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State of the Music Industry - The single


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From the New York Times:



I can't say that I'm really surprised by this...



"Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face."

Harry Dresden, Storm Front

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Not a bad article. I know the focus of this was on recording, but what about touring musicians and bands? I'd be interested in hearing everyone's thoughts on how digital downloads are effecting both large concerts and the smaller club scene.


I think that new trends in digital music are helping some of the smaller artists get their name out. I'm specifically thinking about "Americana" artists and bands who are on smaller labels like Fred Eaglesmith, Drive By Truckers, John Hiatt, and their peers. I'd almost be willing to bet that there is an increase in attendence due to the availability of singles online.

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That's really unfortunate. I've bought albums with a lot of filler material over the years, but I got exposed to some stuff that I grew to like better than the songs that enticed me to buy the albums in the first place. Some songs are just not as immediately loveable as others, but grow on you after a while.

Then again, there are songs on a lot of albums that I never did like at all...

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else.





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Country music has been going this way for a long time. Singles will be released to radio stations, and it could be 6 months or longer before a full CD is released. A few months ago I worked with a young lady who went to Nashville and recorded an entire CD on an independent label (Comstock Records). IMO there is some pretty strong material there, and one of her songs has been on the independent charts since December. Last week the song has hit #4... The downside to all this is the fact that it is an independent label, and there are very few radio stations out there willing to promote them.


Another thing we found out, independent labels won't help an artist get out on the road.. She has to arrange everything from putting together a band to securing sponsorships to securing gear and transportation to booking.. I worked with her for about a month, and if she was within driving distance I probably would still be. Saginaw MI isn't the greatest place to try to assemble musicians for a touring country band, and unfortunately I could not justify the expense to drive 240 miles every weekend for rehearsals and no income.. I really hope she makes it, but the cards are really stacked against it..

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I read that article yesterday and there's a reason it was in the business section: this is a trend that affects the business side of music more than the creative side.


The single is huge only in certain genres: mainly rap, pop and country. But these genres have always had a lot of disposable one-hit wonders and few true musicians of quality and staying power. So what's the big deal? Rock, jazz, blues, etc. - all the fans of all these other genres (ones that aren't oriented to teenagers, unsuprisingly) are still wanting and buying full albums.


There's very few quality acts putting out full albums because the overall talent level is so bad, nowhere more so than in pop, rap and country. Most acts can barely write one good song much less one whole album.


I bet at some point the pendulum will switch and we'll see better artists, and the newspaper articles will be talking about how full albums are back to making the music companies money.

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Nice find, Tenstrum.


The recording execs made this bed; now they gotta sleep in it.


Sure, Napster had a hand in forcing them to allow legit digital downloads, and Apple's 99-cent per song pricing really screwed with CD sales. [i'd like to find out where in NY you can buy a new release "album" for $10 -- I've seen closer to $18, which I absolutely refuse to pay.] Why buy a 10-song CD for $18 when you can get the 2 "good" songs for $2? [That's another way the M.I. screwed up: allowing/putting absolute crap filler on albums. Release an EP at a reasonable price if the material isn't there!]


But the kicker, of course, is how payola is blowing up in their faces. Now they can't afford to push their songs on the radio! Ha! And as we all know, it is awfully hard to get a new act off the ground without tons of promotion. [On a side note, whoever did the "Happy Feet" promo was a genius. I saw so many ads for that freakin' movie that I almost felt like I had already seen it ... and wanted to see it again for the first time! ;) ]


I know a lot of you have made the switch to satellite radio. I still listen to the free stuff. But when it comes to CDs, I either scrounge the bargain bin or buy direct from local artists. I've seen the emporer's clothes and once you take the hype and promo away you're just left with recycled musical ideas in a pretty package. That stuff works great with their target audience (oh, 15ish-25ish), but now that the CD consumer demographic is old fogies like me that grew up on the format they'd better find a new angle. [And they have, to a certain extent. I've noticed a surge of '60s, '70s and '80s compilations suddenly flooding the market.]


So what do we have to look forward to?


With less material being released by each artist, that should really put the squeeze on unknown songwriters that already face insurmountable odds.


Are we going to see mini concerts? How long of a show do you need to promote a vast recording catalog of one hit single? Venues aren't going to discount their rates just because the show is only half an hour long instead of three hours. And consumers aren't going to pay today's rising ticket prices for less entertainment. So I guess the rock concert will turn into a variety show, with each artist/act coming out for a short set that features their one song. Either way, might we see a purging of venues?


With less revenue, the record companies aren't going to spend money like water anymore. Will this finally end payola? And if it does, what will happen to the greedy radio stations that have become accostomed to it? Will broadcast radio die and force everyone to pay for radio? [it's only what? Two companies now anyway?] Will satellite radio still be able to be a "hit maker", or will the hype machine be broken beyond repair?


Will "American Idol" (and copy cats) become the new hype machine?


Is music now firmly in the "battle for the family room"? If so, will those annoying pop-up and banner ads start featuring sound bites desperately trying to promote "product"? Will MySpace be replaced by another "social" site without the negative baggage (i.e. banned in schools), and will this be "the place" for musicians to shop their wares?


What happens to iTunes when the recording companies go under and can no longer supply them with product? Will indies take over, or will iTunes go down too?


It appears we are living in interesting times.

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