IntroductionDevelopments in technology and the emergence of the Internet haveenabled far more artists to reach a wider audience. Where oncerecording equipment was prohibitively expensive; it is now widelyavailable at a low cost. You can purchase sophisticated music productionsoftware for a few pounds on your mobile device or tablet. DamonAlbarn recently produced a Gorillaz album in its entirety using softwareon the iPad.In many cases artists are able to promote and distribute their musicdigitally without the assistance of a record label. Unsigned artists can selltheir music on iTunes, have it streamed on Spotify and produce theirown videos for YouTube.
Major Players The world music market is dominated by the "Big Four Record Labels.” They control most of the expertise and capital to market, influence airplay, and fill shelf space at record retailers. They can be considered as a music cartel that is very powerful in their market distribution. The “Big Four” control around 70% of the world music market and around 85% of the US music market, demonstrating the concept of oligopoly within the music industryWorldwide Record Sales 2005 Source: MEDIA MARKET: Major Record Labels Source: Wikipedia
Independent’s DayIndependent record labels (or ‘indies’) are labels that operate outside of the control of the majorlabels. Typically they are less reliant on mass sales for success; with lower overheads andproduction costs than major labels even comparatively modest sales could generate more profitthan a record released on a major.“The punk rock era brought about a turning point for independent labels, the do-it-yourself ethosof the time seeing the emergence of a plethora of independent labels. Many of the UK labelsended up signing distribution deals with major labels to remain viable, but others retained theirindependence (e.g. Factory Records, Warp, Wax On, BlancoMusic) and the factor that came todefine independent labels was distribution, which had to be independent of the majors forrecords to be included in the UK Indie Chart, which was first compiled in 1980” – Source: Wikipedia
The rise of digital distribution“The music industry hasbeen undergoing drasticchanges since the advent ofwidespread digitaldistribution of music. Aconspicuous indicator ofthis is total music sales:since 2000, sales ofrecorded music havedropped offsubstantially while livemusic has increased inimportance. The largestmusic retailer in the worldis now digital: AppleInc.s iTunes Store”Source: Wikipedia
Free Music Established artists who may crave more creative control after years spent under the control of major labels have come up with some interesting ways to release their music independently. Radiohead released their album In Rainbows in 2007, it was made available for download and fans could choose how much they wanted to pay for it. Despite the fact that many downloaded it for free the band still sold 3m copies (this includes more traditional CD sales as well as paid downloads)Prince took another approach to the release of his albumPlanet Earth. This was given away free in the UK withcopies of the Mail on Sunday newspaper and was notavailable to purchase in stores. His label decided againstreleasing it for purchase in the UK as there were so manyfree copies ‘floating around’ Both artists were criticised for devaluing music and making it more difficult for smaller bands to make money from their own music. Do you think this is the case?
CrowdfundingIn the traditional model of music production and distribution a recordlabel would loan the money to artists and this would be recoupedthrough sales. Crowdfunding allows artists to raise the money from fansand other investors. This gives the artist far more creative control as theyare not under the control of a record label more concerned with salesthan artistic merit. Artists will often devise innovative ways to repay‘investors’ Click here to view US musician Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter page.
New Media PlatformsThe growth of the Internet has opened up different platforms for artists torelease, promote and indeed sell their music. Artists can now produce and release theirmusic without the support of a record label at all. Digital distribution platforms such asiTunes and Google Play allow artists to sign up and release their music. Music can also bereleased onto streaming platforms such as Spotify. Artists can use social networking sitessuch as Twitter and Facebook to quickly reach a large audience.Typically one of the largest costs in distribution music is the cost of producing physicalcopies on CD or vinyl. The exponential growth of iTunes means that artists can sellthousands of copies of their music without needing to have a physical copy. The UKcharts were changed in 2007 to allow downloads to count as record sales (this haspreviously existed but the artists had to have a physical copy available for sale as well).Many artists also release videos on YouTube, which now operates a revenue sharescheme that allows artists (and indeed any other YouTube user) to make money byshowing adverts before their videos. ‘Artists’ have even been signed to major labels afterbeing spotted on YouTube (I use the term ‘artist’ lightly in this case!)
Useful Links/Further Readinghttp://blakesgangblog.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/demise-of-cultural-hegemony-in-music-as.html(Discussion of the impact of new technology on the established hegemony ofthe music industry)How the DIY ethic of punk rock influenced indie record labels - HeliumDid Radioheads In Rainbows Honesty Box Actually Damage The MusicIndustryMusic industry attacks Sunday newspaper s free Prince CD