Industry Growth, Sometimes Like Fungus

10 05 2007


By Derek Beres

One of the truly sad displays of grown-up juveniles with too much power and not enough to say has been coming from the RIAA and their clients, otherwise known as the “Big Five” record labels. On an extremely basic level, when they claim that they are losing twenty billion dollars (or whatever their number-of-the-week is), how is that even possible? How can one “lose” what one never had? It’s like the USPS claiming they are going bankrupt “because of” e-mail and the Internet. There’s two different things going on, and the previous power-that-was tries to stand tight to their platform by making false accusations. The problem is that everyone is looking at another stage.

Well, problem for them, at least. When I read reports like this one from eMarketer, my skepticism of their false wolf cries grows exponentially.  The subtitle, “Dancing to a New Beat,” says it all: in order to stay on top of the game, you have to evolve. There is nothing intelligently designed about that; it’s the nature of business. Firstly:

Sales of CDs, which currently account for 55% of the industry’s total revenues, will continue to decline sharply, falling to 29% of the overall business by 2011. On the other hand, digital music has been growing exponentially in the past few years and is expected to continue on a healthy growth trajectory, reaching $14.8 billion in worldwide revenues by 2011.

This is otherwise known as a “transition.” It’s kind of like growing pains, that awkward phase of life where teens trying to look five years older than they are have to deal with acne, braces and a blossoming, tickling feeling down under. Thing is, that feeling doesn’t stop, especially in an industry like music, where they suck the lifeline dry.  The article continues:

“Whereas in the past, rock musicians tended to view commercial associations as ‘sellouts,’ today the media landscape is rife with name artists who have attached themselves to top brands: U2 and the Apple iPod, Bob Dylan and Victoria’s Secret, Robbie Williams and T-Mobile — and the list goes on.”

So while Akon isn’t getting the Verizon love anymore, the message remains clear: associate yourself with a brand, and you may be “saved” the tragedy of the industry. But the tragedy only remains such until the big players regain their successes. The sad truth is that they’re already in control of what they need to be. The smokescreens are a distraction. Every industry changes, and the most efficient way to maintain control is to make people think you’re losing it. While it is true that the Internet and digital distribution has leveled the playing field a bit, there are still way more of us in the trenches than on top of the hill. What we really need is an earthquake to level out the land.




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