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Top 10 Reasons Why the Music Industry is Failing

Updated on March 20, 2014


You know what? I miss my vinyl records.

I miss going to the record store (a real community experience) and buying an LP for $10-$15. I miss the larger sleeves with the cover art and the inside liner notes which told you who wrote what and who played on which track.

The last time this reality was in full form was the late 80s (perhaps early 90s). And since that time a number of changes occurred which created the mess the music business is in today (most of it self inflicted).

So without further ado, here follows the Top 10 Reasons why the Music Business is Failing from both the perspective of a fan and a singer/songwriter.

They don't make them like him anymore! Ahmet Ertegun was known for his gift of discovering, developing and nurturing new talent.
They don't make them like him anymore! Ahmet Ertegun was known for his gift of discovering, developing and nurturing new talent.

1. Record Labels Stopped Doing Their Job

At some point along the way (late 70s) label executives became hipsters vs. real A&R agents, becoming more interested in keeping their jobs and playing it safe vs. finding authentic and original talent to nurture and promote over the long haul. We used to have an industry focused on finding the next new and amazing thing. Now we have an industry where labels copy other labels both in artists and material. Gone are the days of breaking out of the mold. For the last few decades it's been about formula. So it is then no wonder that radio has become a second tier medium that is mostly ignored in the United States (of course unless there's a game on).

2. The Record Labels Became Too Big

Much like banks, record labels became too big to service the industry well. By becoming larger companies within ever larger umbrellas they became more beholden to their masters to execute quick profits or upticks in stock value which from the 90s on down to the present only led to a race to the bottom.


3. Lack of Talent and Personality

Signed artists no longer have the staying power, personality or song writing abilities of their predecessors. They may be more marketable initially, but they're just not that talented. As such for the most part we don't remember many artists or "hit" songs from the last 20 years. I have to believe there are still amazing artists and song content out there, but some artists cling to the belief that they should write their own material when they clearly shouldn't. Others do come up with great songs but probably shouldn't be singing or performing them. Further, many song artists have failed to understand that music is a calling, a passion. You do it to do it. Yes you want to make a living, but fame and celebrity is the afterglow, not the inspiration.

The Brill Building in New York City, which served as the launching pad for some of America's top songwriters and fueled the careers of so many of the Country's top artists
The Brill Building in New York City, which served as the launching pad for some of America's top songwriters and fueled the careers of so many of the Country's top artists

4. Traditional Roles Have Disappeared

The music business was once an industry where producers, songwriters and artists used to be siloed within their own core competencies. As such, there were clearly defined expectations and requirements that had to be met in order for someone to take on these titles. To our benefit, these lines got a bit blurred in the 50s & 60s. However since that time, with the dwindling of funds for music education in our public schools, we now have artists calling themselves songwriters with little knowledge of music theory, composition or song structure or appreciation for styles that came before (to our detriment). We also have people calling themselves producers with minimal studio experience and an extremely limited understanding of orchestration/arranging to better help an artist in realizing his or her full potential.

5. Fan Abuse

Over the past 20 years the music industry has abused fans in the U.S with both unnecessarily high CD prices and obscenely high concert ticket prices. CDs cost pennies to manufacture yet cost the consumer upwards of $20 for a product that in most cases has delivered 1-2 decent tracks at best with the remainder serving only as filler. Concert tickets are also overpriced with all sorts of made up fees included in the ticket transaction to further pad the profits of the vendors who service this side of the industry. Frankly we live in an age where there are just too many other options available out there to entertain us that provide much more bang for the buck.

6. We Lost Some of the Old Experience

Compact discs which deliver music via the WAV audio format have provided excellent listening quality since their wider introduction in the 80s but we lost something in this transition in respect to the full experience we had with records. The product became much smaller as did the print which makes it less likely that anyone is going to take the time to actually appreciate the album art or read the liner notes or credits. This, along with the cost and quality of content issues pervading the industry, has only served to further lessen the level of satisfaction the consumer feels after making a physical music purchase. No one contests the sparkling quality of digital offered via CDs, however you have to ask if it's so great why are the old vinyl shops still managing to survive? Answer: something about the experience is still missing. And the music industry (and electronics industry) have failed to address it.

7. MP3s Sound Horrible

The MP3 format which made music truly portable also cheapened it by lessening the fidelity and hence the overall experience. Granted, we have reached a wonderful age where music can now fly thru the air and into our cellphones and music players. Further, we can literally carry a library of our favorite music in our back pocket to be made available anytime, anywhere "on tap". However, in its current format, MP3s sound tinny when listened to over an extended period of time. The format sounds even worse coming from most computers (MySpace's music player serves as a prime example of how absurdly degraded the sound can get). And so it's time to improve our delivery and storage systems in order to create the infrastructure to improve the digital audio format (either back to WAV or something better).

8. Too Many Choices and Not Enough Filters

There are simply now too many outlets and too many touchpoints where everything is just noise and clutter. At the same time no one trustworthy is directing, filtering or grading all the music being created and trafficked out (with the exception of the better known music blogs whose share of voice is still relatively small). Radio stations used to fill this role for the most part followed by the staff at your local record shop. Unfortunately with the gobbling up of local, independent stations by the likes of companies such as Clear Channel, all we have now are generic, universal playlists. Further, potential music enthusiasts are no longer simply being hit with the current offerings of the majors with their traditional marketing tactics. They are also being barraged daily by bands/artists and their management directly via social networking, email opt-in lists, etc. The fact that there is so much out there in the market is not necessarily the problem, however. The problem is that a lot of the good stuff is being missed entirely while a lot of garbage is being shoved down the throats of a consumer that as a result values music less and less, day by day. Put simply, we can't make sense of it all, so we turn a deaf ear. In short, we need better audience targeting and filtering tools.

9. Lack of Musicianship

There seems to be a serious lack of musicianship at play across so many of the song artists that are signed to major labels. It's become common knowledge that some of the most famous folks priding themselves on their singing ability rely way too heavily on auto-tune. There used to be a running joke about certain bands that made their living (and their hits) only playing 3 chords (nothing wrong with it - i.e. The Ramones). Yet now it really seems to have gone too far. Where are the virtuoso instrumentalists? Where are the guitar and drum heroes? The fact that we need video games to get our fix vs. seeing the real hero perform the real licks at a real show only further points to the fact that a deep seated need amongst music lovers is just not being served properly anymore.

10. Focus is on Beats over Melody

Finally, the loss of melody has been a major contributor to the decline in music's standing in American culture. Traditionally, songs have comprised of four ingredients namely; melody, rhythm, harmony and lyric. Over the last 300-400 years, the strongest and most memorable music ever written more or less received equal weight in these four areas. Classical music saw heavier weight applied to melody and harmony. Then jazz, blues and later rock each applied rhythm to a greater extent (i.e. the rhythm section using drums, bass and guitar). This gave energy to the songs and to their performances both on the turntable and on the stage. However over the last 30+ years so much emphasis has been applied to beats vs. melody that the rhythm seems to be all we know. Problem is you can't hum or sing a beat. You need melody for that. And, unfortunately many of our modern producers only know how to address this need by lifting melodies from other people's songs. This can't last. With the proper permissions it's legal but is effectively cheating. And, in the opinion of this song artist only serves as the final nail in the coffin of an industry that has for far too long overstayed its welcome.

Ramin Streets is a Singer/Songwriter and Entrepreneur from Chicago, IL


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    • profile image

      Scout 66 14 months ago

      The labels are owned by Wall St. This is the most critical of all reasons. Next, the DOJ is primed to give GOOGLE preference over ASCAP and BMI for copyright. When lawyers and accountants inserted themselves into the system (1970s and 80s) things became much harder for musicians. This insertion of pseudo government and if the DOJ has its way, flat out government influence will become something like we've never seen. The decision will be made in 2017.

    • profile image

      Craig 14 months ago

      Ironically enough, Steve Jobs never used an iPod for music because digital music doesn't compare to vinyl if you have good ear and a nice stereo. People wouldn't understand nowadays, and it's crystal clear in the world of production for the most part, but I would like to see some change.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 15 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Great analysis. This is four years old and I'm just now seeing it? Damn. My bad, I guess.

      I think the upshot here is eventually there will be some sort of music revival. The most talent consuming niche I know of is the Bluegrass and Folk music groups and festivals. Takes a lot of skill to play those acoustic instruments well.

    • Chris Neal profile image

      Chris Neal 15 months ago from Fishers, IN

      Four years later and not only is this article as depressingly relevant as ever, but so are some of the comments. Not just the ones that "got it," but also the ones that so resolutely missed the point...

    • profile image

      Really Only 8 Reasons... 15 months ago

      3. Lack of Talent and Personality, 9. Lack of Musicianship & 10. Focus is on Beats over Melody - are all just different ways of saying the same thing (or listing some specific elements of the same thing - lack of real musicianship/talent).

    • profile image

      Me20 15 months ago

      I think it is more economics than lack of talent or an emphasis on beats over melody. Beats are cheap to produce, as is vocal pop. The problem is lack of investment in something that can't make money. There is plenty of talent out there but no one to spend what it takes to develop it and bring it forward.

