The 5 Pillars of the Music Business

“The music business was built around five pillars:

  • Free radio promotion 
  • A limited number of competing music labels
  • The high cost of production, requiring musicians to get financing from labels
  • The Top 40 hits-based focus of the baby boomer generation
  • A high margin, nonreproducible medium (the LP)
One by one, each of these five pillars has crumbled over the past five years. The result is that while there is still plenty of music, the music business is in trouble.
The innovation: use digital distribution and the Internet like radio, but do it better.”
– Seth Godin from the book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
Those pillars made sense in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, they kept many people away from creating music. 
I’m glad the second pillar crumbled.
Some of my favourite albums came out on independent labels. 
I’m glad that third pillar crumbled. 
Anyone can write, record, and distribute their music now without having to spend thousands of dollars in a music studio, without having to convince a label to take a chance on them, and without having to press up hundreds or thousands of product before they’ve sold any units. 
I’m glad the fifth pillar crumbled. 
I love making mixtapes. It’s an art unto itself. It allows those of us who can’t play instruments to still play and create musical compositions. It lets us share music. I allows us to be deejays, or music programmers on a small level. 
The first pillar is still alive.
In this digital age, we can promote things easily and for free. We can post songs on our own websites, share them on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and many other such sites. We can even get radio play (if we are lucky) 
The fourth pillar is still alive too.
I don’t think radio will ever die. I’m a champion for it, just not the Top 40 format. 
I think deejays need to play music they love and enjoy. We need to hand the power back to them. I’m not sure that is going to happen any time soon. Until it does, we have community radio and podcasts. 

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