The Ol’ Music Biz

The music biz has been an interesting ride for the 5 years I’ve been around it. I think it’s an exciting time for music, since I’m starting to finally feel the waves of change. There’s no firm footing in the online space, and this has lots of record label people terrified. All they see is the year over year declines in unit sales and unabated piracy, with no light at tunnel’s end.

Compound the CD sales problems with retailers who are starting to reduce floor space, further compounding problems. Now you’ll only be able to find marketing priorities at the store, rather than a fuller catalog.

But I have other confidences that this business seems to lack. We sell a cool “product” and it isn’t the compact disc. It’s music, an intangible item that touches the deepest portions of us. There has never been higher demand for music, despite the all-too-common statement “there’s only 1 good track on a CD”. Millions of P2P users sharing billions of songs each year belie such a comment.

If there was absolutely no demand for music, I’d be concerned for the future. But Apple proves that music is still chic, even though the industry has decided to demonize them. Music is the fuel that helped drive broadband growth, even though the business hasn’t found any benefits to that. So the problem isn’t in the demand, but how to make a profitable business out of it.

But many of the business managers tell you how difficult it is. They’ve been used to selling music a certain way, and an entire edifice was constructed around it. So they list all the roadblocks you will be stopped by. They’ll tell you about publishing issues, royalties complications, territory rights limitations, or even artist reticence.

But it’s all based on music as a physical good. And the march of progress will soon relegate the music CD into niche status. The greater public has already moved on, and those business problems will soon be moot.

So we can’t be so hindered by our past responsibilities. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to these concerns, but these cannot prevent us from nurturing and creating the new music business. The secret, in the larger picture, is that the new business isn’t all that different from the old one.

But more on that in another post…


~ by Som on November 19, 2007.

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