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Selling Music on the Internet - Good or Bad?


Gerd Leonhard is director of Berklee Music, in the United States. He beleives that the music industry and the recording industry will change radically over the next few years. He believes that the new media will eliminate traditional companies of the recording industry.

Even though I agree that the way music will be sold and distributed to the end user will suffer changes, I think that musicians will become more anonymous instead of becoming household names and will suffer financially in the long term.

If musicians who think recording companies are already abusing on the cashing in on their talent, they should wait for the internet to go into full throttle!

The recording companies will continue recording and selling physical products (like CDs) and at the same time will have these products in digital format on the internet (like Apple) with the same sound quality, MP3, Ogg Vorbis and any other type of musical archive that comes along. This way the companies will capture both markets, physical and digital.

Of course the companies will have to reduce the number of workers employed in the distribution of the physical product.

Non recording companies today (CD Baby etc.), store independent music on their servers ready to be sold. Of course with a platform the size of the internet and specialized programs, raises the chance of anyone recording their own compositions in their own home on their computer and upload this music to the net. So be quick! Because, while the number of "musicians" is rising, the consumer market is stable, or, at least is growing at a slower pace.

I beleive the internet will reach a saturation point where there will be more music (and a lot of it bad) than the market can hold.

If the number of musicians rises, the competition will rise also, but not for the resale companies! For each music they sell they receive a percentage. If they sell my music, or your music, for the company it's not important, the companys' percentage is guaranteed.

It's the musicians that will need to divide the cake into thinner slices simply because of volume. They will also become less important for the companies because of the exaggerated numbers. When the supply rises, the price falls starting a good old vicious circle. Imagine if every CD recorded throughout the whole of time were put into one shop in your towns' high street. Think of the pandemonium of you searching for a good song in a certain musical style, so many names, so many songs and the majority low quality. Would you listen to all of the CDs in the shop? Would you really have time to do this? An example that could show this well is when you search on Google. How many pages result from your search? Millions. How many pages would you visit? I imagine two or three, or until you find the specific information that you were looking for. How many pages will you ignore?

Sure, the internet will facilitate access in delivery terms of an online purchase, but songs will have to compete with billions of others within their niche, not to mention mainstream!

I believe that to maintain their market position, the major recording companies need to offer nothing more than excellent quality in the production of digital music as their differential and at the same time make their artists more accessible physically to the public to reinforce the brand (the name of the artist).

In the world of physical CDs, an artist would conquer a physical area of the market (Europe, United States etc.) and after look for secondary markets (those that pay less) using the marketing of the recording company. The recording companies need to act faster because the market is in constant movement and is changing conform technology tools like the internet.

In the future with even more movement of the internet, the new artist will be distanced even more from the consumer and will be more responsible for their communication between their product and the end user (the listener) through blogs, websites, forums and conference calls in a unique global market.

Will it be that this new world will reduce the personality of the artist? Will it be that with this new media, instrumentalists will become a thing of the past? Will it be that the consumer will behave in a totally different way than they do today?

Of course with new systems there will be casualties. History has shown who won (and who lost!) when new concepts entered into the commercial market. Remember the different types of video tapes (VHS e Beta Max), 8 track cartridges, 12" DVDs? Companies like Sinclair and Laker Airways are things of the past after they were daring enough to bring new concepts and ideas to the market.

Personally I would like to think that the listener still likes to watch a good musical show with real instruments and in the future the consumer would still like to visit their favourite shop in their town to buy a music product in the form of a CD.


Steve Allen

Steve Allen is consultant and music producer.

Author of "Marketing Your Music – Success Strategies", "Personal Management in the Music Industry" and "Street Teams – Expand your Fan Base"



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