Friday, December 17, 2010

The New Rock-Star Paradigm

Succeeding in the music business isn't just about selling albums

Damian Kulash Jr., lead singer of OK Go on how to make it without a record label, at

OK Go performs at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, above. The band is known as much for its inventive music videos as it is for its music. Wall Street Journal photo

For several decades, though, from about World War II until sometime in the last 10 years, the recording industry managed to successfully and profitably pin it down to a stable, if circular, definition: Music was recordings of music. Records not only made it possible for musicians to connect with listeners anywhere, at any time, but offered a discrete package for commoditization. It was the perfect bottling of lightning: A powerful experience could be packaged in plastic and then bought and sold like any other commercial product.

Then came the Internet, and in less than a decade, that system fell. With uncontrollable and infinite duplication and distribution of recordings, selling records suddenly became a lot like selling apples to people who live in orchards. In 1999, global record sales totaled $26.9 billion; in 2009, that figure, including digital purchases, which now represent 25% of sales (nearly 50% in the U.S.), is down to $17 billion. For eight of the last 10 years, the decline in revenue from record sales has gotten steeper, which is to say the business is imploding with increasing vigor.

Read more here.

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