“Digital Revolution of the 21st Century” The digitization of music has produced a revolution in the music industry transforming the way music is created and consumed. High-speed internet connections have become a part of international culture, making it faster to copy and transmit digital music on a widespread level. Because of this, more people are copying and sharing tracks, initiating copyright anxieties in the music industry. At the same time, the reduced cost of Internet distribution provides an arena for many no-names to release music that before might never have been seen or heard outside a garage. Noguchi) Warner Music Group has embraced this change to digital media with the creation of a new “e-label”, intended solely for the production of music to be marketed and distribution via the Internet. With new production processes, comes inevitable organizational change within the music industry. The switch to digital music has stimulated a search for modernized copyright and other forms of protection of intellectual property appropriate for the digital age.
Preventing piracy is becoming less of a priority, shifting the focus to ways this widespread release of music content can benefit both the record labels and artists. With the addition of new digital music labels, there will be less big, major, global artists as records are less expensive to produce and market through internet sites. Selling 15,000 units could be very successful whereas sales of 500,000 and up were considered successful in the past. With fast connections finally becoming widespread, software, computers, advertising and entertainment are changing fast. That’s creating new business opportunities. ” (Dudley) This switch to digital formats may seem before its time to some, but being the CD is digital, it has been going on for 20 years. Nonetheless, being that downloads are only 4% of the marketplace, it is estimated to be around 10 years before digital downloads will equal CD sales, meaning it will take around 15 years to fully transfer all music consumption to digital, downloadable, format.
Those jumping on the digital music band-wagon now, have a similar opportunity as those who embraced the yahoo craze of the 90’s. With the eventual transfer to exclusively digital music, these new “e-labels” are the ‘early-birds who will get the worm’ so to say. “It’s the tip of the hat to the past and the tip of the hat to the future,” said Perry Watts-Russell, a senior vice president at Warner Bros Records. (Noguchi) So what risks do companies face with this particular digital-music model?
Well, industry executives seem to feel there is no risk that outweighs the benefit of this change. The cost of producing and distributing music in this format is so much less, reducing risk enormously. Furthermore, “at this new label, an artist can develop in a supportive, lower-risk environment,” Warner Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. said at an Aspen, Colorado, gathering of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a Washington, D. C. , think tank. However, the new digital-model yields much less chance of large national or global success. Veiga) This new model of digital music puts the creator at the controls of the creative process, giving the marketers and distributors with less control. With this model, the customer can find what they want, when they want. An artist no longer has to crank out 10 songs, regardless of quality, in order to have their two or three best songs heard. “An artist is not required to have enough material for an album, only just enough to excite out ears,” said Bronfman of Warner’s new e-label. (Veiga)
The digital-music revolution will no doubt help, help, help the entrepreneurs of the music industry, so long as they embrace it like the Sun, an Ohio-based rock/pop band, had chosen to do. The Sun, which began as a garage pop band, recently signed by Warner Bros. Records and released its first full length album in September available on DVD, online and on vinyl record. This new generation of consumers who may be building libraries of songs by piggy-backing off their friends’ collections doesn’t bother Sam Brown, drummer and songwriter for the Sun. As more people find out about our band, more people will turn out when we play. ” (Noguchi) Members of the band have embraced this digital age without the fear felt by ‘traditional’ artists, knowing that its demographic reflects its own persona: younger, digital and alternative. Only time will tell how absolute the change to a digital-music model will become, and how long the complete process will take. The one thing for sure right now, though, is that the benefits available from this new form of digital sharing are well beyond the risk of ignoring the idea.
It’s an open playing field, old rules are gone, and bright marketing and distribution will be successful. “It is sort of a leap of faith to the future,” Brown said, but “it feels good to be in the company of forward-thinking people. ” (Noguchi) Work Cited Dudley, Brier. “Changes in tech world almost too fast to follow. ” The Seattle Times. 13 Oct 2005. Noguchi, Yuki. “New music formats foretell death of the CD. ” The Washington Post. 30 Aug 2005. Veiga, Alex. “Warner ready to launch Internet-only music label. ” The Seattle Times. 29 Aug 2005.