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No Music For You!

If you have the faintest interest in music, the music industry or maybe even economy you probably know that the crazy Brits in Radiohead released their seventh album, “In Rainbows” yesterday.

Even though the fans have been waiting for over four years since “Hail to the Thief”, what’s really special about this album is that the download version is available at whatever price you as a punter feel it’s worth. Personally I think that you should be able to decide what the album is worth after you have listened to it, though.

Anyway, it’s a great idea, and lately we’re seeing more and more artists leaving their respective record companies to start distributing their music independently. But all the artists you hear about that do this are big names in the industry – they’ve got all the money they’ll ever need anyway. How will new bands and solo artists do without the record companies and their huge marketing budgets?

Yes, I have heard of this “internet”, but keep in mind that the attention span of the average internet users is about the same as that of a gold fish. How long will it take before we see a great new band rise to the stars that appeals to the masses, is able to release at least two successful albums before they crash and burn and accomplish it exclusively through the internet and their own efforts and not by the help of a record company?

I’m not sure if it’ll ever happen. The record industry did not get where they are today by being stupid. Record companies as we know them today might vanish, but they will rise again on the internet. Having left the CD behind, they will focus only on digital distribution through downloads, they will infiltrate the social music networks and orchestrate ingenious marketing campaigns as the one Nine Inch Nails played out when releasing their latest album.

And the record industry will continue to earn lots and lots of money.

Let’s face it, the average artist will need help. Just take a look at Radiohead, for instance – hardly average artists, but they could still need some help. The online store they had slapped together one night before the release is a usability nightmare. With the risk of tripping out from the colors, you have to go walk through quite the internet adventure to buy the digital download. You even have to create an account before you can buy anything, something that probably stops at least half of the impulse buyers. Even without a degree in economics I’m able to identify it as A Really Bad Idea. On top of that, the site is so slow it normally takes at least three minutes from you click a button until something happens. This probably scares away the other half of the impulse buyers.

When I finally – after several failed attempts – reached the checkout page I managed to enter the wrong CAPTCHA string, which resulted in an empty basked and a message telling me to head back to start. I went through everything again, and another 15 minutes later I once again tried to reach the checkout page, only to be greeted by this message time and time again:

radiohead

My basket only contained one download and I had never been able to successfully confirm my previous purchase. In the end I gave up downloaded the album from some site on the internet without paying a nickel. So much for a good idea. Maybe I’ll try again some other day if the site ever gets stable.

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  1. The record companies we have today will most likely vanish. I don’t think any of them have the grips, wits or competency to do what’s necessary to turn the trend and make the ties in the board room understand that digital music is best served digitally, as bits on a wire, downloaded off the great interweb.

    Some of them might make it, some of them won’t, but those who do will look completely different “on the other end”. I think we will see less and less of these huge, monetized one-stop music machineries, and instead see more specialized shops where you can hire a studio to do cheap recordings, another place where you can publish your songs and a third place where you can advertise for them in relevant channels. (Continued because of the stupid 1000 characters per comment limit)

  2. I think the Internet is sufficient. I think less power to a lot of more participants in the music ecosystem is only a good thing and sites like YouTube has shown that it takes almost nothing to reach a dedicated audience that will actually pay money to hear or see whatever it is you’re producing.

    You might say that the birth of the record companies was the best thing that ever happened to music, but I think their death will be just the same.

  3. Well said. The recording companies as we know them today are likely to vanish, but they will only go to Hell to regroup and surface again elsewhere. Someone has to run those community sites and I would be very surprised if some large record company isn’t considering grabbing one of the major sites already.

    You might say that the current owners won’t let that happen, but at the end of the day it’s all about the Benjamins.