    • profile image

      Doctordawg 15 months ago

      The "music industry" is merely a temporary aberration in the millennia-old art form of music.

      Throughout the greater existence of mankind, the music aficionado had to be in the same room as the musician. Recording technology allowed the lawyers and businessman to become the benefactor of the artist's work, and when the artist demanded fair compensation, the businessman tossed him/her under the bus and found another artist to exploit.

      Because technology has now commoditized music, where each song is just another fungible grain of rice delivered for near zero cost, there's no premium left for businessmen to gouge from artists and fans, hence the "music industry" is dying. GOOD RIDDANCE.

      Live music is returning as the predominant source of revenue for the largest number of artists, as it has been for thousands and thousands of years. Gone are the days of delusional singers and players thinking that one song they sing so great will be "discovered" by a record company, and then they'll be gazzilionaires and live happily ever after.

      Artists who practice their craft as much as they practice their salesmanship and marketing, and then get to the gigs they create on time and overprepared day after day, year after year, have always thrived and will continue to do so. It has always taken work and stamina and resilience to make a living making people happy by playing music.

      The "industry" that sucked all the creative air out of the average family's living room, pulling people away from their pianos and violins and banjos and barbershop quartets is dying. Finally.

    • profile image

      ricosuaveguapo 15 months ago

      "CDs cost pennies to manufacture yet cost the consumer upwards of $20 for a product that in most cases has delivered 1-2 decent tracks at best with the remainder serving only as filler. "

      I want to challenge this statement. I hear similar sentiments time and time again whenever this topic comes up... CDs were far too expensive, etc.

      First off, let's address the supposed discrepancy between the physical manufacturing cost and the retail price - stamping that piece of plastic is literally the least expensive part of a very complex process that covers studio time, salaries for engineers, producers, A&R, label staff, band advances (i.e. living expenses), marketing, etc. - so bringing it up in comparison to the final CD price is a red herring.

      Secondly, who the hell regularly spent $20 per CD? I did from time to time, but it was either a double album, an import, or something particularly rare.

      I currently own 1,500+ CDs (many with the original receipt inside the jewel case), and $20 was the exception, not the rule. I walked into Best Buy or Media Play nearly every Tuesday in the mid 90s and stocked up on the $9.99 new releases.

      Looking at my Amazon purchase history (going back to 2000) shows a similar pattern - the most I paid for a non-import was $14.99. Again, that was the exception, not the rule. $10-12 was far more common.

      I realize anecdotes != data, but $20 as the typical CD price just doesn't jibe with my extensive purchase history.

    • profile image

      IHate 2 years ago

      10- Low standards and fanboyism: grunge, rap, R&B and death metal and other essentially amateurish genres that don't require talent or any special ability have basically turned music into a cashcow and/or propaganda medium.

      Fanboys always talk about the "message" music conveys, about how music is a "way of life" and the like. They never actually talk about the quality of the music. Rap fans don't care that their idols can't sing a note, death metalheads don't care that their favorite bands have no talent whatsoever. They're always talking about how music is a "way of life", as if someone screaming or talking fast were the ultimate answer to the most important life questions.

      The 80's, as horrible and decadent as they were, brought forth talented trained musicians. But once grunge and gangsta rap came into the picture, music became a "way of life" and stopped being music.

      The 90's were the beginning of the end. Fans stopped caring about music quality and started focusing only on image and "messages". Whenever 80's music is criticized, the criticism boils down only to the ridiculous image of the musicians of that era. The fact that they were trained musicians and could play several instruments and had an amazing vocal range is unimportant.

      Ultimately, fanboyism is also one major factor that contributed to the miserable state music is in now.

    • profile image

      Joe 2 years ago

      Thinking songwriters should work for free is a problem. People gotta eat.

    • profile image

      Rhoyalty 2 years ago

      I would also like to mention that back in the day the soundtrack was better than the movie. I haven't bought a soundtrack in years. Also, it's not about sound quality. If a song has a meaning and reminds you of that summer night with that special person you can care less of the quality. We put two casette players together in the 80s and copied the song from the radio. Dj overlap and all. As soon as it hit the record store we got it!

    • profile image

      Rhoyalty 2 years ago

      I agree with all of your points. Bullets 9 & 10 are 1 & 2 for me. The good old days of being anxious to get home and read the front back and inside of that vinyl are gone. I remember as a teen taking the inside of the Jackson 5 album and posting it to my wall as it was a surprise signed poster. You had to have talent, pay dues and be able to carry a note. Driving cross country playing in a dive for pennies paid your dues to be hungry for this industry. Videos told a story and women had on clothes. Idol is in its 13th season. Name 4 of the winners still active. Then they have people in genres that have no business like Bieber in R & B. Not referring to color. Mariah and Robin are R & B. I don't watch the grammys as they are all untalented. Some 12 yr olds liking a song on You Tube now delegates getting a deal over someone that can actually sing. The industry is not taken seriously anymore. I only listen to music pre 2000. I have a few since then but the artist is ol skool like Busta for example. I like R & B. However, I also listened to Duran, Paul Mcartney Chicago Twisted Sister ZZ Top and Aerosmith to name a few. I don't know of not one rock group today that I like. I just turned down free tickets and limo to Daughtry. The industry has changed too much for me. Stop sampling get creative. Sad when these new kids today thought Kanye discovered Mcartney. WTH???

    • profile image

      jd 2 years ago

      seems like most young "musicians" are more interested in being famous than being talented...

    • profile image

      Jim M. 2 years ago

      Very thought provoking well written article. However I disagree with

      your consistent downward spiral "doomsday coming soon for music" tone

      to the point where all I sense is a general dark vibe of bitterness. Similar

      complaints and sentiments were expressed nearly a hundred years ago

      concerning the constant rehashing of melodies and ragtime numbers

      coming out of Tin Pan Alley and mass produced piano rolls that merely

      copied a thousand times over whatever the top current hit was at the time. I would love to see WAV file quality back myself though. Cheers,Mr. rdstreets. Have a good smoke and enjoy the day. (and cheer up for goodness sake)!!

    • profile image

      Kenzie 3 years ago

      If there's anything I wish, it's that I can allow every human being on earth see this... Because it's the most true thing I've heard all day.

    • profile image

      shaybabie 3 years ago

      The bottom line is the 'music biz' is and has been for 10+ years 'top down' and there's little to no incentive to pursue music as a real career (musician) and no incentive for investors to loan $$$ to promising bands/projects (no return) I have friends who were good A&R reps and when the labels downsized they were 'let go' and now there is no artist development and no ears to bring in real talent. It's cheaper for the labels to hire one producer to streamline their artists (editing/auto tuning/ hiring studio musicians ex. a drummer to play 4 bars for less than an hours work and hire the pro tools editing 'engineers' to fly the track and suck out anything 'human') All genres are doing this now rock, indie, pop. The dumb down Dark Ages in music dominate esp. since around 1996 - and will only get worse. By the way not a good time to be or start a rock band, pop rules the day and that pendulum will not swing back for a very long time.

    • Carla Bonnell profile image

      Carla Bonnell 3 years ago

      This is an incredibly accurate article. My buddy, wrote a song about the issues brought up here in this article. He was ingenius in how he nailed auto tuning. For me, it rips me off as a listener, and also as an artist. There are so many great points in this article, it makes me want to stand up and cheer. At least there are those of us around who remember what authenticity is really like!

      Carla Bonnell

      (Singer/Songwriter, Ontario, Canada)

    • profile image

      Kim 3 years ago

      So, what is the resolve? Too much shameless self promotion, not to mention shows like the X Factor won't even let anyone audition without clearing a perfectly clean criminal background check...Like good music was brought to us by good people? Lol. If anyone has any insight or can shed any light on where to find reality in our digital days, let me know.

      Kim Lapidus

      (Red hair, on FB.)

    • profile image

      Edward Delavilla 3 years ago

      This a bunch of whiney hosh posh. Stop complaining about the same old stuff. Music isn't going anywhere, and if it takes a bunch of bad music releases to kickstart a wave of great musicians... then so be it. Thats how it always goes, not everyone is going to be great. I think you underestimate what all this plays for our musical future. bands that learn to do everything themselves, write/record/produce/mix/master... pretty soon musicians will be taking over. Be a wee bit more optimistic and get out of your negative slump, that you wish to be your musical future, for everyone. Musicians need to be encouraged to think positively, none of this dooming future music talk. MAKE GREAT MUSIC AND CHANGE THE WORLD. Plus the author of this article probably doesn't even know great bands exist already... it just takes a refined taste to find one. So pucker up, find great music, and stop whining. Arnold Swartzfartinager would body slam the author, while listening to

    • profile image

      Pegasus 3 years ago

      I found this article while searching for any new talent that really makes 'Rock and Roll', hair band, garage band type of music any more. Think Foreigner, Boston, Journey, Benatar, Joan Jett, Whitesnake, REO, etc. Having watched and truly enjoyed the movie, Rock of Ages, I was struck with the very sad realization that the music I grew up with seems to be all but gone from a standpoint of new material of the quality we've come to expect. I have to agree with many points the author makes, but especially about all the copying of styles that is going on, which seems to be an effort to sell at any cost, regardless of product. But I think things work as a pendulum, and one day bands will rise up to fill the void. Until then, I guess it's concerts of Journey, Rush, et al, to placate the hunger for good old rock 'n roll.

