Mark Mulligan posted a useful article on 29 Feb Is the UK Music Industry Sleepwalking into a CD Crisis? He classifies buyers in the usual way and explores possible industry-centred solutions. But things look very different from the artist’s point of view.
First of all the CD collapse is not a UK music industry problem, it’s a Major record label problem, and there’s no guarantee their traditional cash cow will ever come back in any form. I have written about that before.
But something else changed profoundly in the world of megastar albums. As deals got better they stopped making two a year, and as labels’ PR got better they filled albums with tracks nobody really wanted. As soon as the fans had an alternative they went for it. That’s why single sales are up and album sales are down.
So maybe this isn’t a problem about digital formats—maybe it’s a problem with quality and quantity of music. If megastars made more and better singles perhaps the problem would disappear. After all, fans used to buy more tracks.
There are two examples which suggest this might be true. Rihanna is one of the few current megastars who stepped up production. Her team saw the move away from albums and switched emphasis—with Rihanna’s fans—to singles. That has undoubtedly worked. (Of course, the blame for infrequent releases doesn’t lie entirely with artists—managers at big labels think and work in years rather than weeks.)
Then there’s the DIY and indie sector where we also see growth. These acts never had the luxury of big venues and a big record every three years, so they are ideally suited to a world where fans have access and work-rate means income.
Maybe the answer is music streaming into every living room but I don’t see that happening. I don’t see people asking for that. I see them supporting artists who gig regularly and make more great tracks worth buying. That is what’s happening.