The music industry is dying a slow, painful death and most of their problems can be laid right at their own doorstep. For the past ten years we've all witnessed a digital revolution which is out-pacing the legacy music industry. Yet, instead of innovation and creative change, what do we see the music industry engaging in? Futile protectionist tactics and bullying like suing music fans for downloading content, wrangling with ISPs over p2p networks, shutting down guitar tablature sites, harassing online radio broadcasters and threatening online music download sites that don't sell music at the proper "price" or pay them the outrageous fees they continue to charge for their copyrighted content.
The underhanded practices that they've gotten away with are legion. We all know how most early artists, especially black artists, were mercilessly ripped off by the music industry and this practice continues today. All of that copyrighted content that they charge outrageous fees for came from great artists that were never properly paid for their brilliant music. Yet, woe to the pour soul who doesn't pay these ridiculously high fees to the music industry. The big multi-million dollar artists we see getting all of the big bucks are in the minority. The majority of music artists who sign on to a label often find themselves in deep financial debt and under slave-like contracts for years and hardly get much support from the label. It is almost impossible for them to get out of these contracts which are stacked against them in the first place and they find their music doesn't really belong to them. Touring is where they have to make their money in order to pay the label back. Some artists make it, many don't.
One of the things that has always irked me about the industry is the price-fixing and price-gouging that they've gotten away with for too long. As a music fan myself there were many times in the past that I felt compelled to buy an album for nearly twenty dollars because I wanted to hear one or two hit songs on the album - only to find that the hit song(s) were the only songs I felt were worth listening to. Almost twenty bucks down the drain. It used to be that you could buy cassette singles or 45's in the old days. Then they began phasing those out and forcing people into a position where they had to buy an entire album instead of just a single but here's the rub: the music industry is the very industry that whipped people into a frenzy over the "Hit Song" model. Ever since rock 'n' roll got started it was always about the hit song! Many artists can make a decent hit song but then fill the rest of the album with junk. Why should people be forced to buy an entire album if they don't want to? Especially if they have been conditioned to only want to listen to hits songs? Whose fault is that? It's a rip-off. I won't even go into the rampant payola issues that continue to this day.
Now we come to it: the corrupt, greedy practices they've benefited from for decades has bitter consequences and those consequences have now come home to roost. Music piracy has them running scared and fighting a battle waged on them on all sides. Music piracy is wrong but as far as I'm concerned the music industry has itself to blame for it. Many music fans have said enough is enough. Why pay twenty bucks a pop for a cd of dubious musical merit or why buy an entire album? Why do people in America pay under twenty dollars per cd while many in Europe have to pay more for the exact same content? Other companies like the now defunct Allofmp3.com, iTunes, CD Baby, Podsafe Music Network, numerous p2p sites and have picked up the baton and have decided to go where the digital revolution is taking them leaving the legacy music industry behind in the dust. No amount of chasing down Russian mp3 music sites, suing people left and right, installing rootkits on cds and international bullying will change the fact that the music industry is made up of unimaginative people who either can't or won't evolve and innovate. Things are changing. Talented new artists and bands are finding that they don't really need anyone else to promote them and get their music out there.They can do it themselves through MySpace, Facebook or through their own personal blogs. They can create their own podcasts and promote them online, build their own local contacts. They are finding that they can produce their own albums through great tools like Garageband, press their own cds make their own cd artwork or simply sell their albums online by mp3. In the first time in a very long time artists have the power to make and promote their own music in the way that they want to without interference from an industry trying to force them into a certain mold, trying to force them to make some insipid hit song and putting them into debt once they sign a contract. Speaking as a music fan, I can say that I rarely listen to commercial radio. I usually find new music from public or community radio or through different online sources.
As I said previously, the problems the music industry is experiencing are self-inflicted. It's karma for all the dirty practices they've gotten way with for decades. They've weighed upon everyone like a useless albatross. We had an industrial revolution over one hundred years ago. Businesses that couldn't innovate back then folded. The same thing is happening now. Most people see the music industry fighting an uphill battle. Sure they've managed to frighten some people with their tactics but this won't stop the revolution and they've spent so much energy in trying to fight it instead of learning how to profit from it that they are now behind too far behind to truly catch up. The digital revolution is here to stay and you know what? I think that everyone is better off without that albatross.