Digital Age: How to make it in the Music Industry

By Adam Yorkshire

It’s no more a secret that the music industry is struggling to survive. The introduction of digital piracy has dented the profits of major record labels, and as such, they are less likely to invest in new music. With the elusive record deal now seems even further away from the grasp of most musicians. How can today’s artists make it in the modern music industry?

It’s the ultimate dream of many artists to sign a major record deal. It is the holy grail of many bands, yet many talented musicians will never get that chance. The record deal, while always being a difficult thing to achieve, has become even harder to attain, and here’s why. Record labels are running out of money.

All businesses need money to survive, and the music business is no exception. Digital piracy is robbing the music industry of its cash flow, and business without cash flow can’t survive for a long period. Without cash flow, the major record labels will be tightening their purse strings and holding back from investing in new talent for two reasons. One is that new talent is always a risk.

There is no guarantee that any band will be a success, but at least with a good bank balance, a record label can afford to take the risk. The second is that even if new talent proves itself to be a desirable investment on paper, the major labels know that a high proportion of music distribution will occur illegally. They will not earn a single penny from the pirates.

So where does that leave talented musicians who would give everything for a record deal? It leaves them in a very strong position, and here is why.

For many years, the music industry was a protected business. Just how did somebody go from being an average singer to being the planets most respected pop-star? With shows like The Voice, American Idol and the X-Factor, the fame process has become more mainstream. Most people nowadays can understand, although on a very basic level, how someone makes that kind of transformation.

When the internet came along, no one in the music industry paid much attention to it. It was an amazing technological development but hardly worth getting too excited about. After all, the only way of accessing the little online content was through a slow dial-up connection.

When the MP3 file format was created, the music business did not rush out and embrace it as a potential game changer. They assumed people would be happy to continue paying over the probabilities for a piece of plastic and a pretty cover because it was something they could hold in their hands.

Back then, the major labels had no idea that these two independent and unrelated technologies would join forces to take over the only thing which gave them any real power. This thing happened to be the distribution of music globally.

The day the internet became robust enough to handle large file downloads, and move MP3’s from a PC sitting on a desk in Canada to a PC sitting on a desk in America, the single most important control the major labels had over the music industry was gone forever.

This redistribution of power is what now gives a four-piece garage band in Ohio the same marketing potential as the highest paid artists on Sony’s roster. Using the online platforms, there is no reason whatsoever why bands all over the world can’t get their music to the ears of music lovers in any country. The barriers to entry of the music business do not exist anymore.

There is no longer any reason for bands to invest hundreds of dollars into producing a cd album. It’s much more affordable to produce an mp3 single. There is no need to beg and plead for distribution into major record stores. You can now distribute your music globally through MySpace or your own website. You can even get your song on iTunes for some dollars if you would like to capture the iPod or iPhone market. The internet has made it easier for artists to make it in the music industry. Good Luck to the Artists and the Labels – May Music live on forever!