Amidst the moaning and groaning about the movie slump, reports have been surfacing about another slump. This time the slump deals with the music industry. You’re probably saying, “Oh no! Not them again!” Yes, it’s them again. Billboard.com’s weekly reports show that sales are down 8% from this time last year. This news comes after 2004 being a monumental year for the music industry. Sales were up tremendously after a three year decline. But at this point, should we really be concerned?
The music industry should really be happy that consumers are still buying music–period. If you ask me, a lot of crappy music has been released (the rise and fall of teen pop maybe?). Many releases not even worthy of browsing let alone purchasing. Thank god for a few stellar releases here and there. The current state of music could be a lot worse.
While talk about the music industry slump continues, label conglomerate Universal Music Group (UMG) is sitting pretty. With 36% of the music sales in the U.S., UMG is the leader amongst the four major labels. Three of this year’s best selling albums are by artists on the UMG roster (50 Cent, Mariah Carey and The Game). Like the movie industry, the music industry is looking towards fall releases by Outkast, Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Santana, and Paul McCartney to name a few, to put a hike in sales. All I can say is these albums better be pretty damn good.
This discussion cannot go on without bringing up downloading. Industry leaders still point to piracy as one of the reasons for the slump. But this may not be as great of an issue as it was a few years ago. This due in large part to the industry cracking down on piracy with prosecution (and fines). All the while legal downloading has tripled this year. The International Federation of Phonograph Industries (IFPI) reports 180 million single tracks were downloaded in the first half of the year. Industry leaders also point to digital media (video games and DVDs in particular) as having adverse effects on music sales.
Regardless of this, the music industry might be in a better place if they had embraced mp3s much earlier on. The industry fell behind the technology and now they have to deal with the consequences. Consumers had been forced to buy CDs when they only desired a few singles. This came about as soon as the industry started cutting back on the release of radio singles to retail. If you liked the song or songs, you had to buy the entire CD. At least now with downloading you download and pay for only the songs you want. After all, there’s nothing worse than spending $15 – $20 on a CD where only 4 out of 12 or 15 songs are decent.
This also brings up the decline in the quality of music. It’s apparent that with many of the recent mergers, layoffs, and music being released, that the labels are only interested in making hits. They’re doesn’t seem to be an interest in helping artists maintain long-term recording careers. You’re only as good as you’re last hit. And if you haven’t had a hit in a while, you will probably be dropped quicker than a black show on primetime TV (yet another pertinent issue for another post).
I’m a lover of music. Good music at that. And much of what is being released isn’t all that great. So why waste my money? Contemporary music has been mediocre at best. If the focus was less on image and more so on the music and the talent, maybe the landscape wouldn’t be so barren. And let’s face facts–the CD has a limited shelf life. Music in a digital format is where it’s at. But in the meantime, take heed and pay attention industry leaders (and consumers). Just maybe, things will look up.