Six years ago, in Mix‘s May 2003 issue, our cover asked the question, “What Can Save the Music Industry?” There was much fretting and consternation about peer-to-peer downloading, the precipitous collapse of the major record labels, the inferior sound of MP3, the near-evaporation of the great middle market in recording studios and the general malaise that seemed to be seeping into every corner of the business like some sinister gas released from a super-villain’s high-tech arsenal. And that was five years before what has become the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
But a funny thing happened on the way to abject despair and sure ruination: A lot of people figured out ways to survive, cope and even thrive. The music industry changed — evolved, as it always has — and a lot people learned how to confront and even embrace the new realities of the Internet/digital age. Sure, there were casualties along the way (with more to come) and plenty of collateral damage, but by working smarter and being more open to alternative business models — some of which seem to fly in the face of traditional ways of working and making money in the music industry — many have discovered ways to navigate through the rapids on their way to calmer waters.
There isn’t much point in rehashing what went wrong, who’s to blame, etc. We just need to understand that we’re in a different world now. For better or worse, the days of seeking out the lucrative album deal, landing a big recording advance, taking your sweet time to make an album and then going on a long, possibly money-losing promotional tour at the label’s expense are pretty much over. Do not be fooled (or seduced) by the enormous sums being paid by corporate giants like Live Nation and others to secure “360 deals” (albums, touring, merch, etc.) with the likes of Madonna, Jay-Z, U2 and others — those are out of reach for 99.9 percent of artists. For the rest, it’s going to take creative thinking on the part of bands, managers, marketers, record labels and others to succeed in the new music economy.
Join us now as Mix takes a closer look at some of the strategies being employed in different strata of the rapidly changing music business. Barbara Schultz examines how the role of producers is changing to incorporate extra musical realms such as career development, promotion and other aspects once considered the domain of record companies. David Weiss looks at ways artists are squeezing more income and exposure out of live performances through downloads, Webcasts and broadcasts. Bud Scoppa uncovers some of the new secrets of “Getting Paid” in what is increasingly a world where “free” rules. And in this issue’s “Mix Interview,” I chat with Wired‘s Chris Anderson, author of the nouveau economics best-seller The Long Tail and a fascinating February 2009 Wired cover story on the value of “free.”