Music Business Has Changed

Remember the old music business? I grew up in the 1980s. I remember going to K-Mart and buying 45’s– records, for those of you who don’t know. Yikes, there are even some of you reading this who’ve never seen a record!

Thinking about how the music business has changed, here are 10 ways it has, off the top of my head:

10) In the old days, not everyone and their brother had a computerized studio to make music. Musicians and singers had to go to actual studios to record music, compared to today when it can all be done on a home computer.

9) In the old days, part of the fun of music was going to a record store on a certain day when a new album released, with hopes of getting a copy before they were all sold out. Today, with digital downloads, scarcity is a thing of the past.

8) In the old days, when you went to see a band, it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Today, it’s not uncommon to pay $80 or $100 or more for one ticket to a show. In the old days, you could see your favorite band for $5 or $10.

7) In the old days, most people knew the same bands and singers because there weren’t as many to choose from as there are nowadays. The music industry marketed a select few to music listeners in the old days; now, with every band having a website and/or Facebook page, it’s hard to find a group of people who all know and love the band(s) you love.

6) Album art used to matter in the old days. You’d buy a big album, and the cover of it was almost like a poster you could hang in your room. Pictures and actual artwork were on the album cover. Today, artists still use pics and artwork, but covers are virtual, rather than actual. You see the cover on your device, but you can’t easily tack it on the wall.

5) People used to hold up lighters at concerts when the band played a slow song. Nowadays, they hold up their smartphones. Speaking of smartphones– they’re seemingly everywhere. It’s not uncommon for artists on stage to ask the audience to put their phones away for a song to “be in the moment” rather than taking the scene in via their camera phones.

4) Before YouTube, it was not at all easy to find or see footage of recording artists in concert or doing things in real life. Today, however, artists share their most personal, away-from-the-spotlight moments with fans on YouTube and other sites, which means they have less privacy than ever.

3) In the old days, if you waited around the door of an arena or other venue, chances are the artist would walk by the crowd and say hi, take pics, and shake hands/kiss fans. Nowadays, with security being so tight, you rarely get to meet the singer or band anymore after the concert.

2) In the 1980s, I bought music on cassettes and listened to it using a portable walkman or my home stereo in my bedroom. Today, music is listened to usually via “earbuds” attached to a small, pocket-sized digital device. Home stereos aren’t popular anymore; neither are “boom boxes.” Even CDs are becoming increasingly rare. Seems like music is no longer a physical product at all– nowadays people “stream it” from a service like Spotify. The music business is having a tough time not selling physical products.

music business
Greatest Hits (1971 Fleetwood Mac album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1) Full albums had their heyday from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, when bands like The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac made collections of songs where they were all worth listening to, often in sequence. FM radio stations would play long songs that clocked in at over 3 minutes. Today? Singles rule. Look at the “Now That’s What I Call Music” compilations– they’re ubiquitous. Instead of buying a whole album by an artist you like, today you’re more apt to just download or stream the one popular song you heard on the radio or saw on YouTube.

Do I like what has happened to the music business? No, I don’t. To me, there’s so much music available, for free, out there, which ends up cheapening the whole music experience of yesteryear. Gone are the days “diggin’ in the crates” at the “record store” looking for the “new album.” Today, music is mostly dance-oriented, cartoonish, auto-tuned rapping, over-singing, and screaming to digitized beats and hiccups. That’s not to say I hate today’s music, but it is to say that music has become less vital, less human, less artistic and less magical (transcendent) than it used to be in the old days.

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