23 April 2008


The demand for, and consumption of, digital music is going through frantic change. Digital technology may have made distribution of music easy, through online and mobile channels, but unfortunately for the music industry, most consumers have opted for a free download rather than a paid one. According to a recent IFPI report, “Tens of billions of illegal files were swapped in 2007. The ratio of unlicensed tracks downloaded to legal tracks sold is about 20 to 1.”

In the 15 April 2008 issue of The Moment, Rosecrans Baldwin reports in The Digital Ramble: A Tour of Art and Space, “In an interview in Wired, David Byrne foretells the future for the music business, and perhaps all media, when he says the artists and the audience are now in charge, and everybody’s cyber-frantic.”

There’s wisdom in David Byrne’s words, for the music industry, globally, has indeed turned topsy-turvy. The recording companies and their labels have lost their hold on the market and the consumers. It looks like nobody’s buying CDs/albums anymore, preferring to go digital, downloading music piecemeal in MP3, iTunes, Real Media or other digital formats – mostly without paying for the music.

[I had blogged about this a year ago.]

Illegal downloading is rampant. Just download Limewire or a similar software (available free on the Net) onto your computer, choose your music, and download for free from your peers across the world. Millions of music enthusiasts are doing exactly this every day (or night), helping to bring the legitimate music business crashing down.

Would this mean the end of the music business? Perhaps. Perhaps not. David Byrne explains the situation rather lucidly:

“What is called the music business today, however, is not the business of producing music. At some point it became the business of selling CDs in plastic cases, and that business will soon be over. But that’s not bad news for music, and it’s certainly not bad news for musicians. Indeed, with all the ways to reach an audience, there have never been more opportunities for artists.”

[Citation: 1. IFPI press release, 24 January 2008. 2. The Digital Ramble: A Tour of Art and Space, Rosecrans Baldwin, The Moment, blogs.nytimes.com, 15 April 2008. 3. David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars, Wired, 18 December 2007.]


Madhuri said...

I have not gone through the whole article, but based on what you have quoted, I think Mr. Byrne is missing on an important factor - who pays this artist? Certainly not the cyber-frantic down-loader? May be the recording company will be the primary loser, but even the artist cannot hope to earn from a user-share community.
I am not against this downloading. I think the media companies keep a prohibitive mark-up which has made music very expensive. But in its place there should be a replacement revenue model. Piracy is not the correct solution even if we often restore to it.

runawaysun said...

@ Madhuri

My latest post, 'The music industry finds its own solutions', may offer a few explanations.

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