The state we're in

At the start of Jan I mentioned that there was too much talk, the music industry is a rampant mess of differing opinions. Certain recent debates have begun to back that up, as if it needed confirmation.

Firstly Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy records (home to De La Soul amongst others), gave an interview stating his opinion on how difficult it was to create success for new artists. It’s a lengthy piece broken up into three different sections, echoing a lot of points I’ve been making for a while – but in a more educated and substantiated manner.

To give a couple of highlights he says:

"The labels are getting more cautious. There are two major concerns we have. One is, the labels, both majors and independents are more conservative; they’re not going to take risks on artists or invest in artists just because they hear the demo and they like the songs or just because they can pack a house. That’s not enough – at least not the major labels. They need to know the artist is going somewhere between 30 and 60 miles per hour already to make an investment in it.

One of the things we identified in that three times as many people buy singles as a whole album, it probably doesn’t make any sense to make a whole album, or it’s a waste of time and money in the studio making an album when they’re just getting started, because every artist breaks with one song. And they might as well focus on finding that one song before they waste the money on the album.

The flow of music from artist to fan is going to be more important. It didn’t used to be important because there wasn’t the kind of 24-7 contact between artists and fans. So as you build your fans, they’re not going to be happy with one album every two years anymore. That’s not going to work. After three months, they’re off finding another artist that’s going to take your place. If you want to keep their interest, you have to keep at the top of their consciousness, and that requires new creative on a constant basis".

Tommy quotes Nielsen sales stats to back up his argument, one that has since been countered by Jeff Price from Tunecore, who questions the validity of the numbers.

Meanwhile today’s CMU daily prints the sales stats from the The International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry's Digital Report. It notes the growth in the digital industry – 10% in track downloads, 20% in album downloads but also recognises that the growth is not compensating for the decline in CD sales. Overall revenues were down 12% in the first half of 2009, and the record industry has seen a sales slump of some 30% since the launch of iTunes.

Everyone does seem to agree that single track downloads are the significant future growth area, it still appears to me that musicians are not responding to that need. It seems slightly ironic that ‘evil’ labels used to force bands to try and produce more hit singles, to generate airplay and coverage. Frequently the artist community used to resist, now it would appear that it’s the market that’ll force the issue. Perhaps it was always this way.