Napster seems so long ago. Really. A dotcom boom has come and gone and come again. A computer-industry visionary snuck in and changed the music industry. CD sales tanked, but there was hope in videogames, and later Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Kids were sued for piracy, but the Boss could still count on Platinum sales. But then the credit crisis hit, and it became shockingly apparent that the recording industry was much more a part of the Big Picture than any of us have been willing to admit.
Professional audio has long been interdependent with the computer industry and the greater entertainment industry, but mainly from a production standpoint. As long as music sold, the recording chain was fed. Artists booked engineers and together they booked studios; studios bought equipment, vintage and bleeding edge; manufacturers built the equipment out of passion and for commerce; and ads were bought in magazines like Mix. When music sold, all was well.
But production is not the issue. Today it’s all about distribution. Make no doubt about it: The future shape of every aspect of the recording industry will be tied to how media is distributed, and the comfortable recording-mastering-pressing-shipping pipeline is as old as the 45 in an iPod world.
As the Mix editors gathered at the end of last year to discuss 2009, and this issue specifically, the overall economy was in shambles. So we asked ourselves, in this crazy mixed-up world where “free” is considered good business and a pickup on Facebook can do more than a $2 million marketing campaign; where we’re reading books called Wikinomics and The Long Tail to understand music; and where Twitter can change our sense of “must-have” and redefine hype, at least until the Next Big Thing: How does anybody get noticed? How does anybody get heard? How does anybody get paid?
There are no correct answers, of course. We raise the issues in the following pages, but what works in Dallas might not work in Des Moines. A producer’s distribution tour experience in Boston might give a band an idea in Phoenix. It’s scary, but it’s wide open. And whether it’s a free download promotion or a paying gig, a Webisode on spec or a song on Call of Duty IV, distribution is the key. And the Big Answer will come from the community, not a boardroom. Count on it.
You don’t need to look farther than your morning paper to know the media has been slammed by the downturn. And Mix is not immune. Sarah Jones, for the past 13 years a fixture in the Tuesday morning Mix editorial meeting and for the past year-and-a-half the editor, was let go in April as part of an overall company reorganization.
These kind of realities hit hard, as they have throughout our industry. Sarah was a fixture in the industry, and though she got her start here at Mix covering software and production tools, she grew and developed an overall sense of the industry, and of publishing, that led to her posting as editor. We at Mix will miss her keen eye, her solid judgment and her office-filling laugh. Best of luck, Sarah.