A brief rant on the Music Industry

The record labels are trying to sue Usenet. Radiohead sold more than a million online albums. OINK got shut down and made front page news. What is wrong with the music industry? How did we end up here?

I cannot honestly think of any other industry which has done so poorly out of the internet. It’s now clear that the internet is not going away, yet still the music industry tries to fight progress rather than adapt. Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that the music industry was doing it wrong for 50 years before the internet starting causing trouble, so it was (and still is) near impossible to shift the mentality of the people at it’s summit.

Music is an artform. Just as painting or sculpture is. It is the creation of something with no rational existence, something that was produced simply because someone felt it should be. No other artform has been destroyed in the way that music has been over the last 50 years. Commercial radio exists purely with the goal of selling albums that make record executives more money.

If the music industry could simply start again, get rid of the suits, get rid of the talentless pop-stars, and exist as another art industry, it could be one of the biggest success stories of the internet. Anyone who really cares about their art doesn’t care about making the front cover of Who magazine. Anyone who really cares about their art doesn’t care if people sample or reference or rework it. And in the same way that I can buy a postcard or print of a painting I like for a few bucks, but have to make a real effort to go and see the artwork in real life, the logical model the music industry could take would be to give it all away online. Let people listen for free. Any true music fan knows that absolutely nothing compares to seeing, hearing, and experience something for real, and people will always pay for that experience.

Then, bring back the suits. Bring back the pop stars. They are necessary yes, but they are not music. They are the trashy magazines in a bookshop full of wonderful ideas.

- October 2007