A Frank Discussion
What has happened to the music industry?
Watching, as I have, all of the changes the music industry has gone through in the last 40 years, I am simply amazed at the impact digitalization has had on the industry. We find that now our clients fall into 2 groups; those that were here before the digital evolution and those that have arrived after the digital evolution. It is very interesting from the point of view of a publisher. A publisher is sought out by a writer when the writer is looking for someone to represent his work in such a way that it will generate a profit. A publisher is an "agent," for lack of a better word, for a particular song.
Let me speak to the positive of digitalization.
When I first arrived at Mercury Records back in the 60's, the landscaped looked like this:
1. All recording studios were owned by the labels. Most were going through the upgrade from 8 tracks to 16 tracks and we were all very excited about new horizons that this additional technology was going to bring us.
2. All recording studios were analog and the cost to build one from scratch was absolutely prohibitive to all but the big boys. Cost for a 16 track studio was about $1 million and that is in 1960's money. So, they were mostly owned by record labels. The opportunity to work in one of these studios was euphoric to those of us who loved to make music.
Well, it's a long way from that to where we are today. It seems that most musicians have some form of home studio and the quality of the recordings can be remarkably good. And if you really want to pump it up, about $50,000 can build you a state of the art home studio that far exceeds the million dollar studios of the 1960's.
Now of course, that doesn't surprise anyone. I recently heard Chris Kraft, flight director for the Apollo Series of space flights that took us to the moon, say that all of the computing power in the Apollo Space Ship was far less that we each have in our home PC's today.
So, no, no one should be surprised by the advancements of technology. What surprised the recording industry was that the almost 80 year old industry of selling music was going to be blown up without a suitable replacement to protect the incomes of professional writers and publishers and producers and artists and record labels. Many good people that were doing outstanding work suddenly had no way to care for their families because the distribution of music as an orderly chain of events was suddenly broken.
Well, as I am sure you are very well aware, the problem turned out to be a much larger problem than most thought at first. It is now some 20 years later and we are all still trying to re-construct a reliable income stream for songwriters to make a serious and respectable living in this new landscape.
One of the big changes that was a direct result of this income model being broken was this; record labels no longer could afford to groom or develop their artists. The costs were too high and the profit margin of the recording label was being diminished every year due to digital downloading.
As it has worked out, publishers began to pick up the slack when it came to artists development.
We, here, at Sweet Rosie Music, have thoroughly embraced the opportunity to be a part of artist development. In fact, right now, we have 2 such artists under our tutelage. They are both outstanding singer/songwriters that are yet to breakthrough. They are not yet ready to breakthrough, but we strongly believe the general public will be embracing these 2 young artist later this year.
So the point is this, the digital evolution has brought many changes to the music industry and the recording industry. Some are bad and some are good if you learn how to embrace them. We remain very determined to continue to find ways to monetize the great songs that so many writers bring to us.
OUR ADVICE TO ALL SONGWRITERS: Never give away your material for free in exchange for some promise of fame. No one can promise you fame anyway. Only the public can give you fame OR fortune if they decide they love your work. Don't fall prey to the internet vultures that will promise you exactly what they think you want to hear in exchange for your good work as a songwriter. If your song is truly great, it will find its way to market as long as you continue to knock on doors. Greatness is hard to deny. Continue to try to write GREAT songs and don't settle for merely GOOD songs because there are far too many GOOD songs and you will never be heard through all of the clutter that is now out there, due to how inexpensive recording has become, because of the digital evolution.
Here is hoping that all of your musical endeavors prove to be fruitful for you.
founder; Sweet Rosie Music
Below is another article that you may find interesting if you are looking to be a professional songwriter.