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How the Modern Music Business Works

By ASKM Publishing

Top 7 Ways the Music Business is Different in the Modern Day Era

Being a new artist in today’s music business may have one thinking the current practices are normal or was always around. Being a veteran or established artist in today’s music business makes one realize 2 things. Either you have to change with the modern times or you have to accept how different things are and gracefully “bow out.” For artists who are serious about his or her craft and want to be successful in the music industry it’s important to know where and how things have changed. Here are 7 ways the music business is different in the modern day era.

The no-need for major labels in the music business

 

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Listing of major labels in the music business whose popularity are greatly declining.

When the music business initially started everything was about it was embedded in major labels. Major record labels ran the music industry. Major record labels were the only avenue artists had to become successful in the music business. An aspiring artist would love to get offered a deal by a major label. However, in this day and time major labels are quickly becoming a lack of need for artists and the music business within itself. This is due to the popularity of independent artists, social media, streaming and digital downloads. To up and coming artists this may seem normal, but to artists who have been involved in the music business for over 10 years this seems surprising.

The rise of independent artists

This is a very popular music business practice that only occurred during the recent modern day times. Back in the day even in relative recent years like 7-10 years ago being an indie artist was not a popular thing in the music business. Sure there were some artists who were independent but it was a very small selection. Every singer, rapper, producer, songwriter, etc wanted to get signed to a label. That was everyone’s main goal who was pursuing music. Even if someone started out as an independent artist he or she didn’t want to stay independent. They wanted to eventually be signed to a major music label. However, in today’s music industry being an indie artist is the way to go. Not only is it popular it’s actually what most artists inspire to be. Nowadays if someone is an independent artist he or she desires to stay that way. They no longer want to “work their way up” into becoming a major label artist. The rise of independent artist is due to a lot of reasons. Here are some reasons listed:

  • The decline of major music labels (this and independent artists sort of goes hand and hand).
  • The increasing popularity of digital music (downloads, streaming, YouTube, etc.).
  • The super fast rate the internet and modern technology grew.
  • The current success rate of independent artists.
  • The great decline of music sales for cd’s and other mechanicals.

The amazing rise of social media

No one thought social media was going to take off and skyrocket the way it did. Yes people thought it was a good idea and thought the youth would be interested. However, many projected the process would be gradual. This was simply not the case. Social media and the internet itself accelerated into extreme popularity overnight. For the music business and careers in the music business this meant several things. For inspiring artists this meant you know had an avenue to promote and sale your music. Many of today’s artist have done marketing solely based on social media. This can certainly work in their favor. However, a handful of years ago this was simply unheard of. Social media has become the new marketing department, A&R department and fan-based building arena for independent artists.

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Icons of popular social media sites that have become very beneficial to today’s music business.

No more demo shopping

In today’s music industry there really is no such thing as “shopping a demo” anymore. When the music industry was 1st established and even years later into the music industry this was very popular. Shopping a demo was the way to go. Most artists would save up every dime they had to create a masterpiece demo that would blow record executives away, then start to shop it. However, in this day and age with the massive success of social media, digital music, online marketing and indie artists there is no such thing as demo shopping anymore. This ties in with the decline of major labels, the death of album sales and the success of being an independent artist. If you’re independent and building your own platform what do you need a demo for? If most artists aren’t looking to get signed to a major label why have a demo to even consider shopping to a major label? This isn’t to say there are no artists signed to or affiliated with major labels. However, they’re not getting signed the old-fashioned way which is through shopping a demo. Artists who are on major labels nowadays get noticed via social media or a personal referral, not through shopping a demo.

The death of hardcopy purchases

 

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The days were hardcopy albums would sale like Michael Jackson’s legendary Thriller (the biggest selling album of all time) are officially over due to streaming and digital downloads.

Another practice in the music business that was very popular at one point but has greatly declined in recent years are the sale of hardcopies. With that I’m referring to the sale of physical cd’s, tapes and other mechanical merchandise. During the glory days of the music business selling cd’s and other vinyls was the number one source to hear an artist’s music. Selling millions and millions of hardcopy records was every artist dream and number one goal. In recent years the popularity of cd’s and hardcopies have greatly declined. There are still moderate sales of cd’s. However, the number one avenue listeners go to to hear and purchase music is through digital downloads. This includes platforms such as Spotify, Tidal, YouTube and many more. The reason behind this new phenomena is due to many reasons. Some are listed below:

  • The decline of major labels cause the distribution of cd’s to decrease.
  • The great increase of digital music as mentioned earlier.
  • The skyrocketing popularity of the internet and social media.

Building your own fan base

Since the decline of major labels and A&R is at an all-time high this also means the decline of building a fan base. That was one of the perks of being signed to a major label. The major label would finance your entire career. This includes building your fan base. Back in the day your fan base was built for you based on how you were marketed and promoted by music industry execs. In today’s music business you are your own marketing which means you have to build your own fan base. This is a very common task for independent artists. Indie artist have to build their own fan base from scratch. I don’t say this to discourage anyone from being an independent artist. It’s an amazing and fulfilling route to take. However, just be prepared to work twice as hard to build an authentic fan based.

No more artist development

            Perhaps the biggest change in the music business is the fact that there’s no more artist development. During the prime of the music business when an artist was signed to a label (whether major or independent label) they had to undergo artist development. This meant the artist went under a training process of artist development. The artist was groomed for the public and potentially superstardom by the record label. The artist development process required A&R assistance, management assistance, PR (public relations) training and more. Now the music industry and the record labels want the artist to come to them already developed. They no longer want to take the time out to groom the artist themselves. This may be the only change in the music business I would personally give my opinion on. The decline of artist development hurts the artist. It separates the legends from the common artist. With artist development the singer, rapper, performer, etc. understood the importance of PR, stage etiquette, how to conduct themselves in an interview and so much more. Now that artist development is gone there are so many artists branding and marketing themselves without a proper system.

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Motown records was largely popular and known for its extensive artist development training a feature that’s no longer available in today’s music business

Any field or area that generates money and has an audience will go through changes. Even when the music industry still had its founding fundamentals there were still changes happening every certain amount of years. There’s nothing wrong with change. You as the artist just have to know which changes are occurring and how to benefit off of them.

 

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