Is there a future for recorded music?

Other | Thursday 28th November 2013 | Gemma

Recently I got asked to talk about future business models for recorded music in one of my essays at uni, and the more I thought about it, the more I started to think, maybe there is no future in making money from recorded music. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think people are going to simply stop recording music; I just think that the value of recorded music has dropped to the extent that it can’t be brought back. I should make it clear that when I talk about value I mean monetary value and not emotional value. Since music went digital and people realised how easy it was to share online, people are becoming less willing to shell out for music. It’s understandable really, why would you pay for something when you can get it for free? It’s become so normal that most people don’t realise the implications behind free music. Many people have used the argument of “it doesn’t matter if I pirate the music because I go to the gig” and even the artists themselves have said they don’t mind people illegally downloading music if it gets them to the gigs. So what’s wrong with it? I remember years ago watching ‘Life on the murder scene’, a documentary about My Chemical Romance, and in it they said that they made their first album just to have something to tour with, and that’s what I believe is going to happen with recorded music. Artists will no longer go on tour to promote albums they’ll make albums to promote the live tour. It could even go further and instead of having studio albums, artists will just record themselves live and release that. There are advantages and disadvantages to this of course. The quality of musicianship will rise as acts will no longer be able to get away with using fancy techniques in the studio and rarely tour; however we may also lose out on acts who aren’t big fans of touring or those who seem incapable, it has been said that one of the reasons Oasis didn’t do so well on the other side of the pond was the lack of stamina as a touring band. Then there’s streaming, I like streaming, I do it quite a lot, but there are still problems with this, the amount of revenue it creates is very little and the artists don’t see much from it. There’s an interesting graph on it on information is beautiful Unless something changes I can’t see how any artists can make a living via streaming.

 This is my real answer to the question; it’s hard to predict how the industry will be in 10 years’ time. Maybe there will be some kind of invention that will stop pirated music, maybe the laws will change more to the favour of the copyright holders, maybe artists will give up on making money from recordings and concentrate on live or maybe we’ll be living in paradise with each household having its own pet robot (ok, maybe that last one was a bit unrealistic). The point is the industry is moving so fast that it’s almost impossible to predict. Artists are doing whatever they can to make a living and still carry on doing what they love, some people think that the music industry is a scary thing to be involved in due to it being so unpredictable, personally I think it’s exciting, every day brings a new challenge and the people who will thrive will be the people who can adapt the quickest. 



Gemma Stevenson