October 12 2007

The music industries nightmare continues to grow

The music industries nightmare continues to growOh woe must be many a music executive right now as big name acts are jumping in to the fray of leaving the old system behind. Add to the names I mentioned the other day Nine Inch Nails and Madonna.

Yes… that Madonna.

Madonna’s deal is a bit different than the others in that she won’t be self-selling, but instead selling through a concert promoter, Live Nation. The deal is for her next three studio albums, the first one’s ever without Warner Music Group behind her. She will get $120 million in cash and stock options, and retain 90% of gross concert revenues. Considering that her last tour, Confessions, brought in $192 million, she should be quite happy with her pay. The material girl has one more album to deliver for Warner’s, and then it’s on to new grounds for her.

So, what does this say for the music industry as a whole? Talking with my friend, M, today, a rabid follower of music, she fears more “The Donnas’ scenarios.” The Donnas started off as almost a female-version of The Ramones, even following a similar naming system where they were all named “Donna”, and built a small, but extremely loyal, following of fans. They were on Lookout! Records for their first four albums, and then moved up to Atlantic Records… and it all fell apart. The sound of the band changed completely, turning in to a packaged, pop sound. They dropped the “Donna” names, changed their looks… basically they were a shell of their former selves.

And, I have to agree with M, the record labels are going to be desperate for acts. You will start seeing minor bands signed in a hurry to fill holes in release schedules, and the bands, happy to finally be noticed, will do whatever the labels ask of them, including disregarding their true fans. The music landscape will be littered with “Donna-like” instances as the labels try desperately to cling to an out-dated business model.

Instead of trying to change with the times, and realize that the old model, which heavily favored the label over the artists, should go the way of the dinosaur, they will fight tooth-and-nail to preserve it. This will end up disenchanting listeners even further than already have been, bands will get thrown quickly by the wayside when they don’t pan out, and the labels will damage themselves even further.

It’s time for the industry to realize they’ve messed up, and if they stand any chance of surviving, they need to change with the times, and do it now. Otherwise, ten years from now we’ll be saying “Remember when their actually used to be record companies? How quaint!”

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