Thursday, June 25th, 2009 at 4:10 pm
Check out THIS ARTICLE from hypebot.com (my best source for music industry news):
It’s a whole rundown of how the Recording Industry (and specifically Major Labels) are, have been, and will continue to off themselves in today’s climate:
Basically, the idea is that
1) at a certain point, industry execs stopped caring about the quality of the product (nurturing and developing talent over years of touring, studio time and multiple albums etc), and started working solely in terms of marketability and profitability (which used to go hand in hand with creativity and quality). With easy access to MTV and commercial radio, there was a simple system in place for blowing up a popular artist.
2) This gave way to the meteoric rise of modern pop stars, see: boy bands (N’Sync, Backstreet Boys) and Brittney Spears (among many others)… In conjunction with file-sharing culture, this led to a de-valuation of the product (because who is honestly going to tell me that more artistry, creativity and passion went into a Ricky Martin album than a George Clinton album), and in a culture where people (rapidly) consume music for free, a quick fix that’s popular for a month or two is acceptable as long as it clears the bottom line.
3) This devaluation of the product/project, coupled with the transition to the digital format (mp3s, file sharing, napster etc), led to the dramatic shortening in time/length that it takes an artist to sink or swim. The slow grind, years of touring etc, that saw bands like the Roots go from underground obscurity to signing to Def Jam to being on late night TV, now all has to happen in a few months/weeks… see Kid Cudi, Lady Gaga and now Drake… and all these other artists who rise to stardom quickly before they really have a chance to put in a “career”
This in turn created a “throw-away” culture, where people download albums or songs, listen to them, and if they don’t like them they drag them into their trash. Even if you do like a song, if it’s a pop song that you just downloaded because you heard it on the radio or in the club, after a certain amount of time (which this article argues is getting shorter and shorter), you throw it away anyway…
Now my question is what’s the solution? I like the subscription model for mobile, because it caters to the demand for instant gratification of wanting to hear that poppy song you heard on the radio or in the club immediately, but it doesn’t privlege “owning” that song over having classic albums in your “catalog” And let’s be honest, at least for me, there’s a place in my heart for soulja boy on the late night (pause) as much as for some weird left-field or old school joints that have real “class and quality” in my book.
Still… I don’t really see a subscription model (even if it does take off) creating opportunities for long-term development because if swaggin and surfin is hot this month, then that’s what’s going to get listened to, and that’s what will receive a disproportionate slice of that subscription money, which won’t really lead labels to change their thinking. The touring game is the traditional slow build, but with bands like The Jonas Brothers and companies like Live Nation plugging them directly into the teen machine, I don’t really see this changing the game. The truth is, in the internet age, things move fast, and the real new test for an artist isn’t can they gain the spotlight, it’s what do they do with it once it’s shining on them. Kid Cudi. put out a dope mixtape. what’s he gonna do now? MGMT (I know not many cats on here are feeling indie rock), but they are KILLING it right now with their album. What’s their next project going to do? This is a question we’re constantly asking up here: what’s going to happen to the XXL Freshman Class… will they sink or swim, and isn’t it amazing that the hottest young rappers one year, can be nowhere the next.
Stay tuned, because next week, everything may be different.