Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Music Industry Can't Keep Up With The Internet

We are living in a time where everything you need is a mouse-click away. The emergence of the internet, especially selling music online, has profoundly affected the music industry. As time passes, music is becoming more and more prominently sold through online marketplaces like Rhapsody and iTunes. The internet can be held responsible for the ever rising popularity of the Mp3 format which, due to its convenience, is steadily making compact disks obsolete. Not only has the internet been crucial in the change of the actual format that music is sold in, it has also changed the way music artists are discovered and promoted.

One of the hardest hit institutions within the music industry that has arguably been negatively affected is the monstrously large record companies. The introduction of MySpace music has made it possible for bands that don’t have a record deal to grow a following. Due to the ability to establish a following, these bands are given more leverage in terms of negotiations with record companies. It’s not all bad for the labels; often these companies have been able to find obscure artists and promote these artists through the internet.

Take the band Ok Go for example. Their first record was released in 2002 but didn’t really take off until 2006. The reason for the sudden popularity came with the release of the “Here It Goes Again” video on YouTube. The video soon went viral and as of today has received well over 2 million views. The video gave Ok Go an explosion of popularity and it even won them a Grammy. This is one of the most inspiring examples of the power the internet has to place a relatively unknown band into the forefront of popular culture.

In speaking with Tim Nordwind, the bassist for Ok Go, it was clear that he believed in the significance of the internet’s influence on the music industry. “The internet is certainly an important place for music being discovered these days, whether it’s through music or videos,” said Nordwind over the crackling of the phone he was speaking through. In terms of the ability for music to be freely posted online Nordwind said “Everyone is sort of utilizing the MySpace music pages or any of the other countless ways music can make it online. I think it’s great. I love the fact that the internet is out there so people can discover bands. I mean you could be a little garage band from New Zealand and people in America can listen to your music.”

The more worrisome change for the industry is definitely the ability for smaller labels to develop into significant forces. An Horse is a relatively new band from Australia that has enjoyed wonderful success very early in their career without the help of a major record company. From the strength of their first full record, An Horse has been able to sign label deals and tour Germany, Australia, North America, and Canada. I was lucky enough to sit and discuss some of the recent changes that have happened to record companies with Kate Cooper, the lead singer of An Horse. “It’s become relevant for them to reinvent themselves,” said Cooper. After taking a sip of her beer she continued, “I think record companies are still relevant but maybe the smaller independent ones are more relevant. Some of the people at our label, like the PR and management people, a lot of them used to work for major labels and they’ve said ‘I will never work for a major label again.’ It’s interesting because they are the ones who have seen how relevant or not they’ve become.”

The internet has become a leveling mechanism not only in terms of music but in a lot of ways. The big record labels must concede that this shift in culture has made their smaller peers more of a threat. The internet has had a profound effect on this industry and for the people consuming the products it’s a positive influence.

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