What happened to the music industry?



By Colin Remes

The music industry has certainly changed over the past 15 years, and in my opinion, not at all for the better.

The advancements of technology have allowed digital distribution to expand exponentially, in particular illegal downloading, and it has caused actual record sales to plummet significantly. Just 10 short years ago, it took millions of album sales to reach number one on the Billboard records sales charts. These days, moving a few hundred thousand units in your first week of sales is enough to get you to number one.

One of the major effects of illegal downloading is a narrowing of the playing field of music genres that are commercially successful. The remaining three genres that still actually turn a profit are Rap/Hip-Hop (Drake, Lil’ Wayne), Country (Lady Antebellum) and Pop (Lady Gaga, Adele). And even someone as popular as those artists mentioned are now, his or her level of popularity in the late ‘90s and early 2000s would have yielded up to three times as many record sales.

It’s difficult to argue that Lady Gaga is not the biggest music artist of any genre right now, because she is. Her second full-length album, Born This Way, sold 1.11 million copies in it’s first week. That seems pretty good, but she’s the only artist these days that can even touch that. Also, compare that to the record holder for most albums sold in a week (N’Sync: No Strings Attached) at 2.42 million in the year 2000; she didn’t even come close. Since these are the only genres that yield record sales worthwhile to major labels, other genres, particularly all forms of rock, have taken a major hit. Granted, well-established rock acts like Green Day, Pearl Jam and The Offspring continue to make records and sell reasonably well, but truly good new rock music has become a rare occurrence.

The last awesome rock album that came out was Rise Against’s fifth album release Appeal To Reason. That album pumped out truly amazing songs such as “Savior” and “Audience of One” that were huge hits on the rock charts, and it was Rise Against’s most commercially successful album until the release of Endgame in 2011. However, Appeal to Reason was released in 2008 and is still 450,000 copies short of going platinum (1,000,000 copies sold), something a band like Limp Bizkit was able to do with their sophomore album Significant Other a total of six times back in 1999 and 2000.

The commercial streamlining of music has also stifled creativity, and every new pop hit is a clone of the last. Almost all pop music today consists of the same dance beat and hooks that are repeated way too many times. Just because a melody gets in your head easily doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy about it. Where did the good, thought out and best selling music go?