Modern “pop” music (pop here meaning popular music broadly, instead of focusing on the pop genre alone) is struggling to compete with other media or entertainments in the nowadays information-boom age. It goes beyond doubt that pop music has become more and more similar, as controlled by the big record corporations so that they can guarantee their revenues. Just by randomly browsing YouTube or online forums, it is impossible to not come across people saying how much they hate modern pop music and miss the “good old days” when great music were produced. Such trend of bashing modern pop music seems to happen since the internet was born, and hopes seem grim to see any drastic changes. However, contrary to public beliefs, I genuinely think that in the next 5-10 years, pop music can regain interest as well as revenue from music fans that miss the “good old days”. My prediction on this trend is based on the ease of producing music with improving technologies, the growth of music streaming platform, and the change of revenue sources for artists.
Ease of production
Ever since the born of DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations), making music has become increasingly easy. With endless hours of tutorials of DAW operations on the internet, everyone can learn how to record and produce music up to par. Comparing to the past when it is impossible to produce music without expensive and bulky analog gears, indie musicians can only try their luck in clubs to see whether a producers would come out and ask them to record demos in studios or sign a contract with the record companies. While professional studios still hold their values of producing music with the best qualities, indie musicians are given opportunities to present themselves with a minimal cost using a home studio set up. Judging by my personal experience, it is entirely possible to produce an indie album with gears below 1000$ and enough time.
(The most popular music platform in the US - Business insider)
Music streaming platform
While on one hand, the cost of music production has gone down drastically, on the other hand, the cost of distribution has also gone down. Music streaming platform like Spotify and google play has grown in subscription number, while other media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook as easily accessible option are also available. Artists can now make their music available for everyone within minutes, and without going through legal processes and the physical production processes of singles and albums. This is completely beyond imagination just two decades ago, the rapid change of music production and distribution processes is the reason why the business insiders fail to maintain their revenue.
Change of Revenue
The only problem with releasing music now is not receiving enough revenue. The stories of multi-platinum albums are definitely not happening again anytime soon. However, the major income source for artists have shifted from record sales to live performances and merchandise sales. Although music streaming platforms pay much less than record sales, there is also a growing recognition from music fans of the fact that, “artists have to eat as well”. Furthermore, online music store sales such as Bandcamp and ITunes store also showed growth, showing that the public is more willing to support intellectual properties with the ease of today’s online music purchase. Music fans may not want to purchase physical records anymore, but they are still willing to show their support elsewhere.
All in All, in my opinion, the big record corporations are the ones to blame for the devastation of music business, in which their ignorance of age shift around two decades ago killed a lot of talented artists. What’s done is done. However, I stay optimistic for the future music industry. If artists can adapt to the new ecosystem of music, they will still be able to make a living.
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Graham, P. (2013). Music streaming revenue structures stacked against artists
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IFPI (n.d.). Global Statistics — IFPI — Representing the recording industry worldwide.
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