Before the record company

by Russel Hlongwane

Before the record company, there was music, yes it was informal but music was there. At the funeral service of the record company there will still be music. Over the past decade, we’ve heard, read and even found ourselves at some point saying the words ‘’the music industry is dead’’. However, if we study closer, we find that the music industry as a whole is well buoyant, but the same cannot be said for the record industry. In fact, the music industry grew from roundabout $132 billion to $168 billion. And in a country like the States concert tickets tripled from $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion during 1999 to 2009.

Being strong as it is, the record company has sold us the terror that we are all in decline but in truest terms, their product, the CD is 48376840 record company466x220 in decline. The musician makes his product; music, it is from this product that the record company packages and sells their product; the CD. So when the CD dies, the record company suffers, painfully. However, the musician still has his primary product, his music and his craft. It is very much like a company that is a water supplier saying that he cannot sell his water because there is just not enough plastic in which to bottle the water. This is not quite true because the client can still sell the water, they just have to figure out a new way to sell the water directly to the people. It is at this exact position that the musician has found himself, having no CD (plastic bottle), but he still has his water and better yet he still has thirsty fans, but the only trick now is to sell (water) to these people directly. In selling this water himsel,he has no experience.

A creative and alert musician, will realise that he also has a spring in his backyard but neither does he have this bottled packaging. So he gets smarts and invites the same thirsty crowd to bring their own containers and he will sell them water for even cheaper price. There is not a packaging cost that he or his fans have to pay. Granted this analogy is not a spitting image of the picture of the music industry, but the discipline is the same. The plastic bottle is only part of the greater economy, it is not the economy. The traded commodity that drives the economy is water, which still rests with the maker, the creator. The onus is on the water bearer to adapt his product and improve his business acumen.

I call it the power shift, the power has moved from the big four dominating record companies and has transgressed to the fans and the musicians. The huge danger with this is that power is destructive when used irresponsibly.

To entertain statistics from various research projects, the number released albums has gone from 38 000 in 2003 to 106 000 in 2008. But these impressive figures fell to 75 000 in 2010 due to the recession.

As an artist, this is best time to be alive when the world is getting smaller, but the people are expanding exponentially which means you walk a shorter distance to sell to more people.

Happy walking to the market.



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