There is no doubt about it: the music industry is not what it used to be, and that should be obvious even to the people who have not really examined the data. There was a time not so long ago in which there would be a studio album that everyone and their elderly grandmother would be discussing. Today, there are few artists who are able to actually get that far into the consciousness of the general public. However, many other, smaller artists are now able to achieve the sort of following that they never would have had twenty years ago, in a world where only a few people ever made it and countless people were willing to practically die trying.
People now listen to music through video streaming more than through anything else. Either they stream the music that they want to listen to on websites like Spotify or YouTube, or Pandora finds a lot of great new songs for them. Many people are going to be listening to these songs everywhere on their smartphones or other exciting new devices.
The old days of actually producing large and cumbersome vinyl records seem like they were centuries ago instead of decades ago, and compact disks seem nearly as old as that. People no longer really pay for entire albums. They will stream additional songs, but they are not going to pay for a bunch of songs in order to get the songs that they like.
Record label companies would once more or less pressure their musicians to write additional songs to fill out an album, even if those songs were going to be of low quality compared to the ones that everyone was really going to listen to and the ones that were actually going to be able to make the overall album genuinely popular. There is less of a reason for this development today, since people are going to be streaming individual songs. The songs belong to everyone now and there is less of a sense that people are ever going to be able to own the songs themselves.
Obscure musicians manage to make it onto the scene because they are able to get their potential fans to fund them in the beginning. A huge portion of exciting new musicians have managed to break onto the scene that way. They have managed to build up enough of a following by offering music for free on places like YouTube, and then they pay for their next albums using the techniques of crowd funding. From there, they can be popular and famous musicians in a way that might have rivaled some of the smaller celebrities years ago.
Music sales from the mainstream music producers have been falling for more than ten years. This seems like a mega-trend rather than a response to economic problems, especially since this particular problem managed to precede the Great Recession, and sales of entertainment products have a tendency to actually increase during economic crises of all kinds. Crowd funding is going to be the model of the future if present trends continue.
Part of the value of crowd funding is the simple fact that it manages to effortlessly solve one of the main problems that has been threatening the music industry for more than two decades: piracy. People cannot pirate music that has not been released yet or that is not even in the making. Piracy is a way of getting around the fees for a song that already exists. When people seek out their fans themselves and the fans pay for the music to get made in the first place, that situation is going to be completely different.
Efforts to curb piracy have largely failed. If anything, piracy has only become more of a problem since digital piracy was first identified decades ago. With new technological advances, it isn’t going away. The old business model of the music industry seems to have been one that was killed by piracy and the passage of time and technology. Streaming and crowd funding could put an end to all of that, although these twin practices will completely alter what is left of the traditional music industry.