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What Is Going on Here?

What have you done to my Mix? Where's the 342-input console on the cover? Well, a funny thing happened on the way to our May issue: The music industry

What have you done to my Mix? Where’s the 342-input console on the cover? Well, a funny thing happened on the way to our May issue: The music industry came under attack.

Beginning in late January, a deluge of consumer press — from Wired to U.S. News & World Report to Business Week to The New York Times — predicted the death of the music industry. The arguments all seemed to be variations on a tired theme: CD sales were down, while CD burning was up. File sharing is wired, physical media is tired. The kids have no respect, the labels are dinosaurs. The detractors were many. The solutions offered were few. Then the talk stopped. The media moved on to the next “story of the month.”

Through it all, the one angle the press missed was that the music industry does not exist in a vacuum. Look around today: What industry isn’t suffering? What president or CEO hasn’t gone through consolidation or reorganization? What company isn’t looking for new and inventive ways to make money? Yes, the music industry — as represented by the Big Five — suffered a down-year. And, yes, the pressures from file sharing and new means of distribution have smashed the model that existed for so many years. But the music industry is far from dead.

We in professional audio are both integral to and intertwined with the music industry at large. While tucked away in studios creating and producing — or behind a FOH or monitor board — we are at the same time beholden to consumer behavior. But we are also aligned with the computer industry, the telecom industry, the live event industry, the installed sound industry; if it involves entertainment, we are in the mix. This makes it especially hard to evaluate lags in equipment sales, drooping tour schedules or stagnant studio rates. The challenges facing our industry are far more varied than responding to a “crisis” in the music business. But we thought we’d start there.

So, rather than your usual collection of profiles, projects and announcements, we’ve devoted nearly an entire issue of Mix to the single question: What can save the music industry? We don’t pretend to have all of the answers, and in the following pages, you might wind up with more questions than you came in with. This is a good thing: Everyone involved — whether in manufacturing or A&R, musician or engineer — has a vested interest in these issues. The mutation that is taking place right now in the music industry is very real, and it’s still in its infancy.

No piece of technology, no breakthrough album from a Seattle-like scene and certainly no big label contract is going to save the industry. But some 19-year-old kid might come along and really shake it up. Or some portable download payment scheme might bring the moolah — in $0.05, $0.50 or $0.99 waves — rolling in. Who can tell in 2003 what the industry will look like in 2004? The landscape is changing even as you read this.

So peruse our Special Report, and please take some time to tell us what you think will save the music industry. The time to think creatively is now.