The Unchanging Future of Music

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Information about The Unchanging Future of Music

Published on July 11, 2009

Author: AdamGurri



The internet and digital technology are not going to change the music industry as much as we have been led to believe.

The Unchanging Future  of Music    

A Cloud Culture Presentation    

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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