Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The sky is falling – so do something about it

Will the record industry, as we know it, still exist in 2018? Given that every single bulletin issued by the sector continues to be full of doom and gloom, the business itself doesn’t even appear to hold out much hope …

Fri, Aug 1, 2008, 09:22

   

Will the record industry, as we know it, still exist in 2018?

Given that every single bulletin issued by the sector continues to be full of doom and gloom, the business itself doesn’t even appear to hold out much hope for its survival.

It’s not alone in its pessimism. Acts who have grown audiences on the back of record-label help and support are rapidly copping on that they can now make more cash from live shows.

Established acts are either doing a Radiohead and going it alone or doing a 360 deal, such as Jay-Z and Madonna, and putting all their eggs in the Live Nation basket.

Fans are also not playing ball as they once did and are increasingly hostile to the notion of paying over-the-odds for a plastic disc. However, the large-scale migration to paid-for downloads is not providing enough revenue for the labels to meet their costs. Red has replaced black on the sector’s balance sheet.

Of course, none of this is news to anyone who has followed the sad, sorry tale of the death of the record industry as it has unfolded over the last number of years.

But just as politicians like to suggest that we have talked ourselves into a recession, there’s also a strong sense that the record labels are content to whinge and moan rather than take any action to get themselves out of the mess.

After all, any other industry that found itself in this kind of pickle would be making wholesale changes in an effort to survive.

Yet, as Guy Hands, the Terra Firma venture capitalist who purchased EMI Music for £2.4 (€3) billion last year, found out when he started examining the books and deals in-depth, the record industry operates to a different set of rules to everyone else. Who else would tolerate a situation where just 5 per cent of releases turn a profit?

While a recorded-music industry of some sort will probably still exist 10 years from now, you can take it that it will not look or operate like the current clueless behemoth.

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