    • profile image

      John. E 3 years ago

      A good article that I strongly agree with ; I find it comforting to think I am not the only one thinking along these lines , but you did forget one thing ; the new 'internet ethos ' of everything being 'freely available' (except all the stinky software and gizmo's from silicon valley) ; who is ever going to buy music now (? ) and even if they do , hey presto 1000 + copies from a single purchase of an mp3 to give away to all their friends if they want to ; you can't do that with ( eg:) microsoft software though , can you ? How will the music industry survive and what will replace it ?

    • profile image

      Nico 3 years ago

      For most Indie – Rock lovers, choices are limited as hardly any bands venture into this genre. But with the music so compelling, you just can’t let go. That brings us to one of the best bands in the scenes right now, Modest Mouse.

      Modest Mouse is an American band formed in 1993 by their singer and guitarist Isaac Brock, their bassist Eric Judy and their drummer Jeremiah Green. After being in this genre for more than 2 decades and releasing about 7 albums, this band is one of the most experienced and versatile indie rock band in the music industry right now.

      Their album, ‘Good news for people who love bad news’ featured their breakout song, ‘Float On’ and is still one of the most decorated song in the Indie – Rock genre as it was nominated for a Grammy Award. They have been consistently producing amazing music since then and their mainstream acclaim has spanned over more than a decade now.

      They constantly keep touring and performing concerts to connect with their fans and keep it real and it is legitimate because they have amassed quite the fan following over the years. Modest Mouse is definitely a band to watch out for if you do not know them already because the music they produce in a word can only be called, beautiful.

      They have achieved such popularity that their songs can also be heard in famous mobile apps like Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band Two. Part of their guitar riff from ‘Float On’ was also used in P!nk’s song known as ‘Blow Me (One Last Kiss)’. Their songs have been modified and made into title tracks for multiple movies and series.

      Their music has also been covers for most budding artists and Modest Mouse is definitely a band loved and respected by all.

    • profile image

      Joey 3 years ago

      One point...Music WAS the Twitter, Facebook, YouTube of its day. When people had something to say, they took to music to protest or speak out. Today, you can LIKE posts with little to no effort. Music today is more about sex, not so much music. The noise going on behind the Idol is just that, beats to highlight the action.

      There was a time when the quality of the music, the recording, and the media were all critical and the equipment we played it on was just as important. Today, people want everything quick and nasty, they don't want to make payments on their gear because, the music in their lives is simply not worth the investment...but a cheap Chinese-made 60" TV is. Walk into any house right now and most ALL of them center on the supersized flat panel TV (with payments of course). Maybe out of 100 homes, there will be a quality Hi-Fi with decent media to play on it.

      I agree with several people that posted about a lack of music education today in our schools. Fine Arts education is gone from our schools. There is little to no appreciation of Music, Art,'s all becoming dumbed down and God forbid someone gets their feelings hurt. General Ed and some hugs are all we need to get through, right? Thanks but no thanks.

    • profile image

      jedi vulcan 3 years ago

      i have to agree on some counts - there are a lot of good artists from older decades! my guilty pleasure is chicago - the lead singer, peter cetera had a fantastic hit single in 1986, glory of love which was in the second karate kid film! in fact i don't find today's factory assembled music as emotional as older music!

    • profile image

      SmoothSouth 3 years ago

      I agree 100 per cent. Also young people today grew up on crap and they will defend it till their death because they have no other perspective.

    • profile image

      Dark Penguin 3 years ago

      At least MP3 recordings will hold up, unlike my CDs. We all thought those would last forever, but half of mine won't play anymore. Or is it the players that have become cheap junk? Many of us got rid of our vinyl once we'd replaced with CDs of the same albums...and now our copies of that music are lost in many cases, unless we got it onto a hard drive while the CD would still play.

    • profile image 3 years ago

      interesting that this article came to me with some advertising for buying mp3

    • profile image

      Steve Northover 4 years ago

      While I sympathize with many of the points, the author is pining for the old days and the old days are gone forever. Everything changes, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse where "better" and "worse" are usually someones point of view.

      Mainstream music was always about pleasing the masses and is now industrialized and computerized to be as efficient as possible. Corporations must "maximize profit for the shareholders" rather than care about what they actually do. Now I am pining for the old days!

    • profile image

      Floyd Dewar 4 years ago

    • profile image

      Floyd Dewar 4 years ago

      well to tell you the truth i'm just worried that everyone will forget about WAV so i think the producers need to get back on track, cancel watever arrangement with itunes, and start selling WAV file versions of albums online i mean take a look around, i mean in the early days of digital technology we can see why mp3s were an easy options,due to the storage amount, but now we have portable drives and devices storing terrabites of data, its time the music industry woke up from its long, long nap and started tracking down some really talented musicians again, i mean these days mostly all i see is a bunch of singers with synth backing. Anyway check my friend out here his raw talent on guitar will get him far

    • profile image

      Alchemeleon 4 years ago

      1. Record Labels Stopped Doing Their Job

      The majors are formulaic, yes, but there are lots of smaller labels who are finding great artists, paying for their studio time, and then taking care of distributing the results. Chicago alone has Drag City, Touch & Go, and Thrill Jockey. Sub Pop, Merge, Jagjaguwar, & DFA. But more importantly, there is an ever-increasing number of artists who simply take charge of their own career. They pay an independent producer to record them (or record it themselves), they use bandcamp or soundcloud to release it, and they book tours using social media. This is great becuase now we can hear so much more music than simply stuff that labels want to make money on.

      2. The Record Labels Became Too Big

      This is happening with all forms of media: TV, movies, radio. Sure, most of the media out there sucks, but that's just because people's taste sucks. The company is only interested in following trends and predicting what people will buy. It's not their fault people choose Justin Bieber and Lil Wayne. And this has always been the case too. Bing Crosby is the most successful recording artist of the 20th century, The most played song on American radio and television ever? "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers. I don't expect the masses to suddenly develop a sense of taste in the next ten years, so it's safe to assume this trend will continue.

      3. Lack of Talent and Personality

      Once again, this is nothing new. Pop stars have always relied on their well-crafted image and generically unoffensive persona to sell records. The Beatles wore suits for the first four years of their career, Richie Valenzuela dropped the last four letters from his name, and numerous great black musicians struggled while their songs made fortunes for the white artists who played them. And really, is Adele any less talented than Natalie Imbruglia? Or Madonna? Or Carly Simon? or Dolly Parton?

      4. Traditional Roles Have Disappeared

      I don't think this is a bad thing at all. In fact, I think it's great that large numbers of artists are recording their own material (especialy electronic musicians), because now the artistic vision is wholly that of one person, with no concessions to a producer and his well-intentioned but invasive modifications. Hell, the genres of hip-hop and house/techno wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the proliferation of affordable digital recording gear making its way down to the streets. And while engineers back in the day were guaranteed a supply of projects if they worked in a studio owned by a label, they were also confined to them and deprived them of the chance to work with new gear in different locations with new artists.

      5. Fan Abuse

      The only CDs that cost pennies to produce are blank ones. The costs of recording add up to enormous sums, just ask anyone who's ever been involved in the arduous process of recording a legitimate album in a professional recording studio, complete with engineers and session musicians. It's true that record companies often packed albums with filler, but nowadays you can usually at least stream before you buy. Most people just steal it now unfortunately, and I know a couple of artists who have stopped making music entirely because they just can't make a profit from it anymore.

      6. We Lost Some of the Old Experience

      Typical old man rant. Yes, we lost some of the old experience, but we gained a hell of a lot more in exchange. PAs technology has improved ieople have been replacing or supplementing their records with other media for at least 40 years, when 8-track tape players became popular in cars. I love album art and liner notes too, but its worth losing in exchange for the ability to give my friend 20 of my favorite albums without losing my own copies, not to mention liner notes are nothing compared to all the online info you can find about any given recording. Also, bands still put out special short runs of material, sometimes with rare/bonus supplements and extra glossy paper, and sometimes with a unique hand-made aesthetic.

      7.MP3 Sound Horrible

      Listen to FLACs.

      8.Too Many Choices and Not Enough Filters

      The radio stil pumps out the top 40, bands you've never heard of are still playing the small venues, and somewhere in the woods a modern day Nick Drake is writing an album that won't get big until 2040. It's just that now we have internet radio, music blogs, YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and bittorrent. These can only help you in your quest for good music, but it is a fool's errand to comb through song after song looking for something appealing. Ask your friends, investigate who influenced your favorite artists, become a part of your local scene (and if there isn't one, start one). These are your filters, and you always have just as many as you need.

