For the fourth year in a row, music sales have dropped by 20%. How hitting rock bottom (again) could signify the beginning of a new decade in music...
By John Constantine (Musician)
The music industry has been in decline for quite some time, but how bad is it? The recent Nielson Soundscan Industry Report gives us a gloomy perspective: In 2010, 13 albums went platinum, and of that select few, only 4 sold over 2 million copies. The only good news in this report is the abysmal 1% increase in digital single sales, which is anything but promising for an industry that was built on an excessive stream of income. Compared to a mere 10 years ago, when pop was king and N’Sync’s sophomore album sold 2.42 million units in a single week, it’s no wonder why labels are holding up their white flag.
While the men in suits struggle to save their millions, music fans continue to reel in the constant stream of music that is available in an unlimited variety of mediums. Whether or not consumers are buying music, or even attending live shows (according to Pollstar, North American tours declined by 15% this past year), new music continues to be released every week, and new bands are formed daily - thank you, Brooklyn.
You would think that in a declining music economy, we would also see a decline in new music. This, however, is not the case. How has the supply and demand inflated in a dying industry? Community. Either in social networking, peer-to-peer downloads, or the lost art form of the mix-tape, music has always been about community before money. Now, more than ever, musicians are doing it for the joy of sharing their craft with others.
If more than 2,000 bands play at the world famous South by Southwest Music Festival every year, clearly there isn’t room for everyone to succeed - at least from a financial standpoint. These bands are doing it not for the Rolls Royce and arena tours, they play for the love of music; they dream of the day when they can make a living wage from their art, and nothing more. My hope is that on this new playing field, artists and their fans will form an even stronger bond and take us into the next decade of commercial music - without the RIAA (the big brother of the late music industry), the “Big 4” Major Labels, or radio stations plagued with payola.
Next year, I’ve decided to ignore the Nielson Soundscan Industry Report. Instead, I’m going to stumble into my favorite local venue and fall in love with a band that would still be there on stage, even if all they get in return is a handful of drink tickets and some new friends.