Make it in the Music Industry in the Digital Age

It is no secret that the music industry is struggling to survive. The advent of digital piracy has severely 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 seemingly even further away from the grasp of most musicians, just how can today’s artists make it in the modern music industry?

It is the ultimate dream of many musicians to one day sign a major record deal. It is the Holy Grail of many bands, yet unfortunately many talented musicians will never get that opportunity. The record deal, while always being an extremely difficult thing to achieve, has actually become even harder to attain, and here’s why. Record labels are running out of money.

All businesses require money to survive, and the music business is no exception. Digital piracy is robbing the music industry of it’s cash flow, and a business without cash flow cannot survive for very long. 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 healthy bank balance a record label can afford to take the risk. The second is that even if new talent proves itself to be a very 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 their granny’s right arm for a record deal?

It actually leaves them in a very strong position, and here’s why.

For many, many years the music industry was a highly guarded, almost mystical business. Just how did somebody go from being an average Joe to being the planets most revered pop-star? With shows like Pop Idol and the X-Factor the ‘fame’ process has become more mainstream. Most people nowadays can understand, albeit on a very basic level, how someone makes that kind of transformation. Just look at the Susan Boyle story.

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

When the MP3 file format was created, again the music business did not rush out and embrace it as a potential game changer. They assumed people would be very happy to continue paying over the odds 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, completely unrelated technologies would join forces to take over the only thing which gave them any real power. This ‘thing’ happened to be the global distribution of music.

The day the web became robust enough to handle large file downloads, and move MP3’s from a PC sitting on a desk in London to a PC sitting on a desk in Australia, 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 internet, there is no reason whatsoever why bands all over the world cannot get their music to the ears of music lovers in any country. The barriers to entry of the music business no longer exist.

There is no longer any need for bands to plough hundreds of dollars into producing a CD album. It is much more affordable to produce an MP3 single. There is no longer any need to beg and plead for distribution into major record stores. You can now distribute your music globally via MySpace or your own band website. You can even get your song onto iTunes via Tunecore for around ten dollars if you would like to capture the iPod/iPhone market.

Where the doors to the major labels remain almost impenetrable, the gateway to the music industry has been flung wide open for all those who dare to enter it.