      9. Lack of Musicianship

      Popular music has rarely been the arena where skilled musicians show off their chops. Often, songs demanded a certain level of discretion from the performers in service to the feeling of the piece. The most technically demanding genres (bluegrass, Western swing, samba, speed metal, progressive rock) have always been on the fringe. Even jazz had to be neutered into Dixieland and Big Band in order to reach a wide audience, and many orchestra members can't even really play when deprived of sheet music. Plenty of artists pen homogenous hits and get famous, then spring their avant side on the world in obscure side projects (John Mayer, Nels Kline of Wilco, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, etc)

      Also, appreciation of an *Insert Instrument* Hero requires some knowledge of that instrument, and I think many people discard the large amount of skill possessed by those making electronic music, using turntables, or otherwise manipulating audio using less conventional means. I could see how someone with a love for Van Halen-style noodling might not appreciate the technicality of a Tom Morello guitar solo. For every lazy blatant sampler there's a DJ Shadow, and for every Jessica Black auto-tuning "Friday" there's a Mogwai vocoding "Hunted By A Freak".

      10.Focus is on Beats over Melody

      "Black American records have always been the most reliable source of dance groove. These records down through the years have inevitably laid so much emphasis on the altar of groove and so very little into fulfilling the other Golden Rules that they very rarely break through into the U.K. Top Ten, let alone making the Number One spot. A by-product of this situation is that gangsters of the groove from Bo Diddley on down believe they have been ripped off, not only by the business but by all the artists that have followed on from them. This is because the copyright laws that have grown over the past one hundred years have all been developed by whites of European descent and these laws state that fifty per cent of the copyright of any song should be for the lyrics, the other fifty per cent for the top line (sung) melody; groove doesn't even get a look in. If the copyright laws had been in the hands of blacks of African descent, at least eighty per cent would have gone to the creators of the groove, the remainder split between the lyrics and the melody." -The KLF

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      Michael Tearson 4 years ago

      When the record labels ceased developing artists' growth they sealed their eventual doom. It really is that simple. Much of the rest emanates from that.

    • David Kahl profile image

      David Kahl 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      All points are very relevant. In my mind, point 4 underscores the substance of what is wrong, leading to most of the other points. Core competencies and education are critical to feeding the process - the heart of what's right about music - and fly in the face of a product-centric industry, which is the real problem. We're only numbers on a ledger sheet. We're the last recording we did or the one we're just about to do; the last gig or the next gig; the size of our fan base and not its passionate strength.

      There is a site under development that takes this fundamental principle - that music is a process of qualified (and qualifying) informational and human connection; not presupposing that one person or thing is more valid or important than another; that, for every "I want or need" there is ample "I know or do", willing to step up and help - and goes to the best experts to fulfill the need, the ones in the trenches. is, at this point, is an informational site, open and transparent about what it intends to do and how, being built from the street level (and by working musicians on musicians' wages, hence its slow development). The "gig" is simple: a need to express is fulfilled through connection.

      The Internet enables meeting this need, the process and its monetization - everyone has the capacity to originate (as creator), to direct traffic (as agent), or to contribute to the platform, which allows them to participate as part of management. IP and ownership issues are addressed through one model that works. If you create, you own. Otherwise, you're an agent or part of the management team (the site, itself), and receive your piece of the pie.

      The principles are analog; the means are digital, a total reworking of the industry model. Deconstruct, then reconstruct - toward a sustainable, growing, functionally relevant objective. That's what we're trying to do and welcome any help we can get.

    • profile image 4 years ago

      A lot of the problem is the recording industry has changed. The reason people (including myself) still buy vinyls is because of the way it was RECORDED. It's not about how big it is or how big the cover art is. It's because of the music itself. I think it's ridiculous how Taylor Swift released her album via vinyl.. it's just modern digital recording put on a piece of plastic! lol The reason people love vinyls is because they were recorded using analog tape. They were recorded with most of the musicians in one room playing together like a real BAND, instead of overdubbed tracks recorded one by one like we have now. That's part of the reason we have less talented artists now. It's because the industry can get away with it. Before, they needed artists talented enough to all play together in the fewest number of takes possible. Then in the 80's they started hiring studio musicians to play without credit and let the bands take credit for the album and learn the parts and then perform live. It's all been downhill from there. Especially when we moved to mp3s. Did you know when you convert something to an mp3, you only have 10% of the file from the original file? Literally the other 90% is GONE. Most of the low end, almost all of the really high end (like the ringing of the cymbals), and a lot of other things inbetween. That's why the files are so much smaller. One last reason things are so bad is because people download illegally. It is basically impossible for a small record label to compete in the industry with real talent because radio controls all of the charts and consumers have no say in what is played. People don't BUY MUSIC to support their favorite musicians anymore. Labels have to make money other ways and it is really really difficult. So the really big labels are able to survive, but the rest are dwindling and even a lot of the big ones have closed their doors and/or merged over the years. There's got to be a solution, but it will take a complete overhaul of the industry. We can't go back to the old way of doing things because too much has changed. But the way things are now is terrible.

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      aaron 4 years ago

      GREAT article , 3 other things also heavily contributed to the destruction of the music industry - which they clearly did to themselves.

      1. Nirvana and the 90's -- absolutely killed rock and any 'good musicianship' that was referenced in the article. 90's music turned depressing , dark and hateful accompanied by boring shoegazing concerts. It stripped rock n roll of fun, good time music - thats why 90s bands can't get arrested these days...

      2. The take over of Hip hop culture and rap -- also HUGELY detrimental to music and society in general. It coincides with higher crime rates, higher abortion rates, more divorces, more broken homes and the decline in morality.

      3. Technology -- music is no longer #1 in most people's lives anymore because they can get it for free, its disposable, it has sucked since 1993 and people just don't make time for it. Even live music is suffering horrifically. People would rather get the new XBOX game or new iphone app than check out a new [or old!] release by a talented artist. While i love our advances in technology over the years, one BAD thing that came out of it was how easy music (and movies) can be stolen. But most music that's out couldn't give it away!

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      Thomas Tran Dinh 4 years ago

      I really recognise how I feel in what's written. But unfortunately, I'm not sure a lot of people will as I do and care about having "good" music anymore ("good" with the criteria described in the article). I'm secretly hoping that it will come back, but will it? What do you think or believe? I'm not sure the music industry is failing ... I think it has changed and music has became a commodity. People don't value it that much anymore as they did, and I think the music industry has done the job really well in that sense - very powerful easy listening pop. But of course it can not please "a fan and a singer/songwriter" as the article said. But how many people are "educated/skilled" enough to value complexity, virtuoso music, even basic modulation? It's harder to get into these kind of music, will people get bored and look for something else deeper and stranger? My best memories with music are with CD's I hated on first listening and that kept bugging me and knocking in my head like saying "give me another try" and then end up to be the CD you would listen over and over again during a whole year. I haven't felt that way for a while now...

      But I do appreciate a very efficient and complex rock album like Biffy Clyro. I think they have found a good mix between being efficient and complex (both rhythmically and melodically) and of course being epic with basic major scale power chords progression with "football stadium" singing lines... So it works on the first listen, but on the long run too, you discover subtleties at each listening. I wish I knew more band like them (not only rock), please give me advice on what to listen!

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      Dairenn 4 years ago

      I don't 100% agree with the article (e.g., high CD prices have more to do with the fact that lawyers are a necessary evil in the business and they charge HUNDREDS PER HOUR, or their assertion that songwriters shouldn't necessarily be performers and some performers shouldn't necessarily be songwriters--that may occasionally be true, but the lack of authenticity the author of that piece derides is due primarily to the fact that the industry--especially Nashville--has outsourced songwriting to "safe" songwriters who come up with hundreds of songs that singers with name recognition and safe, familiar voices can perform. One of the biggest names in Rock History--Rush, Van Halen, Genesis, etc.--did not farm out their labor to industry "stunt doubles" but did the work themselves).

      All that said, everything else is completely on-point. Especially the lack of understanding music theory and thus good composition, the giving way of melody to "beats" (can we say the musical blackhole known as EDM?) and the ability to really play instruments EXTREMELY along with a good system of curating music (lost to the commercialization of radio, the disappearance of physical record stores, etc) so the fans actually have a way of discovering good music, although the author does leave out one REALLY good point.

      The author actually doesn't leave it out, he kind of criticizes it. He cites bands marketing themselves at people over social media and through e-mail opt-in lists. If there is no other way for people know who's out there, then what choice do the bands have? We're no longer in a world where you can simply build it and they will come (or, record it and they will come). Now you gotta come to them and LITERALLY drag people out of their bedrooms to come out to the clubs and see not only their band but other bands that, who knows, might be actually pretty good, and worth supporting by buying their CDs or even those MP3s that while I loathe as a commercial distribution format, are undeniably convenient for the music consumer who may already have over a thousand discs in their collection.

      In my view, the power is entirely in hands of fans. EDM blows but until people stop buying it, the radio stations are going to keep playing it. If people want better music, they have to literally put their money where their mouth is and Actually Buy it.

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      Joel 4 years ago

      I agree with this article so much, I thought I wrote it for a minute!

    • Melvin Moten profile image

      Melvin Moten 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      j. englishman is right about digital technology. record labels were so excited about making fans buy their music collections over (and over) again, they didn't realize that to a computer, it's all ones and zeros. Then they doubled down on their contempt for customers by suing them for figuring this out. The deathblow came when Steve Jobs made it more fashionable to carry your music collection around in your shirt pocket than sitting around bragging about the flatfull of hard-copy recordings that you couldn't carry anywhere (without lots of help). The labels started something they weren't prepared to finish. Good riddance to them.

