If you really think about, the whole situation with the music industry is quite tragic. Not because record labels lose money (I could care less about records labels and the music executives who don’t know how to run them) or because artists lose money (I’m sometimes really indifferent to them), but really because music isn’t truly experienced any more.
Listeners have been indifferent to music that they no longer crave it, they no longer buy it, and they no longer feel for it. Here are five ways the music industry can truly save itself:
1. Disband the R.I.A.A.
There has been so much bad publicity associated with this organization that it does more harm than good. What is the point of suing illegal file sharers by the thousands when millions of file sharers exist?
Despite a few successes in getting Napster and Kazaa shut down, dozens quickly replaced them. Now they seem to have the upper hand against The Pirate Bay, but even that seems futile considering how widespread BitTorrent is. With all the money that pours into the pockets of lawyers and the coffers of courthouses, wouldn’t that money be better spent on developing and promoting actual artists?
While a trade group should exist to promote the industry as well, maybe even a name change might do it good. Corporations do it all the time. Remember TWA? If they play their cards right, in a decade hopefully, no one will remember the R.I.A.A.
2. Establish a credible music authority.
As long as music existed, large groups of people tuned into a single place for all of their music needs. You can go way back when to The Ed Sullivan Show or even more way back with campfires in the truly olden days.
MTV revolutionized the music industry with using music videos as the new way to experience music through moving pictures. The cable channel has always had ups and downs, but seemed to always reinvent itself and win back its coolness. Total Request Live was the most recent example. Depending on how you look at it, TRL either popularized the new wave of boy bands (Backstreet Boys, N’Sync) and teen pop (Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera) or at the very least rode their massive waves to the moon and eventually into the ground.
Either way, millions of (mostly) teenagers raced home after school to watch the popular request show and watch the nation’s most popular music videos.
Rolling Stone Magazine is no longer the print behemoth it once was, although it might finally start a version in India. I know the print world is no longer cool, but where will the baby boomers get their de facto tastes from?
No one has been able to translate the musical experience on the internet. No one has created anything immersive or interactive. Pitchfork is seen as the highest authority on the internet, but its niche is Indie music. MTV recently revamped its website, but I fear they’re too late to the party.
3. Change the business model.
It’s flawed, but since it has worked for so long the conformist label executives haven’t been able to change. If music labels were more like start-ups, times would have been rough but would have corrected itself by now.
There has been lots of talk with a music tax on P2P and ISPs to subsidize the music industry. While many people have dismissed it as the wrong way to go, I think that they are looking more at the long-term future of music quality rather than music itself.
Aren’t we at worst-case scenario right now as musicians are headed toward personal distribution? Struggling artists and bands still need the label system. Music won’t die, but I think many people would gladly shell a couple of bucks just to not see those damn copyrighted warnings and commercials ever again.
4. Promote itself better.
The music industry needs to find better ways to capitalize on music festivals. I think they have always been seen as too niche for general audiences to want to go to them. Film festivals have always had an independent and high-brow feel to them, but the more quality films would always trickle to more mass audiences. That’s not the case for music festivals.
The South By Southwest Festival is in full swing, but again, it fulfills the musical indie wing rather than the musical chicken itself. I understand that festivals have always catered to different tastes (especially jazz), but man wouldn’t it be cool to see a hip=hop festival?
And don’t get me started on how useless and boring music awards shows are to watch.
The music industry doesn’t research enough about either the artists or the listeners. They still rely on old ways of evaluating and investing. Marketability shouldn’t be the main concern. Eventually quality will triumph over quantity. It just takes time and patience.
Last.fm is a great music social network with all of the data available to examine listener’s tastes. I haven’t heard about any studies that truly examined the data, except for a few cool visualization tools like the long defunct Mainstream-o-meter and the ____.
I’ve been tempted to take some of the available data and make my own observations.
Like the country’s Social Security problems, the music industry’s problems are big but workable. I don’t think many people want to tackle them because the problems seem to run too deep.