Music Distribution

Music distribution is still a mess. I suppose due to the internet becoming it’s primary form of promotion and distribution.

I recently was made aware of a disparity.The number of followers on twitter/ facebook an artist has greatly exceeds the album sales of their last offering, whether LP/CD or download. I was very surprised to learn that people in the younger generation my be really into an artist, yet have not purchased their music. Album sales are falling dramatically, but not due to people listening to less music it seems.

I can see the point, why buy a copy, when you have instant access to the music on your music playing device? Young people are more mobile and live in smaller places than previously, so it’s understandable that they don’t do what my generation did;  lug boxes and boxes of LPs/CDs around when they move and clutter up their reduced living spaces with archive material. However the artists don’t get hardly any money for their work this way.

This is partly due to how music distribution evolved on the internet:

Pre-internet – Music is discovered/promoted by live performances, magazine reviews, radio and word of mouth. The problem was being unable to listen to the product enough to know you liked it enough to spend £12 of disposable income on it.

Early internet – Ability to download almost any piece of music (mainly illegally). This I always felt was what I had dreamed about as a teenager, a giant record shop, where you could listen to anything first in the comfort of your home. Streaming was not possible as on dial-up bandwidth was insufficient. The majority of people still purchased LPs/CDs as they saw these downloads as the ‘shop window’ for the artist.

Present internet – Attempt to solve problem of illegal downloading with streaming. Streaming allows a separation of listening and downloading the data to a storage media. So music becomes a subscription service. The artist. producer make very little in royalties this way, as yet.

What is the solution? What happens when the promotion/shop window become the very same thing as the purchasing. Analogy: The retailer charges a small entrance fee to the shop but only some customers buy anything further.  Some form of restriction of access until purchase is made seems the obvious answer. Yet in world where the music promoters (the streaming services) are still developing and competing to become the 1st port of call carrier and retail sales continue to decline. I feel this industry has still has considerable evolution to undergo.


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