Read a piece in the paper today about the music industry and how it's changing. It suggested that the big turning point was in 2006 when TOTP was taken off the air, that showed how the singles chart just didn't matter anymore. It also focused on people's perceptions of 'success' and how it's outdated. Using examples of Leona Lewis and the relatively unknown Ingrid Michelson. People would assume that financially speaking Lewis was far more successful - she's all over the radio/tv and top of the charts. Michelson doesn't have a record label. But she's managed to get some of her tracks on tv shows e.g. grey's anatomy, and has built a following from that synchronisation, as it's known. Not having a record label means about 60% of the profits from her sales on itunes go straight to her. What percentage do you think Leona Lewis makes? It'll be a single digit, and probably a low one. That's not even to mention the fact that alone you maintain 100% of the creative control of your project.
The article also made reference to Conor Oberst as one of the first artists to use the internet as a substitute for reliance on a major label. He had his own following, and with the internet could keep things organised and keep in touch with the audience and that was enough for him not only to sell enough of his music to become 'successful', but he started a record label called Saddle Creek, to which he signed friends' bands and oh my God, that guy is my hero. I want his life but with fewer overdoses.
Ten years ago you pretty much either 'made it' or didn't in the music industry. There was very little middle ground - people who made music and sold it but weren't famous or ridiculously wealthy. But the middle ground is growing, and fast. I think it's an exciting time. If there are fewer superstars but more people able to just make a living from music, 1) the people you are left with will be the ones who love music and not the idea of being famous and 2) there will be more artists around and we will get that great feeling of discovering great bands rather than being told what to listen to by conventional media.
Well actually, I take back the fewer superstars part, there will always be people who want to be the next pop idol, and there will always be record companies happy to make money from them. So that element will remain, but personally I find it easy to ignore. I don't listen to the radio much, I tend to find people either on the internet or through friends/local venues.
But the growth of the middle ground leads to exciting times! I just hope to be a part of it. I can't imagine where I'll be in ten years. Let's hope for selling lots of records through my own record company that has a lot of my friends on it and doesn't involve me being too famous.
p.s. I found the article online if anyone would like to read it.