It’s the end of the recorded music business as we know it

Not a surprise, I know, but the graphs in this article are still eye-opening. Short version: the recorded music business makes its money from albums; people don’t buy albums any more.





0 responses to “It’s the end of the recorded music business as we know it”

  1. mupwangle

    There’s an interesting dip in single sales at the start of last decade which coincides with the period where most CD singles were 1 track and 3 remixes instead of b-sides and where albums started to be 7 or 8 singles plus a couple fillers.

  2. I believe single sales also took quite a hit when some bloody eejit decided that dance music had an unfair advantage over rock (this when Oasis were the biggest band in the country) and disallowed any single with more than three tracks from chart inclusion. I bought hundreds of singles in the mid-to-late 90s — one or two quid for something the length of an album? Hell yeah. Then they changed the rules and suddenly we were being offered the magical chance to buy three copies of one single, each at full price, if we wanted all the music the industry had been demonstrating to us they could profitably sell us at a third of the price. So I stopped. I’m sure I’m not alone.

    And then they blame the Internet.

  3. Should clarify that. The point about multiple remixes is that most remixers charge sod all by the standards of how much a record company spends on a single. And the CD costs much the same to produce and distribute no matter how many tracks are on it. So what was happening in the 90s was that artists had come up with an incredibly cheap way to increase revenue by making the product better value and more attractive — which is no doubt why rock bands were beginning to do it as well as dance acts. And the industry killed it.

  4. gary

    I think, too, it coincides with the rise of database marketing and too-early release to radio. Everything became geared towards first-week sales, with eight weeks or more between radio release and retail, twin singles with one different track in each release, first week-only discounts etc. the result? songs dropping to number 83 after a single week at number one.

    I may be talking out of my arse, but it feels true :) I do know that if it weren’t for digital, there wouldn’t be singles either, though. Pre-iTunes, they were fucked.

  5. mupwangle

    Looking at the figures it could be construed – if you had no knowledge of industry practice – that itunes/digital downloads killed the music industry. Knowing the business practices that Gary mentions – it’s hard to have any sympathy with them. They had access to these figures. For example, the radio release/retail release thing didn’t change until they saw the sales figures for x-factor FFS.

  6. Quite.

    Here’s a thing. When Rank Xerox launched the first photocopier — that’s the first crappy smudgy black-and-white-and-no-shades-of-grey copier — the Bank of England set up a team whose job it was to prepare for the day when photocopiers would get good enough for forging. The Bank have ever since bought whatever is the best and most expensive copier on the market and given it to that team, who have been at the forefront of “things copiers can’t do” research. That’s the right approach to new technology that threatens your business plan.

    The record companies knew they had a technological monopoly (just like the Bank of England did on printing), would have known, had they bothered thinking about it for more than a second, that every technological monopoly the world has ever seen has been temporary, and yet it never once occurred to them to have any sort of contingency plan. And now these fuckwits want our taxes to pay for the shortcoming of their “business” “plan”.

  7. Gary

    The book publishing industry is going to be royally stuffed too – worse than music, because there’s no equivalent of live music to fall back on.

  8. Book festivals? Author evenings with discussions and/or book signings? Generally selling “access” to the author? Selling roles in a book? Author sponsorship by the readers?

    I think with a bit of creativity there are ways to have some kind of equivalent to live music and other things praised as the future for the music industry.

  9. Gary

    Many book festivals don’t pay the authors, and even the ones that do aren’t comparable in scale to live music: even seated, Hall 4 of the SECC holds 8,000 people (offhand I think it’s 12,500 standing) paying £30 to £40 a pop – and on a tour that’s replicated across a whole bunch of dates. With all due respect to my favourite authors, I don’t think they’ll be filling stadiums anytime soon :)

    I think you’re right at the lower end of the industry, but I think that as with music time is going backwards: fiction is something you do in your spare time, with a day job paying the bills. It’s like that before e-publishing hits: average full time writer earns about five grand a year tops.