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      Rich Patz 4 years ago

      There are literally thousands of killer 60's and 70's reissues available if you want to look. We only got a fraction of the talent from those eras, now some great underground record labels are offering remastered releases on both LP and CD of all the ones we missed. If you seek it out, you will find it and the rewards are plenty. Who cares about the mainstream music business anyway? Just keep the underground alive and support it with your investments in the products (which also tend to hold their value, because there's value in the product!).

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      j.englishman 4 years ago

      Whinny bullshit from 1 thru 10. And we've heard variations of each point every generation for almost a century now.

      There is only 1 reason the music industry is failing: 30 years ago it was so arrogant as to think they could give the average consumer a digital copy of the master.

    • Marcie Lightwood profile image

      Marcie Lightwood 4 years ago

      Nathaniel - YOU hit the nail on the head. "The Music Industry" consists also of many small "cottage industries" - artists with great talent, just no big contracts. Some are in genres with smaller following: world music, Celtic music, women's music, topical , singer-songwriters and novelty acts. You see them live at intimate venues, festivals and colleges. Local acts in my region that are terrific include John Beacher, Burning Bridget Cleary, Runa, Solas, The Large Flowerheads. Look, too, at Larry Murante, Seth Glier, John Gorka, Anne Hills and David Roth. You could never hear all of the talent out there no matter how much access the Internet gives us.

      Good Music is not in danger... it's just usually undervalued.

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      Nathaniel 4 years ago

      You know record stores are still around, right? And vinyl record sales have increased every year since the mid-2000s. MP3s killed CDs, but records found an unlikely ally there, because if someone wants a physical product, they're going to buy a record (which these days come with MP3 download codes).

      Also, most of your criticisms are only valid for the handful of major labels supplying Top 40 radio. There are literally hundreds of fresh, talented bands with small label support making music just as good as anything from the days you're pining for--Grizzly Bear (if you want melodies back in your music, check these guys out), the Shins, Sigur Ros, Deerhunter... even Radiohead is on an independent label now.

      Great music is still out there, but commercial radio doesn't play it, because original content doesn't sell units (which is why Two and a Half Men is the highest grossing television show of all time).

      As for the internet giving us too much access to music, the internet has taken the power out of the record executive's hands and put it into the artist's. I have an album that I was able to record and distribute myself thanks to free programs like Garage Band and Audacity and websites like Bandcamp and Tunecore. Someone can buy my album from the iTunes store or listen to it on Spotify, and no record company was involved. So is it Music that is in danger, or the Music Business? Because if it's the Music Business, good riddance.

    • Tobias Mattsson profile image

      Tobias Mattsson 4 years ago from Kungsbacka, Sweden

      Great Article! Really hits the nails

      .. but i don´t agree with

      No 10. Focus is on Beats over Melody

      I think this is a healthy development towards a less "western" view on music. Rythms is much more valued in some countries of the world and can be a heck lot more complicated than melody! More primal doesn´t mean "less" civilised.

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      ROBERT EGGERS 4 years ago


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      John Elliott 4 years ago

      The reason record companies have failed - they didn't think 'digital' was going to work (Just like Kodak thought digital wouldn't replace film). When they relized the music business had passed them buy they heavily discounted music product and really screwed up.

    • Gus Hoffman profile image

      Gus Hoffman 4 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      If you like this article check out The consumer isn't helping us out much when music is expected to be free. 99cents isn't too much to pay for a song that is liked by someone but only a tiny percent of folks seem to realize that it takes money to make music. And you can just do it on a computer in the garage, but that's not really quality. Real studios cost money and there is a ton of technique and craft involved in recording quality music.

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      @CarayzeeDiamond 4 years ago

      Indie Labels are the way to go when searching for New Rock, New Metal or any other Genre! Check out Melodic Revolution Records! Those guys have The Best Artists/Bands and a Team! Also has the most Awesome Bands! There are Options to the Major Labels and That Option is Indie Labels. Come on over to the Bright Side and leave the Dark Side behind!

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      StedyRock 4 years ago

      Ah nostalgia - the great rose tinted frames of memory. To think that record label executives somehow changed in the late 70's from caring about music to putting out slop for the masses is just so far off point. Record execs have ALWAYS been like that. You are looking back through time, and using awesome records that have actually stood the test of time as representative of an era. What you are missing though are all the churned out one hit wonders and other crap that no one cares to remember. Everything you hate about music today will be forgotten about in 30 years, except for the truly great stuff (which does exist). Then people in the year 2040 will be like man music sucks in 2040, remember how pure it was in 2013?

      Also - get off my lawn you kids!

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      Ged Duffy 4 years ago

      I think the answer is in the question. "The music industry".......Once the sharks get a sniff of blood.........................Oh dear!

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      Lou 4 years ago

      Great article. Thanks for not blaming it all on the fans and file sharing.

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      Charles 4 years ago

      If you're happy with the lack of musicianship in today's music,& you're wanting to hear virtuosos ,perhaps you should add jazz to your musical diet, there is plenty of great jazz available ,new & classic, all styles,& I'm not talking about the smooth jazz ,or what people conceive to be jazz, I'm talking about the real good jazz that's still being produced today.

    • taxciter profile image

      taxciter 4 years ago from Virginia Beach, VA, USA

      All relevant, but the author missed copyright. When an artist can't make maximum money covering a good song, they tend to write a weaker song. Imagine if everyone had one year to record whatever they wanted...

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      Lepetomane 4 years ago

      Hi from Spain. It is a GREAT article, but I think you missed one point that one could add to the points 1 or 2: Music Industry is not focused in the long term costumers (basically, people who actually love music) or in their development by marketing products that increase knowledge and interest in music. Music Industry, like any other content-based industry (except for videogames) is focusing in the casual user, that used to make the 90% of its revenues in the CD era. The casual user doesn't love music, just uses it. Now they wonder why they don't buy records: they don't give a fuck about music. Yet, western youth culture has been educated into thinking that music is the core of their identity.

      I see videogames as a market where both users, casuals and old time fans are being served quality products by a diverse strategy that includes attention from the industry to the fan feedback, promotion of quality and original developers, investment in risky yet groundbreaking products, etc... Although, is an industry that is beginning to mimic its grandparents (editorial, music and film), it still having place for small developers to break on through the mainstream, because great ideas have the interest of the fans, and that is thanks to a small group of independent publications that add criteria and informs propperly.

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      Leah 4 years ago

      What you want still exists. Just not in mainstream music. Like the emergence of great micro brews in America, the rise of independent labels now hold the the talent, musicianship and solid songwriting you are looking for. And they have it by the bucket load. To me this is a great thing. Let the mainstream have their crap. I get see great acts like Shovels and Rope, Todd Snyder and Kathleen Edwards in intimate venues and shop for their albums in record stores. But you do have to go looking for it. Don't look at arena shows. Look at the 500-1,000 seat venues. NPR features new and rising artists of great talent every day. Music festivals around the country feature these artists live every year.

    • Marty Feldman profile image

      Marty Feldman 4 years ago

      Even though it's a good article and music is way over-priced lots of important reasons left out. The record companies had their chance to get on board and market music via downloading and instead of getting on board and joining the trend before everyone got used to stealing music they sued Napster and withheld their content until the cat was out of the bag. I have an expensive stereo and I disagree about the sound quality being an issue. MP3 sound is not nearly as much of an issue as the sound system it's played on. The average person has a sound system worth under $200. Every CD or MP3 sounds better than the stereo people used to own with the $50 turntable with a horrible $10 cartridge in it. I used to be a music buyer at Best Buy. Back in the 70's when a major album came out young people flocked to the stores on street date to buy it. Then in the 90's kids starting spending their money on street date on other technologies that didn't exist when the music industry was in it's heyday (60's-80's). Young people buying music is what fuels the industry. It's been that way ever since the dawn of rock 'n' roll. Starting in the 90's, several times yearly, in the 1st week of release a hot new VHS (then later DVD) or video game or computer software game can sell 3-5 million of copies. Nowadays there are only a few albums a year that sell a few million copies and it might take yup 18 months or more for a CD to sell 3-5 million copies. Music isn't as important to kids as these other technologies.

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      Tomcat 4 years ago

      Going back to the 50's there has ALWAYS been filler song's. Side A was the "Hit Song" side and Side B was the filler song! Jeesh learn some music history!

    • Pascale Frossard profile image

      Pascale Frossard 4 years ago

      I completely agree with this article

      Thank you for having posted for the music

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      Andrew King 4 years ago

      I disagree that CDs are expensive to produce. With digital audio it has never been cheaper to produce music. A $2000 laptop and another $2000 in peripherals and software will do what would have long ago cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The reason Vinyl records aren't being made anymore is because music is all made digitally now. Digital production saves the record industry millions of dollars every year. Another reason Vinyl is only useful for niche markets is because there is nothing portable about its nature, I can use spotify for $10 a month to stream and download music from all major record labels to my phone. Vinyl and CD can't offer that kind of versatility. Honestly most people under 50 don't remember life before CD/Cassette so they don't miss Vinyl. For me its simply quantity and availability over quality and for someone who has a short attention span with music its a very easy choice.

