Prior to the digital age we had the age of cassette tapes and compact discs where the record labels reigned supreme. During this time the labels were in a position of power dictating the artist’s career and controlling how music sales were carried out. The only way a person could own a song they heard on the radio was purchase the album. I was a victim of the “single curse”, the simplest explanation of this curse is spending your hard-earned money to pay for an album because you liked a single but the rest of the album failed to impress you. You can see why the recording industry was making more money during this time.
It use to be that artists and labels worked together to make platinum or diamond status. Instead artists are keeping a closer eye on how each single performs and not how their album is doing. Some methods they use to track this information are: Billboard’s Top 100 Singles, SoundScan and iTunes top 10 singles. We as consumers have evolved a well. We went from paying too much for music, not paying anything at all, to paying less than dollar per song and now we have a choice to subscribe or not subscribe, either we have the ability to listen to an abundance of singles. This change in sales has shifted the balance of power from the music industry to the consumer.
One of the major influences for the shift of power and change of focus from albums to singles is technology and the way people use it. Most of us can be found at a computer or on our smart phone a good part of the day. This attachment to our technology has caused us to want to have our information and media delivered to us right away. Luckily we don’t have to wait technology knows what we want before we want it and has made it not only available but accessible from all sorts of avenues.
Technology and the music industry did not mix for a while. The industry fought hard and said no to the change because they knew it would have an everlasting effect on their revenue streams. Had they found ways to blend themselves into the changes they may not be taking such a hit. Unfortunately they have arrived at that revelation too late and continue to lose money in several aspects of their business.
First, the music industry has seen a huge decline in profits that have to do with recording music. If you have a computer and decent recording software you can record your next single out of your home rather than having a big production at the studio and spending tons of money in the process. Secondly, music has gone primarily digital and single driven which means less money for the labels in terms of distribution. Last but not least the industry has lost control over the way we access our music. Most of us use some sort of streaming music program or buy our music on iTunes and if we are in the mood to watch a music video we visit YouTube.