The news gets more depressing every year. What news? The "death of the recording industry". The RIAA would want us all to believe that the music industry is a sinking ship, and we are all doomed. The truth is that it is not a sinking ship, and we are not all doomed. We just have to rethink the way we do business. As long as there are living, breathing human beings there will always be music, and music soundtracks for our life. Music touches our soul like nothing else can. Music can transport us to a specific place in our own personal history. Music can make us dance like there is no tomorrow - or cry like there is none. Music is life.
If you think about music - and not in the sense of radio or CD - then you will learn that music surrounds our life. Television shows, movies, mall walks, ringtones, the elevator, our favorite restaurant, retail stores and video games are just a few things that remind us everyday - with sometimes little thought - that we are constantly surrounded by music. Indeed music is not dead or doomed, but is very much alive and surrounding us in ways that we do not even realize. I was shopping at Staples yesterday when I overheard one store clerks say to the other, "Wow they are really playing some great music today". She was referring to the overhead system, which at the time was playing Kathy Trocolli's "Everything Changes". The other store clerk said, "You know I wasn't even paying attention. It's probably because I hear it everyday and ignore it". If I could, I would love to perform an experiment at that store, and unplug the overhead system for a few days to see if they would notice. My guess would be that everyone would. Can you imagine being in a retail store when it is dead - and then being silent too? I think it would get noticed fairly quickly - and resolved. Music makes our blandest days better, go by faster and gives us a good distraction while we work (especially on the factory or retail floor). No, music is not dead, nor dying.
Music is not dead or dying, but the music industry is changing at a rapid pace. Notice I said the music industry is changing at a rapid pace, and not the record labels. Record labels have been changing about as fast a a snail crossing a busy highway. Labels have been resistant to change due to the fact that they feel they will lose control of an industry that they have tightly controlled since the late 40's early 50's - and onward. Instead of embracing the new technology, and figuring out ways to distribute the music in this brave new world, they still hold on with a death grip - and send many music fans into a court system for litigation. In the end, many people are being tainted toward the big labels. Technology is rapidly changing every business, not just the music industry, and some industries are thriving in the midst of the change while others are taking a beating. The music industry is one of the industries taking a beating due to corporate "red tape" and major control issues.
When I am teaching my students at Houghton College, I am always telling them not to pursue the "normal path" in regards to the recording industry and engineering. The normal path is getting trained in music, recording and engineering then finding an internship with a studio or label followed by an attempt to get a full time job in the main stream music industry. At one time that may have been a good path - circa 1979 - 1994ish - but in today's digital age that isn't necessarily the best path. Today video games are outselling movies - and outselling just about everything else. Instead of focusing on a job in a recording studio or music industry, I strongly encourage my students to learn the skills that will land them a job at a good video game company (they normally have in house recording studios). This same advice could apply to musicians - look for work outside of big record labels. Work on becoming a well respected independent artist, and find your niche. I have many friends making a really good living (not millionaire level, but comfortable living) being an independent artist.
What I am talking about here is a morphing process - a change. It is a rethinking and reprogramming of the mind - basically approaching your career "outside the box" (and I hate that phrase, but it is so true in this scenario). I am part of a forum where all of these well respected engineers and musicians are very bitter about what is happening in the industry. They are stuck in their thinking, and are unable (or too stubborn) to morph. These are guys who have played, produced or engineered some of the best albums out on the market. All they really need to do is think about the jobs that require their skill set outside of a recording studio - or big record company. Jobs like radio stations, TV stations and shows, churches, video production houses, video game companies and software companies that all require sound engineers and musicians There are jobs "out there" for everyone, but you have to be creative in researching what industries are currently on the rise. Last year a study was posted that sound recording, engineering and music jobs were up on an average of 28%. Notice I didn't say recording studio hiring or label signings were up 28%, rather the industry as a whole was up 28%. This is good news for anyone wanting to get into the industry.
I was watching a video of Jay-Z and the future of the music industry. He had some great insight into the problem and some great insight about the future of the industry. I love when he says that, "the internet was a way of the music business purging itself". The internet has changed the game, but not in a bad way. The internet makes access a lot easier and allows people to find out if something is actually good or not. There were so many bad albums out on the market that the music industry needed to be purged. A lot of industries go through purging or pruning processes with most coming out stronger. I believe that the music industry - as a whole - from the artists to engineers will thrive once all the purging has been completed. Here is the video of Jay-Z on the future of the recording industry.
Kevin "Danger" Jackson is a New York-based producer, engineer, composer, performer, educator and Berklee College of Music alumnus. He writes, produces and engineers music for a wide range of artists in the pop, hip-hop, rock, R&B, classical and electronic genres. His work can be heard daily on a multitude of albums, radio and television stations worldwide.