I was reading the last edition of Forbes magazine and came across this article where Katy Perry was among the top three highest earning entertainers in the world - with a whopping earning of $135 million (equivalent to Rs. 880 crore) over the past 12 months. Well, that is the kind of revenue that is enough to almost pay out Nagaland State’s budget deficit!
With the advent of digital media, it has set off a sort of predictable trend towards a direction where musicians should start embracing and preparing themselves for a future where the digital revolution will divert the course of our traditional music industry. Over the past 15 years, the industry wide album sales have plummeted from 785 million to 257 million. 2014 was an interesting caveat in the music industry trend where out of the 257 million albums sold worldwide, only two CDs went platinum in 2014 - Taylor Swift’s 1989 and Disney’s Frozen OST. This negative trend in global music sales is proof enough that this trend is set to continue tumbling downhill and is a clear sign for what we should expect in the years to come.
Music CDs are on their way to the museum by now with the advent of smart phones where you don’t hear or see anyone around you inserting CDs to listen to music anymore. Two artists handed me their music CDs to have a listen and honestly the music CDs were lying in my office table for over three months with their plastic covers intact. Last week, I saw the CDs dumped in the bin, probably by the cleaner (I guess even the cleaner doesn’t own a CD player and probably listens to music on his phone mp3 player!).
Digital music sales in almost all the most popular stores, starting from our own local online stores like www.indihut.com
to global giants like iTunes worldwide is declining every year.
This could be attributed to the domination of ad-funded streaming services like Spotify, Soundcloud, Deezer and Rdio. For music lovers, it may be the best of times but these are indeed the most financially disruptive of times for musicians.
So, the questions which most musicians and retailers always ask are: ‘Why aren’t people buying music?’ ‘What is the future of the music industry?’ ‘Will online sales of music albums and singles improve?’ ‘Will artists never be able to earn money like we used to?’ Well, scroll back up and read how much Katy Perry earned if you thought all musicians are going to end up in the streets.
If we go by the math and analyze the global trend, history has proven that when it comes to forecasting the market of any product in any industry, analysts are often closely accurate because of the obvious fact that statistics and trends help us in understanding what is unfolding ahead of us. Analyzing customer trends and correlating with change in technology can provide hints of which bus we need to catch in order to lead us to where the crowd is headed.
These global trends reveal that as the internet accessibility and speed increase; people don't need to download anything onto their hard drives and memory cards but instead access them online directly. This is where the concept of cloud computing comes into picture. With more and more people shifting from traditional media like the television, newspaper, magazine, radio, etc to the internet for all source of knowledge, information and entertainment and 4G internet speed enhancing the online experience; the hazy picture is getting clearer as we realize that streaming and cloud computing is going to soon take over the era of downloading. The time has dawned upon us, where we no longer need to store pictures, movies, music, applications, software in our hard drives and memory cards but will find it more convenient to access them directly from the cloud (Internet).
In order to prove this hypothesis, take our own case. Aren’t we ourselves watching more YouTube videos rather than downloading it and watching them? Those with better internet speeds will agree that these days, you also tend to watch streaming movies online rather than download them. Aren’t we sharing our images on our Facebook albums (uploading it on the cloud) and accessing them online whenever we want to view them? These are all clear indications of where our choices and routines are unconsciously heading towards. Welcome to the era of cloud computing and online streaming.
Musicians these days cannot expect to write songs, release them, sit back and wait for money to pour into their bank accounts.
Some may disagree with me, but I believe that the real purpose of music is to entertain us and stir up our emotions; be it love, melancholy, anger; it even has the ability to make us stand to our feet and dance uncontrollably. Sweet irony about how the transformation in the music industry has empowered independent artists to rise above powerful labels; how artists are now indirectly forced to become real entertainers by going out on the streets, into the arenas or cafes to unleash their artistic creations and directly channelize it to the people surrounding them; to connect with their music live. Hence, there is no doubt that even when it comes to the remotest corner of India, in a place like Nagaland where there is abundance of very talented musicians and artists.
The ones who have earned the highest revenues through their artistic abilities have been those who have not relied on their album/single sales but have used the online music platforms from Indihut to iTunes to YouTube, simply as a marketing tool to reach out to their fans and connect with them; who in turn buy the tickets to their live shows and that is where the real revenue for the artist is generated – live shows! Tours and live shows have been the only, if not major contributing, factor to the artist to survive and earn his livelihood through his art
Music will never die because, as human beings music is engraved in our DNAs. Our species consumed music through different means; live then the magnetic tape died and CD’s had even a shorter lifespan with online digital music buying and downloads almost sidelined by streaming and audience preference over live entertainment again. The vicious cycle has circled back to the age where entertainers and audiences would sit, stand or dance together under the same roof or sky, filled with the energy generated by the creations of these artists. Musicians need to adapt to these changing times and stay relevant in order to continue to thrive and succeed at this age of live tours, online streaming, vinyl’s and of course relying heavily on online social media to connect to your fans. But for how long? The bus has just started, get on board and we’ll see where the next stop awaits.