      I also think that the lack of personality and talent is a baseless claim, look at stars like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. Both of them write their own songs and have their own unique persona (both do have other artists they draw influence from). One hit wonders aren't something new, they've been around since the recording industry began. Whether or not you like their music is another discussion altogether.

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      Tim Curry 4 years ago

      100% on the money...

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      Dave 4 years ago

      This article is literally the most elitist, conceited, and self centered thing I've read in a long time.

      ie. #6

      "The product became much smaller as did the print which makes it less likely that anyone is going to take the time to actually appreciate the album art or read the liner notes or credits. "

      I can't even comment on how ridiculous this claim is...

      Are all album buyers 85 years old with bad eyes? Why wouldn't anyone read the liner notes who would in a Vinyl sleeve format?

      I could go on but it's not worth my time.

      Waste of time.

    • Melvin Moten profile image

      Melvin Moten 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      I agree with almost everything in this piece, excepting 7 & 8. If you want "tinny" sound, try 45s, am radio of the 60s and 70s or 12" disco mixes of the 80s. All dreadful audio methods that are still thought of fondly by graybeard music obsessives and younger hipsters who weren't there to hear how terrible they really were. MP3's are probably the least desirable audio form, but like VHS, it's the industry standard now. If you want to use a different file format, feel free. It's no different than the audiophiles who paid double or even triple normal price for "sound quality" back in the day.

      More importantly, the convenience of mp3 tech makes it possible to hear more music than ever before. If you can google it, you can find it and hear it. While that's problematic for the artists involved, it's not like the music industry has ever been very interested in seeing musicians and writers paid appropriately. Had they not reacted to digital file-sharing tech by suing customers, we might have an efficient, fair and sonically advanced file distribution service in place by now.

      As for the number of outlets, choices and touch points, how is more choices a bad thing? As a musician/songwriter who struggled to get heard in the decade just before the digital revolution, I would have loved a way to get my songs and info about my band(s) all over the world with the click of a mouse. Not only that, when I think of all the artists I love who never got a fair commercial shake, the benefits of being able to get around the record label/radio station axis and get music directly to the fans is thrilling. And it can actually get the artists paid, if handled the right way (e.g.: Radiohead, Amanda Palmer).

      In the end, the only people who will lose, are those who are in it to get filthy rich and those who really aren't that good…Imagine the 80s if Gang of Four and the Comsat Angles were able to compete head to head with Kenny Loggins and Christopher Cross with the exact same resources and opportunities for promotion and exposure…Once the dinosaur of the music industry is done sinking into the tar, we may just be able to build that world.

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      John Rewind 4 years ago

      Bravo Mr. Streets! A very astute observation about our modern musical dilemma. The internet gave a lot more of us a better chance, but also opened the floodgates for mediocrity to rule. As the world famous promoter Bill Graham stated: "The prerequisite for being in the music business nowadays is breathing", and that was in the late '70s. It's gone downhill from then.

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      Greg 4 years ago

      Too much focus on beats vs. melodies? I can't take anyone seriously when they make a comment like that. You sound like a white dude from the 50s who is offended by blues music because it's too simple.

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      Excellent Article! 4 years ago

      Hey rdstreets! This is an amazingly insightful and accurate article. Thanks for taking the time to write and share it. I've reposted it on my Wordpress blog, More people need to hear what you have said :)

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      steve1800 4 years ago

      Good article! I agree that good music criticism once provided an excellent filter for crap. The problem for future critics is being able to develop a reputation & a following. Stuff like Yelp doesn't cut it because It's basically 10 random people who say something is good or bad but no one ever articulates why.

      Newspapers & magazines were good sources but they became too narrow in their focus to have value. That narrowing occurred as huge ambitious national companies bought up local companies and Post Modernism came in vogue. PoMo thinking of the 80s was about critiquing market forces and the phenomena of fame. The idea that one could produce authentic art based on musical talent was viewed as pointless. How else could a two note wonder like Madonna ever make it?

      Another problem is that buying content one-off is something the internet is not very good at. A lot of people never did want to pay for a year's subscription to anything. Information is cyclical so the August edition might be worth buying but I'm just too busy to be reading the bad crap in the September issue.

    • Gort Speaks profile image

      Gort Speaks 4 years ago from Santa Fe, New Mexico

      Good article, as a former member of a Beatle look alike band of the 60's I agree with most of what is said here. Musicianship is horrible, what has happen to black music that we all loved and listen to in the 60's? Rap and Hip Hop has devastated black culture almost as much as social programs has decimated black family's. [ I'm sure there is a relationship] As far as quality, put on an old cassette tape or record on a average player and try and listen thru the noise....remember that stuff?

      As for me Spotify will stream in 320vbr and save the albums for off line listening! Actually we never had it so good!

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      Michael 4 years ago

      Loudness wars, plain and simple.

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      mahoviak 4 years ago

      two words that solve all the issues listed: Dream Theater

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      Rob Jones 4 years ago

      I think the point about a filtering system is an important, and very interesting one. I think this aspect of things is definitely the first stop to make, since there are plenty of great acts out there. I really don't think the music being made today is the problem. It's as vibrant as it ever was. It's just that the means of getting it is more complicated, and less communal as it was in the 60s-early 90s. What is needed is a way to maintain those niches, while making the mainstream more diverse. What would a filtering model put in place to create this look like? I don't know. I'd be interested in knowing everyone's thoughts on that.

      Thanks for the article.

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      Ian Cussick 4 years ago

      I Totally Agree...

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      Matthew 4 years ago

      Was this article written 6 years ago?

      Vinyl is back. Higher resolution digital formats are on the rise. There are great artists self producing and releasing great music. Lack of musicianship, beats over melody??? You sound like an old man. There is a ton of great musicianship, and songwriting out there. Maybe not in mainstream pop, but that's the beauty of the new music landscape. You don't need to ever listen to mainstream pop. You can find great, interesting new music, and you don't have to look that hard.

      What about avenues like Bandcamp, Kickstarter?

      The barriers between fan and artist have been removed and this is a good thing. The challenge now for an independent artist is marketing and exposure - How to cut through the noise. That challenge can be overcome with creativity and hard work. Good music can still rise to the top.

      I think there is more and better music out now than there has ever been, but there's also more bad music, because there is just more music everywhere.

      Stop whining and go back to your nearest record store and by an LP from a new independent artist.

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      Kiko 4 years ago

      Though this article has agreeable points there is also a strong sense of a singular view. First I believe the idea of a music industry is laughable and am happy to see it dead. There are some things that bother me about the article.

      First No. 3 is only true in some places. there are still very talented and very memorable artists in different corners of the industry. Furthermore it's not like older artists really had that more. Honestly signing untalented and uninteresting musicians has become a tradition. Nobody in our current generation really remembers the "memorable" artists from before the 80s really. You have the few big artists. But to be fair we'll look back on our time now in 30 years and still remember a few. The Beatles may be memorable but their music is simple and unimpressive by this point. It's all simple song structures and half of the songs are throw away love songs.

      Second No. 4 is a joke. There are many great artists who are also songwriters and producers. And to do one you have to have an understanding of the others. A good producer should understand performance and composition and a good songwriter should be able to perform. and so on. Traditional roles are dying but that much is for the better. Perhaps it's traditional to separate the artist from the song writer but I don't take someone seriously as an artist or songwriter unless they can do both. And considering how easy both are there is very little excuse not to do both.

      Third is No. 6. The problem is addressed. whoever wrote this article is clearly not experienced enough in the modern industry to realize it however. Vinyl has the tradition and ritual behind it and does sound better. despite the fact the quality fades over time with use. A digital format remains the same quality over time and will not skip unless the CD skips. but that's why you put it on the computer. CDs where a bad idea. As for the notes and credits or even art those still exist. only in a different format. First is that the majority of album art sucked. There is nothing interesting or impressive about a picture of the band. Be creative. As an artist who does my own album art I'm insulted that that crap passed for album art in the day. And by this point we've seen so many albums that in any size a paper or cardboard picture of something with titles is uninteresting. I don't care if it's a CD or Vinyl or digital i want to see something I have not seen before. And one of the only bands doing something even remotely interesting with their art right now is the band Tool. Having a clear plastic album booklet with layers of artwork that create a bigger picture together or individual concepts separately is brilliant. And in the modern age of technology Artists can create amazing interactive art displays on their sites that they can change at will even for the same album. There is a lot to be said for that.

      Now No. 7. Simply a matter of opinion. It is true that MP3s lack the definition of analog music by this point in time the loss of definition is hardly noticeable to anyone but those who spend time listening to music or producing it. As someone who's life has a soundtrack and loves music enough to have it with me all places at all times I ma happy that I can fit an entire record store in my pocket and listen on the go. It's empowering and it's an experience that I wish children of previous generations had in the way I do. As long as a high quality copy of the music exists somewhere I could care less about MP3s.

      My favorite is No. 8. I could not disagree more. I don't know if words could express how much I disagree. This is the one thing that is saving the industry. Not to mention if your going to complain about the experience of music being lost you can not in good consciousness include No. 8. It's about God Damn time the artists had the exposure to put themselves out without the filters. Filters are death to art and the industry. It sickens me to see how many great artists are and where overlooked in the days of filters and there is no experience past or present in the industry better then disappearing into the underground and simply discovering. It's comforting to know that there is more music out there and available to me then I can ever have a hope of listening to. I will never be bored or disappointed when there is something new and exciting just around the corner. it's inspiring and adventurous.

