Music Industry in the Digital Era Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

How the Internet has Transformed the Economics and Value of Music


Digital technology has transformed the way people all over the world consume music. The Digital Age has also impacted the way musicians, artists and producers benefit from making music. Prior to digitalization, music had to either be consumed live and in-person or through the purchase of a hard copy (disc, cassette tape, record, etc.). Now that music files can be shared digitally over the Internet or streamed over social media sites, the ability of producers to manage how their content is distributed has been diminished substantially. In other words, the technology of connectivity has impacted the monetization of intellectual property (IP) by making it easier for consumers to obtain IP without necessarily having to pay for it—and labels such as illegal downloading or piracy do not sufficiently act as deterrents. With the arrival of iTunes, Spotify, Pandora and other sites that seek to control the supply and demand of music IP over the Internet and ensure that consumers pay for music, some progress has been made in restoring order to the music industry. However, the exact nature of the economics and value of music is still very much up for debate as the music value gap is only likely to increase from here on out—so long as share sites like YouTube enable uploaders a platform for getting music content to other users for free, thus reducing the revenue stream for the original producers of that content. This paper will look at the networked information economy, non-market production, IP copyrighting, the hierarchy of exploitation and the music value gap to show how the Internet has transformed the economics and value of music in the 21st century.

Networked Information Economy

The networked information economy refers to the “series of changes in the technologies, economic organization, and social practices of production in this environment [that] has created new opportunities for how we make and exchange information, knowledge, and culture” (Benkler 2). As Benkler notes, these changes are deep, structural, and bound to be long-lasting. The impact of this new system necessarily affects the way in which producers of music go about
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their business: their goals, ambitions, approaches, and methods are now so vastly different from what they were fifty or sixty years ago that the entire industry appears to have undergone an evolutionary change in which gone are the days of Billboard, chart-topping hits that would create cultural sensations and here to seemingly stay are the days of pre-fab, mass-managed, mass-produced music “sensations” that are literally created by networked companies in the networked information economy.

The new reality is that today’s “artists” are picked from childhood (Disney helps) and managed over the course of their careers: many of them do not write their own music the way John Fogerty did. The pre-fabs of today serve instead as brand representatives. They are part of Team Taylor, Team Kardashian, or Team Beyonce. They don’t just sell music; they have clothing lines, perfumes, blockchain and so on. Their celebrity is their product. For actual musicians more interested in art than in representing the Entertainment Industry, their rewards are far less glamorous: as Chris Anderson notes, “the future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream” (1)—which is to say the days of old are gone. Or, as one executive put it, “The simple fact is that music just doesn’t matter to us that much. We have many other revenue streams and products that it is much easier for us to make money on and that our customers more readily understand the value of” (Mulligan 32). In short, the networked information economy has depleted any sense of the economic value of music and turned the focus of the entertainment industry to leveraging celebrity and fame to create other more efficient revenue streams.

Non-Market Production

What happens to music in general in such a world? Music lovers still exist and one positive of technology is that it has led to the democratization of art: anyone with a few basic computer skills can obtain the technology needed to produce a professional looking video or professional-sounding music track and upload it to YouTube. YouTuber might as well now be considered a profession: get a big enough following and one can start selling “merch” and building one’s own brand. They may start off as non-market producers, for example, uploading their music videos…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail. Change This.

Benchler, Yochai. The Wealth of Networks. Yale University Press, 2006.

Duckworth, William. Virtual Music. Routledge, 2005.

Galuszka, Patryk. “Music Aggregators and Intermediation of the Digital Music Market.” International Journal of Communication 9 (2015), 254–273.

Mulligan, Mark. Awakening: The Music Industry in the Digital Age. MIDiA Research, 2015.

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