I’m totally out of tune with the music industry

The music industry is booming, but artists appear to be losing

When did you last buy recorded music – from a store, I mean? I bet it has been a while.

Music lovers today tend to ‘stream’ (download and play) their favourite music from an internet source on computer or smartphone – and most younger people’s personal music collections are currently more likely to be stored on ‘the cloud’ or on their cell phone.

Mine is still largely in boxes, containers and large and small computer hard drives which evolved from every computer I’ve owned over the past 20 years.

In fact, it’s hard to find a record store any more. I guess I saw this coming many years ago when Sam the Record Man shut down in Toronto. Sam in the 1980s was Canada’s biggest retailer of recorded music and I often spent hours in there browsing through the stacks (Sam’s had the most amazing “everything must go” sales I’ve ever experienced).

For a long time I kept every bit of music I had bought, from old 78’s, 45s, cassette tapes, extended play records, long play vinyl and CDs, from singles to full albums.

I moved some of them from Scotland to New Brunswick, then to Kingston, and then more from Toronto and Brampton, and finally to Kitimat (when your move is being paid for by a new employer it’s easy to rationalize tossing in a few extra boxes of irrelevant baggage).

Over the years, like everyone else, I disposed of my oldest and least played 78s and reluctantly disposed of boxes of extended play and even long play records, including a couple of discs my kids had actually danced on and were unplayable.

After retirement when I was downsizing and I was paying to move, I was much more ruthless and much of it is buried somewhere in the Kitimat landfill.

Getting to my point, and borrowing from the late David Bowie quoted in the New York Times circa 2002 – “The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within ten years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it.

“I see no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in ten years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing. Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity…”

The 10 years are gone and I’m not sure we’re quite there yet.

However, a news report this morning caught my eye – CD sales have dropped 80 per cent in the past few years, 23 per cent last year alone.

However, the music streaming industry continues to make millions more dollars than ever before, so it’s not that the music business is too fragile or over-faceted in the new millenium, but it is complicated.

I’ve known I was both behind the times and out of touch with today’s music — my tastes are semi-archaic anyway.

I don’t subscribe to Spotify or any of these www-suppliers, but I do play my old music on my computer, or from discs on the old deck player in summertime for my own enjoyment. Take a walk any night – lots of people do.

I did some research to confirm that unsurprising fact – of the 20 best-selling popular music albums of 2018, I recognized only one performer’s name — that is out of touch.

But one thing is clear — vinyl has made a comeback and I don’t really have any left, and it’s too late also to start collecting again.

Late last year USA Today reported something startling though – the music industry is booming, but artists appear to be losing, taking home just 12 per cent of the revenue generated through the sale of their music. The 2017 industry’s $43 billion year was its most profitable since 2006.

Listeners are still spending more money than ever before, largely on streaming and live music, with consumers reported spending totalling more than $20 billion last year.

Just last week USA Today reported that the artists group was joined by none other than former president, Barack Obama, who dialled in at #22 on Billboard’s “hot R&B songs chart” as part of a new mix that reimagines the Hamilton Broadway musical song about George Washington vacating his presidential seat.

In the new version, Obama doesn’t sing on the track — he delivers Washington’s farewell address, backed up by Christopher Jackson who played the part in the hit Broadway show.

I’m not planning to add it to my dwindling music collection. YouTube serves me very well, supplying an endless flow of diverse music with my nightcap — I have only rarely been able to list an artist or song in “YTsearch” to be disappointed or not to have it show up.

Good enough for me!

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