      No. 9 has always been a joke. and I'm going to bunch No. 10 in as well. No. 10 focuses far to much on individual genres. Melody exists and is popular. it always has been and always will be. And let us note forget that rhythm has been a part of our music forever. If the popular genres of music prefer to hear underrated rythem instead of overrated melody so be it. both are still there. There are plenty of genres dedicated entirely to rhythm and not melody. Genres that are generations or even millennia old. I made the point on musicianship earlier. If you look at a single artists role in most classical music you will see that it's even simpler and safer then pop music today. Musicianship exists if you know where to look. it was buried by filters and set loose by the exposure to the underground. Instead of complaining about how things are not as good as they used to be get off your ass and discover new music. Clearly by this article I can tell the writer has very limited and disappointing exposure to the greater musical experience.

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      Dave 4 years ago

      The first half of the list - I can sort of get, but the last half ... not so much. This was obviously written by someone who is very limited in their music exposure (i.e. top-40 / dance music?) and hasn't even scratched the surface of the "industry" that is supposedly in "trouble".


      [*]The whole "we lost the artwork and liner notes" comment is kind of getting old. Although that's true, artwork and album covers have been replaced by easier access to artists through their websites and other avenues. You can get so much more - in near real time than you could before - about the artist, the songs, the album, what they puked up last weekend...

      [*]MP3's sound horrible - what Boz said. Yes, MP3's at 128 sound like a tin-can speaker, but who downloads/listens to those bitrates any more? Higher bitrates and better lossy formats are the norm and don't sound that bad...

      [*]Too many choices, not enough filters ... holy ****! learn how to use a search engine or download any player (iTunes, Pandora, LastFM...)!

      [*]Lack of Musicianship - the whole "Guitar Hero is ruining things" argument is also getting old. There are so many stories of people who have gotten inspired to take up real instruments because of these games. They get to experiencing the "fun" part of music making and hold that as a carrot to learn instruments.

      [*]Focus is on Beats and not Melody .... geez, again, get out of the top-40/dance charts and expand your horizons!


      The music industry has changed, but it's very far from "Failing".

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      Fram 4 years ago

      Maybe music is not being taught in schools anymore?

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      ChadAustin 4 years ago

      I signed up just so I could comment on this silly article going around on Facebook.

      1. Record Labels Stopped Doing Their Job - not true. Just the industry changed its paradigm. ALL businesses must adapt to survive. And the Music Industry is, duh, a business.

      2. The Record Labels Became Too Big - if they're corporate this is completely true. But what about the hundreds- if not thousands- of independants?

      3. Lack of Talent and Personality - This is absurdly not true. this is always touted by every aging musician. I discover cool new music all the time. Try iTunes digital radio, or Sirius, or...

      4. Traditional Roles Have Disappeared - of course these roles have disappeared because- like in any digital arena- lines are blurred due to software advancing so rapidly to meet demands. A person can create entire songs from samples (think "Gotye", who creates all his songs from samples of instruments on a lap top). I do it all: produce, write, play (about 20 instruments), sample, program MIDI, engineer... are you telling me I'm not allowed to create the way I want? Silly.

      5. Fan Abuse - BS. fans started stealing music (this file sharing is theft. period) and thinking it was OK. And the music industry answered by inflating ticket and merch prices. I NEVER download for free- unless the artist gives music away. I will donate when the artist has allowed for it.

      6. We Lost Some of the Old Experience - B.o.o.H.o.o. I don't miss the old experience of replacing vinyl records because they get scratched and sound horrible, can't take the heat without warping, and expensive diamond needles. Oh, and storage.

      7. MP3s Sound Horrible - so did cassettes, and 95% of the cheap stereo systems folks purchased. Not everyone had the money for for a $1000 hifi system. Give me my iPod ANY day of the week and my 10,000 songs.

      8. Too Many Choices and Not Enough Filters - sounds a bit like all the music and rock publications that used to come out. Only now, instead of just the majors being able to afford (inflated) print advertising, the internet has leveled the playing field... which goes back to #3... if you get off your whiny butt and look for it, you will find mounds of talent just waiting to be discovered: Internet (something called MySpace or ReverbNation or SoundCloud), clubs, Facebook, etc.

      9. Lack of Musicianship - every time there's an advancement in technology for music, these narrow-minded idiots squeal "not fair". Hey man, you WILL NEVER tell me what I can or cannot use for my music-creating pallet. Quit labeling it and try and enjoy it. Bon Iver isn't all that great a singer... neither is Dave Matthews, but they write great music for their respective bands (and me and millions of others). Can John Mayer not play his guitar? Of course, he's brilliant... and caused me to go and work on my chops and discover I wasn't as good as I thought I was. Can Christina Aguilera not sing? What about that Adam from Maroon 5? I mean, there is so much talent out there, discovered and not-discovered.

      10. Focus is on Beats over Melody- maybe in dance & techno... but last I looked there were more styles of music than just that. And, contrary to that authors' opinion, you CAN sing a beat.

      Obviously, the writer of that article is ticked off at the music industry because no one paid attention to his music and the 80's were the last of the instrument virtuosos. He was very correct about one thing- and maybe he should heed his own advice: you do it for the calling and self-satisfaction of creating and playing.

      I'm Chad Austin and I approve this message.

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      Jeff Adams 4 years ago

      The biggest problem with the music industry is that it is an industry. Music is more than an industry. Remove industry and now you have pure music.!

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      banjoist123 4 years ago

      To this list I would add the following: Music has become much more about visual presentation than about music. It no longer matters if you can play an instrument or not. All you have to have is an acrobatic, overly stylized voice, auto-tune, and - most importantly - you must look HOT! I blame shows like American Idol and The Voice for this over focusing on appearance. But, really, it goes back to the birth of the music video. Suddenly, what you listened to was no longer as important as what you saw. Choreography is more important that music. As a result of this, content - lyrics, song composition - have become almost insultingly banal. All you need is a mic and some spandex, and you're on your way.

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      Debby Hanoka 4 years ago

      I disagree with the item that MP3s sound "horrible." In my experience, it all depends at which speed they are made. Using the best possible speed then they are made means a larger file to store on your portable device or computer's hard-drive, but the sound quality is better.

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      Luciano 4 years ago

      Couldn't agree less with this article and its writer's opinion. Music as an art form for the masses has never been more viable than today, thanks to the Internet and digital media. There is more quality music being made than ever before in our history and it's readily available to more people than ever before. Sure, vinyl was great but it's pure nostalgia, nothing more. Open your eyes and ears and enjoy all the amazing music that's being made, in whatever genre you enjoy.

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      Mary M 4 years ago

      Obviously - you were never part of the music industry because you are wrong in so many ways. The music industry has nothing to do with concert prices, that is between the artist and the concert promotor.No artist development after the 70s is just ridiculous - how about Public Enemy, Madonna, Michael Jackson, U2, Talking Heads, Guns n Roses, Replacements, and Prince just to name a few. I could go on and on but it would just be a waste of time much like this ridiculous article from a bitter musician.

    • Barry Lubotta profile image

      Barry Lubotta 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      Overall a good article but let's clear up one thing in #5. Yes, ticket prices to live venues seem to be over the top, no argument.

      As far as CD prices being a rip off to fans, I take exception to this naïve way of thinking.

      The price of manufacturing a CD only represents a small cost of making one. There is the recording costs, including musicians and producers, graphics and studio time and more. A quality album often takes hundreds of hours in the studio to create. Yes, there are exceptions but most of the old favourites people like were costly to produce.

      Would you say a restaurant should only charge on the basis of cooking food without taking into account food purchase prices, labour, rent, etc?

      The problem is that today many can make a CD without high costs and those are somehow considered equal to a professional product. More often than not, the only thing they have in common is that they both end up on a CD but the content varies a lot.

      When you hear a professionally make song you know it from the first few seconds. In most cases that took the work of professionals.

      So what's the fair price of a CD? To own forever an album of quality music isi a privilege, one that people should happily fork over $15 or $20 for. No one wants to pay that for an inferior album but for a gem, one that will give pleasure for years, that's a reasonsable cost and always will be.

    • Marcie Lightwood profile image

      Marcie Lightwood 4 years ago

      I think the witer of this has unconsciously "bought" the notion that muisc is the big-ticket music industry, nothing more. Get out to fairs and music festivals and hear the wonderful performers that are not getting those big contracts that will eventually homogenize them and make them "marketable". Go to independent smaller venues like the legendary Godfrey Daniels Coffeehouse here in Bethlehem, PA, and buy the Artists' CD's. Promote to your friends those performers you have heard that you think everyone should hear.

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      dan___ 4 years ago

      I agree with none of this. Music as a form of entertainment has never been enjoyed by more people. This is a very generalising look at the situation. Things change, it doesn't mean they are failing.

