When was the last time you were in a record store? I used to go once a week. It was fun for me to browse the new releases, peruse the bins of my favorite artists and plow through the used CD’s to see if there was anything that I wanted to pick up. Times change though and that behavior has become as anachronistic as the pocket watch (and yes – I still like pocket watches).
The record industry has experienced more dramatic change in the last 10 years than almost any other category of consumer product. Don’t be confused by that statement because the music industry is indeed a very well defined consumer product, but the advent of digital media has created an entire generation of people that may well never set foot into a record store. A record store, for millions upon millions of people, was an experience in and of itself. It was a way to spend time, and a way to discover new music. Just last week I was dropping off a friend of mine when I was reminded of a song I wanted him to hear. When I played it for him, he mentioned that he hadn’t yet purchased that deluxe edition box set where the song originates from because he didn’t know where to go anymore! The joke was that just when he could have and should have gone to a record store, he didn’t even know where one was anymore.
Numerous articles have been written about how the music industry is dying, but that’s not what I’m here to write about. I’m actually here to raise awareness of the fact that it’s potentially better than ever. From my perspective, the industry is now set to experience a rebirth and a reinvigoration because I feel as though the stars have aligned, but the industry part is getting cut out and the artists are the ones to make the money!
Just look at the way we consume music now. Yes, it’s primarily digital and that means lesser sound quality and a less tactile experience, but that also means the art can come through in many new ways. Artists have the ability to create more immersive cover art than ever before and that can lend value to the experience. Why not create a virtual album cover that is digital video and 3-D rendered while being web based? When you browse through iTunes or Amazon, the primary ways that music is being purchased these days, you can catch the attention of the user with intensely visual artwork if you know how to do it. When you release songs as teasers online, the accompanying assets (video, graphical, flash, audio) are easily shared and passed along by fans and users of all kinds. Remixes and expanded versions are eaten up by online users and interactivity with your art further increases viral consumption. You used to make a mix and pass it along to your friends, now you can pass it along directly and with the right tools you can keep track of that virality!
Music discovery has never been so easy as it is now, with sites and services like Pandora and Spotify. It’s easy to uncover new music, recommend music and “try out” new music before you buy. It’s also easy to unearth rarities and classics from long-forgotten artists allowing them to reach a new audience altogether. And don’t even forget the ease with which users create content, and in that content they can easily integrate music. That music becomes exposed to a new audience and new fans are born!
Your browser and social media are the best record store you could ever hope for. Your friends are the new record store clerks and these services are a revenue stream that never existed before. I know the margins may not be as high as they were, but as the famous words were once spoken, “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”. The labels were fat, drunk and stupid and now they’re paying the price, but the artists are in far more control now than they ever were before.
Which brings me to the last point. The artistry is resurrecting. Some of the new albums from The Gaslight Anthem, The National and Arcade Fire are making me feel good about music again. Even pop albums from Katy Perry and a host of other artists make me feel there is creativity back in the business. So jump back in, feet first, and see what you think. Support the artists who are doing it right and let’s watch what happens!