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Much has changed in the last three decades due to digital media, the way we access information, our eating habits and even how we raise our children, but a change that is not always recognized lies in the music industry. It seems that we continually ignore how drastically the music has been affected by the free and paid transmission. New music is always emerging, and because of the Internet, it is more accessible than ever.
Some people believe that free streaming sites are the future, and that they will only become more prominent as time goes by. Most people counteract this with examples of paid downloading and streaming services such as iTunes, which seem to be still popular. But do pay transmission services really balance the effects of free streaming, or do they simply provide a proverbial slap on the back?
For example, you can spend 99 cents to buy a song that you like and feel good about having fulfilled your role in the fight against piracy. The problem with the hungry musicians, you may think, has been solved. Unfortunately, in the real world, free download and transfer mean many problems, both positive and negative, and as in life’s solutions, they are never so simple.
There are problems such as the value gap, a phenomenon in which musicians suffer due to the difference between music and the benefits that are achieved. Another concern is the emerging trend that artists now have to master multitasking, invest in production, marketing and, sometimes, fire management to track online needs. It has also become a panic that all physical copies of the music disappear.
Understand the value gap.
In a 2016 editorial music report, Francis Moore, CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, explains that the value gap is “about the lack of correspondence between the music that is enjoyed and the income that is returned to the community musical“.
This lack of coincidence is considered a great threat to musicians. It’s not a direct by-product of free streaming, but it’s a product of how the music industry reacts to a digital age where profits are not as high as they used to be. To understand this, we must first see how the economic value is calculated.
When determining the value of a company, it is better to observe what people are willing to pay for it. In most cases, due to the free download and transfer, people are not willing to pay anything for the music.
It does not mean that everyone is using the free exclusive broadcast, but when a song is good or popular, we want to share it with other people, usually free.
When free streaming sites like YouTube join the mix, a song can be shared millions of times without making so much money with music or music labels.
This is where the value gap comes into play. Music labels see a decline in music sales, followed by an increase in free flow and doing what they can to get the same profits as before. The problem is that this often makes the musicians lose in the long run.
Taylor Shannon, lead drummer of the independent rock band AmberDamned, has worked in the changing music industry for almost a decade. His love for music began when he was 17, when he started playing drums. Over the years, he has noticed that the old business methods have changed and he has had his own experiences with the value gap.
He talks about how the industry and many individual musicians still market their bands in the old way. Originally, an aspiring musician would start small, performing at local events with the hope of becoming a name enough for a record label to be interested.
“Going to a label was like going to a bank to ask for a loan,” he says. He mentions that once a record label was interested in a band, they paid the bill for recording expenses, new instruments, etc. The problem was that the label would get most of the money earned from record sales. “You paid them in the sales of the album, if your album sold out quickly, the label would recover your money and you would get a profit.”
“That model of thinking was great, but now it’s 30 years old,” says Shannon. Given the vast reach of the Internet in modern times, he argues, musicians no longer need to start working in the local industry. He points out that in some cases the bands feel that they do not need to look for a label, and those that do do not always recover the money as quickly as they used to.
This is where Shannon feels that the value gap is present. He explains that in the past, musicians made money from album sales, but most of their income came from live shows. Now that the revenue structure has changed, and free streaming has played a role in these developments.
Of course, this does not mean that the executives of the record companies sit down to look for new ways to exploit the musicians, or that anyone who has heard a successful song on YouTube is a bad person. These are simply not the things that people consider when they download music.
Additional responsibilities of emerging musicians.
Free transmission is not all bad. Certainly, it makes music much more accessible. Those who may not be able to reach the target audience in their hometown can be heard and seen by thousands over the Internet, and in some cases newcomers can get honest comments about their latest singles.
Shane Black, also known as ShaneRobb, considers himself as many things: singer, composer, promoter and even producer of images. He feels that the rise of digital media, free transmission and even the breach of values can cause and bring about positive changes in the world of music.
Black has always loved music. Growing up listening to famous rappers like OB OBrien and having a music producer for a father taught him that music is about transmitting your message to people. He spent hours in his father’s studio, watching little by little how much the music industry changed over time.
He remembers seeing his father record digitally for the first time. Remember to have seen old computerized sound equipment. What he remembers most, however, is seeing the musicians take on increasing amounts of work as the years pass.
The trend towards the digital era has forced musicians to acquire many skills to compete with each other. It is difficult to see how this can be a positive thing, in reality this tendency empowers artists.
For Black, the constant publication of digital tracks has an important benefit: speed. He believes that a song can lose its potency if its release is delayed. If you lose your key message, no matter what happens, no one will hear it, whether it’s free or not.
If that means maintaining that speed, Black is pleased to assume both musical and non-musical roles. He says that in many cases he and other rappers have to be their own public relations representatives, their own promoters and, often, their own sound mixers. Tired, yes, but in this way, they can reduce costs and even compete with big names without sacrificing that essential speed.
To do it in the music business, as Black sees it, you can not have good music. Artists have to be everywhere all the time. He goes so far as to say that “the spread of word of mouth and viral marketing are more important than anything else.” According to Black, releasing a song for free is usually the only way for someone to be interested in your music. He emphasizes that this can damage profits at the beginning, but almost always recovers the money in the long term.
You can certainly call yourself an optimist. Despite the difficulties of the value gap, he believes that the positive aspects caused by free transmission outweigh the negative ones. These positive aspects can include things as simple as honest comments from non-professionals.
“Sometimes you can not trust your friends, family or even fans to tell you that you are bad,” he says. “People who have nothing to gain by giving constructive criticism or even negative comments keep me humble.” He says that with some success, there will be supporters that fill your ego, but the amount of comments the online community gives him forces him. To grow as an artist
Despite all these changes, Black maintains that “if it is good music, it takes care of itself”. For him, there is no wrong way to create music, but many correct ways to convey his message. If the digital age really is about free downloads, he firmly believes that there will be some way to make it work.
When people think about transmission, they often think about the loss of physical music. This is partly due to the experts who appeared in all the media in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and said that record stores around the world were going to close. In fact, it was not until 2014 that digital music achieved the same sales numbers as physical music.
In 2014, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry published its global study of music sales statistics. They found that digital sales accounted for 46 percent of music revenue, equaling 46 percent of revenue from physical copies.
It also showed that 52 percent of all music is downloaded: a high percentage, yes, but not high enough to erase the physical copies for the time being. In addition, in recent years, the record stores have returned and the vinyl is at its highest point in 28 years. According to an RIAA study, “sales of vinyl records increased 32 percent to $ 416 million, their highest level since 1988.”
Therefore, not all predictions in the music world are correct. No one really knows what the next big trend will be. What we know is that digital broadcasting has contributed to a value gap, and the first step in helping musicians overcome this gap is to learn about it.