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      Craig Post 4 years ago

      I think one thing with portable players, whatever they might be, mine just a laptop, I finally found the adjustable 10 band equalizer. Unbelievable difference in sound quality I'd been missing out all these years.

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      garrisounds 4 years ago

      It's funny that you talked about MP3s and showed Apple products which play MP4s. Honest mistake I'm sure and I do agree that they sound less than perfect and if they translated Analog to WAV format it would be a hell of a lot better.

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      kogami 4 years ago

      some valid points here but also some points that show you only know half of what you're talking about.

      your point 5 - Go to a CD pressing site and see what it costs to make 500 -1000 cds. it's not pennies. It's about $3 inc cover, this doesn't take into account the cost of recording, producing, distribution, advertising etc.

      These costs were even higher when the CD format started.

      'Some' labels (majors) own pressing plants and can greatly reduce the costs of production, but you're greatly misrepresenting the lay of the land by inferring all music is made under these conditions. Smaller labels with short runs, $20 hardly covers the cost of bring it to the listener.

      You also don't understand what you're talking about in point 7. CD audio is not .wav, and only the shittiest of shitty mp3 conversions sound as you describe. You have a number of options open to you to maintain fidelity.

      Some of your other points are subjective, but others identify important

      aspects of the devaluation of music, especially the points on format size and artwork.

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      Yrlic 4 years ago


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      Anne 4 years ago

      Get a little off the beaten path, man. I just got home from the Fayetteville Roots Festival, where I got to hear and see Mary Gauthier, John Fullbright, and a host of other genuinely great musicians. WoodyFest was just a few weeks ago -- more of the same. Lots of small music venues have astonishing performers, on-the-road singer/songwriters, week in and week out, but nobody shows up because very few of these people have record deals or TV shows.

      The public gets the kind of music it patronizes. If they're satisfied with ClearChannel and The Voice, then hey, there are plenty of suppliers out there who will fix them right up. Bless their hearts.

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      Spin 4 years ago

      I am a Marine who worked (and still does work) in the music biz as a producer for a long period of time. While my work was/is primarily in the generes of Hip Hop, R&B, and Reggae, I was a music major who graduated from Syracuse University with a dual major in Music Business and Vocal Performance and a minor in composition. I was classically trained in guitar, bass, drums, piano, violin and voice. I'm going to speak in generalities here .. While I loved the a lot about the era mentioned above and agree with some of your points ... I also love a lot about the new era of electronic music and disagree with some of your points as well. There is good and bad with EVERYTHING; however, everything must evolve. While you may not like where music has gone, if it did not go somewhere, it would have gotten stale anyway.

      I wrote my college thesis paper on the history of American popular music and will use this to make a strong point. As far as "lifting melodies from other peoples songs", the so called producers you mention from the 50s and 60s stole entire songs from black R&B artists, watered them down, and gave them to Elvis. They essentially did what producers are doing now. Call it sampling, call it stealing, call it borrowing, this has been going on since music was born. Whether it is good or bad is a matter of opinion and preference; however, it is not exclusive to the newer generation of electronic music.

      The beauty of music and the biz is that there is something for everyone. Now and then there was good and bad music; however, what defines whether music is good or bad? What I label as horrible may be someone elses favorite song. The beauty is that there is so much out there to satisfy all of the individual musical pallets in the world. It used to be that if you weren't on a major label you didn't get air play. Now, I can't tell you how much of my favorite music is from artists that I have found by accident and will probably never be rich or famous. We have choice now which, in my opinion and with my experience, is what has set us free. Just my 2 cents.

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      DirkSlik 4 years ago

      Somebody writing an article with this topic would seem to imply that they are an expert. But if you don't know that the cost of a CD is more than the pennies it makes to manufacture it, you know nothing about the music business. You also have to pay for the songs, the musicians, the distribution - much more than the cost of pressing the disc. The fact that people devalue all of these things should be at least one of your reasons the music business is failing. Try to be better educated if you insist on writing this kind of article...

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      tommy 4 years ago

      While I found your article insightful & well thought out, I don't know that I agree with all your points. If what you said were true, then explain the success of Jason Mraz, Tool, Joe Bonamassa, Allen Stone, Snarky Puppy & countless others in the last 20 years . ? . ? . ? (MOST of the afore mentioned artist started as or still ARE D.I.Y./"Indie" artist)

      I do agree that there is a proliferation of "bad" music out there, but I contend it was ALWAYS there.

      As well, I don't know that the "music business" is in "trouble", per say. I read a BUNCH of articles with subject titles like, "Album sales down" OR "Major labels report x% of slow sales". YEAH, ALBUM sales are down, for MAJOR labels trying to produce CHEAP CRAP, like, American Idol . . . . . . . . . But then you read an article the NEXT day about Simon Cowells 5 Rolls Royce's & the MAJOR LABEL CEO's banking BILLIONS . . . . . . . so, let's call a duck, a duck.

      Downloads, "single" sales, ringtone sales are UP, CONSISTANTLY; as reported by BMI, SESAC, ASCAP.

      I see examples ALL THE TIME, DAILY, of success in the MUSIC BUSINESS of artists that are BUSTING THEIR ASS & MAKING IT HAPPEN.

      At any rate, just wanted to throw some pennies in the well. Hope this finds you better than you could expect.

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      Chas H 4 years ago

      Digital recording allowed the introduction of as much "noise" as desired on a CD. Meaning, everything in the mix can be louder because the needle isn't going to jump off the record anymore. Everything is too loud, making it very unpleasant to listen to, even if the music started out being decent. And yes, the incessant rpetetive beat that never varies (except in tempo) is very boring. Combine the two (loud and boring); and we're doomed to listening to crap. And forget about harmony and melody. "Nursery rhyme" choruses are all that matter. I haven't been able to find anything listenable in 20 years. Granted, I'm older, a musician, and grew up with a certain sense of being entertained, not asaulted. And the lead vocals? Trying to hit the highest note in one's range on every song? Again, not intersting. And the genres are so blurred that they cannot be identified. I am so glad I listened to top 40 in the 60's and learned about where it came from, thus deveolping an appreciation for jazz, blues, clasical, big band and country that remains on my playlist to this day. Music has gone the way of architechture; redundant and boring. Too bad.

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      Ivan 4 years ago

      Interesting article. I think the issue of the role of technology could be expanded a bit. It could be argued that the lack of gatekeepers puts the responsibility in the hands of musicians nowadays. I did an interview regarding some of these topics here. Let me know if you find it interesting

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      I love artists 4 years ago

      Funnily enough, I thought the `fan abuse`paragraph would refer to the thousands of `fans`who make hundreds of unauthorized downloads of artists`work each year without contributing a penny to their creation. It`s ironic that you would complain about CDs being overpriced at $20 while decrying the loss of specialization among producers, songwriters, etc. Hmmmm. Exactly how do you imagine these people are supposed to get paid in a world where, at the best of times, income dribbles in in 60 cent-per-song increments? (as an aside, have you ever looked into how many pennies it costs to make the $500 smart phone on which you listen to your under-priced music?) The music industry isn`t failing. It`s providing people with exactly what they are willing to pay for: crap. Quality costs a lot of money -- money used to take higher risk chances of emerging talent, to develop young artists over multiple albums and to pair them with talented songwriters, musicians and producers. If quality is really what you wanted, you`d be willing to pay for it.

    • Frank Gutch Jr. profile image

      Frank Gutch Jr. 4 years ago from Oregon

      I could argue about half of those points, but that's the thing. They are viable points. I will state this, though. The quality of music is still here. You just have to dig for it. The days of having it handed to you are over--- that is, if you don't like what the major labels (and major label-distributed indies) are promoting. My pick for last years album of the year? Picture the Ocean, a lesser known band out of Edmonton. Why? Of all the albums I received during the year (I write reviews and receive review copies all the time), that was the one I most listened to. Possibly what I am saying is that the music industry isn't dead but has been gravely wounded, largely by a fan base more enamored with technology than music.

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      Jeff 4 years ago

      CD audio files are not WAV files.

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      MrNamePerson 4 years ago

      Mr Streets,

      Thanks for taking the time to write insightfully and without a mean spirit about this important subject. I am in agreement with the biggest part of what you expressed and deeply saddened by what has taken place in all these areas.

      The only place we might part is on point 8. In the past I feel record company execs, publishers and radio programmers had a bit too much control over what was handed to the public.. but then there was at least a reasonable amount of musical knowledge involved. A tiny disagreement (if at all) and I still am grateful for your professional an obviously experienced outlook. Thanks again.

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      Thin Man 4 years ago

      I saw this coming in the 80's, when there were and still are air guitar contests. There are lots of great guitarists in Blues and southern rock but it's hard to find. You have to filter through a lot of crap to find Radiohead, Muse, and Joe Bonnamassa to find exciting music today. Fortunately there's still ZZ Top, Joe Walsh, occasionally David Gilmour, Clapton, The Allman Bros., Peter Frampton and Steve Cropper to remind us of the past. Satellite radio sucks because they pick out 15 songs and play them over and over for months.

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      Bob G 4 years ago

      I would point you to the Progressive Rock side of music, then you might have a slight change of heart. Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Riverside, The Tangent, Mars Volta, Steve Hackett, Renaissance, Simon Collins, and many many more.