The Music Revolution Has Begun--A Guide to Internet Music
For tens of millions of people listening to digital music,
there is no going back. As music transforms to ones and zeroes
from physical products, the way it is produced, sold, given
away, and heard is changing forever. And the consequences for
musicians, fans and the recording industry itself are profound.
Millions of songs are now available--for free or for sale,
legally and illegally over the Internet. The emergence of this
audio landscape has delighted music fans, but has undermined the
business model of the music industry. Major record labels are
squeezing less profit out of fewer artists and attempting to
ward off losses by a frenzy of mergers.
According to the International Federation of the Phonographic
Industry, as of the end of 2004, four corporations--EMI Records,
Vivendi Universal, Warner, and Sony BMG--controlled 80 percent
of the shrinking billion global music market.
Even as the music industry has consolidated, CD sales have
steadily declined since consumers have become increasingly
reluctant to pay .99 for a CD, often to get only one or two
good songs. "There is a major disconnect between the music
industry and the reality of the way most Americans relate to
music," said Michael Bracy, a lobbyist for the Future of Music
Coalition. "There is an effort to commodify music which is
fundamentally impossible to do."
Although strongly opposed by the Recording Industry Association
of America (RIAA), music downloading has become a way of life
for most music lovers, worldwide. As Janis Ian, a musician
entering her fourth decade of recording, recently said in a
radio interview, "The Internet and downloading are here to stay
. . . Anyone who thinks otherwise should prepare themselves to
end up on the slagheap of history."
Why, in fact, do people download music from the Internet?
Primarily to hear NEW music, or to listen to records that have
been deleted by the major record companies and are no longer
available for purchase. The goal of listeners is not simply to
avoid the bargain CD bin at the local record shop, but to
hear music they can't find anywhere else.
Musicians and distributors are tapping into the consumer anger
to rewrite the rules of the music industry amid financial
turmoil. GarageBand.com is one example. Once just a community of
online musicians, it is now becoming the Internet's answer to a
record label as well, one that leaves much of the power--and the
selection process--in the hands of musicians.
So far, the digital music movement has been a double-edged sword
for artists. Newcomers and struggling musicians find the
Internet to be a revolutionary way to produce and distribute
their own music, bypassing the major record labels. The Internet
can provide what every musician needs to be
successful--exposure. Without exposure, no one buys the CDs,
attends the concerts or purchases the T-shirts, ball caps, beer
mugs and posters sold by the artists.
On the other hand, some artists have reacted negatively to
online music, fearing a drastic reduction in the royalty
payments from CD sales and losses of other revenue.
Whether you support the idea of music downloading or not, there
is no turning back. As of the end of 2004, 200 million songs
were downloaded that year--a tenfold increase from the previous
year. And the courts have ruled that file sharing software is
NOT illegal, in and of itself.
While the major legitimate online music services like iTunes
Music Store, EMusic, and Napster 2.0, with deals from major
record labels, carry between 700,000 and 1 million songs,
Internet upstarts like GarageBand.com already claim an expanding
library of 1.8 million songs available for free.
Whether you use a subscription site and buy your tunes, or
search out free music on the Web, there is no doubt that the
entire music world has been radically changed by the Internet
and the advent of digital music.
So get online, download your favorite tunes, turn up the volume,
and "let the good times roll."