“The sky is falling” -Chicken Little
The music business has been steadily contracting since 2001, the same year I left my band to take an assistant job at a large independent record company. The root causes are many: digital music, file sharing, bad or misguided label A&R, mergers and consolidation within the labels and at radio, the collapse of physical music retail, the popularity of services like SiriusXM and Pandora, and the list goes on. There are varying opinions on what has lead the music biz down this path, but facts are facts. On an inflation-adjusted basis, sales have plummeted by over 70% (or $14B) since 1999 – even though the American population has grown by some 46M over the period (taken from this comprehensive article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/less-money-mo-music-lots-problems-look-biz-jason-hirschhorn)
And at the same time, there is now more music being recorded and made available for commercial sale than ever before.
Oh, you wrote a song? Who cares.
How many songs have been written today? And then how many were recorded? And then how many of them were released on iTunes and stuff? Like a billion.
It’s hard for new music and for the emerging artists of today. Don’t we already have enough music? Haven’t we heard it all already?
But that doesn’t stop these new songs from being written. As the great Lincoln Steffens said, “Nothing is done. Everything in the world remains to be done or done over. The greatest picture is not yet painted, the greatest play isn’t written, the greatest poem is unsung. There isn’t in all the world a perfect railroad, nor a good government, nor a sound law. Physics, mathematics, and especially the most advanced and exact of the sciences are being fundamentally revised. . . Psychology, economics, and sociology are awaiting a Darwin, whose work in turn is awaiting an Einstein.”
And so artists continue to create, most of them with the goal and intention of exposing that creativity to the right audience.
I played in a band for 5 years (1996 to 2001), and initially my goals were to get hammered and impress girls. Those goals remained as I developed my voice a songwriter. Artistry was something that I had to learn and develop after the fact, it did not come easy for me. Ira Glass addresses this beautifully in this video regarding the gap between taste and execution: https://vimeo.com/85040589
For some artists, bridging the gap between taste and execution comes early. For others, it takes time. Time for excellence to emerge.
Everybody wants to be great now, and I don’t blame them. Most things aren’t great right away, though. And even if someone is already great creatively, they may benefit from editing or outside help. It takes a perfect storm to ring the bell true most of the time.
Music matters. Creativity matters. Our desire to create and be excellent in that creation is a powerful connector.
And so I’ve chosen a path as an artist manager. My company works with artists we believe in. We hire people we believe in. And together, we do stuff. And things.
Great music will always find an audience.