Published on July 11, 2009
The Unchanging Future of Music
A Cloud Culture Presentation http://cloudculturecontent.blogspot.com/
Music is an industry that scales. ● The cost of reproducing song files is nearly nothing. ● There is virtually no quality degradation ● The internet provides a distribution channel that is global and practically costless.
Earnings in industries that scale are invariably distributed in a power law, or long tail.
Power Law Image taken from Wikipedia
In other words, in something like the music industry, a tiny number of musicians account for the vast majority of income earned.
This Has Always Been The Case For as long as recorded music has been a reality, the music industry has followed a power law distribution of income.
Why? Recording is what made it possible. ● Before recording, one artist's music could only be heard by as many people as could listen to all the live performances that artist put on in their lifetime. ● Recording makes it possible for people who have never seen the artist live to hear their music; in fact, it allows the artist's music to compete with other musicians from beyond the grave.
The Fear We've been told that if the internet takes away the ability to charge a price for music, there will be no business model to sustain professional musicians.
The Reality A lot less is going to change about the opportunities available to musicians than we have been led to believe. ● Chris Anderson pointed out that “Music creates celebrity” ● There will still be a tiny class of superfamous musicians while the vast majority remain relatively obscure. ● Quoting Anderson again, “there are worse problems than the challenge of turning fame into fortune.”
The Structure Will Change The ones that have real cause for concern are the existing institutions. ● They emerged to minimize the costs under very different circumstances, and they have no hope for survival. ● New institutions will emerge to minimize the costs associated with the digital age.
The Practice of Music Will Change To compensate for the relentless price competition created by online digital distribution, musicians will be forced to make their money in areas that do not scale. ● Live performances and guest appearances ● Funding will come directly from sources like ticket sales, but also indirectly from sponsors competing in an attention economy.
The Outcome Will Not Change ●A tiny group of musicians will get most of the attention and therefore most of the income. ●A larger group will be able to make a good living. ●An yet larger group will be able to make a mediocre living. ●The vast majority of musicians will not be able to make a living—“don't quit your day job” will remain a relevant turn of phrase.
This is how the music industry has always been, and how it always will be.
Attribution The concept of industries that “scale” taken from Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan, the third chapter. Chris Anderson quotes were taken from chapter 14 of his book, Free!
A more detailed analysis available at Cloud Culture. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License
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