I’m still doing, by the way).

      It certainly sounds like a worth cause to
      raise the quality of audio and I wish you all the best with it.

      Thanks again for thinking of me,

      Mike

About

MICHAEL MONDESIR

Michael is a freelance Bass Guitar player, who studied at the much lauded

Bedroom School Of Music.
(just means he's self-taught, don't panic!)

He began his professional music career in 1983, playing Bass Guitar with his brother, drummer Mark Mondesir
(John McLaughlin, Jethro Tull,
Glenn Hughes),
forming a trio with guitarist

Hawi Gondwe
(Amy Winehouse/
George Michael).

Since then he has performed with
artists as diverse as;
Jeff Beck, Billy Cobham, Ginger Baker, Eddie Harris, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Oumou Sangare, Usher, Whitney Houston, Imogen Heap, Sir George Martin, State of Bengal, Hermeto Pascoal, David Garibaldi, Jan Hammer, Ty, Zoe Rahman, Jim Mullen, Ronnie Wood, John Serry, Andy Summers, Django Bates, Gary Husband, Chante Moore, Lulu, Nitin Sawhney, Lenny White, Chad Smith, Courtney Pine, Jocelyn Brown, Jason Rebello, Brice Wassy, Neneh Cherry, Nikki Yeoh, Bernard Purdie, Iain Ballamy, Bill Bruford, Julian Joseph, Leni Stern, Mory Kante, Keith More, Trilok Gurtu, Aster Aweke, S-Club 7, Talvin Singh and Pee Wee Ellis.

Michael entered the Pop, R&B, Funk and Dance music world, composing tracks on albums by funk trombone legend Fred Wesley and singer/songwriter, Lewis Taylor.

In September 2009, Michael joined the
Thriller Live world tour.
He is currently part of the visiting faculty of various education establishments including the Royal Academy of Music, Rhythmic Conservatory of Copenhagen and British Academy of New Music as well as teaching privately at home
(schedule permitting).

Michael Mondesir uses:
Yamaha Basses, Costalab Pedals and Elixir Strings.