Music industry hits tipping point

In the past five years artists and consumers have been chipping away at the record companies’ dominance. It’s been dark days for the record industry, but never before have people listened to more music.

The latest research published in Rolling Stone Magazine today proves that the old ways have finally given way to the new digital platforms, and that record companies have given way to a plethora of new business models.

Of the top 100 recording artists surveyed by Rolling Stone, 80 are choosing to give their music away for free and to earn their profits from live concerts and promotional activities. Less than 30 still use traditional music companies, and none plan to use them after their contracts expire.

Sting, speaking during Police’s third reunion tour said: “You can buy our entire music collection for less than $100 – and the top price for one of our concert tickets is almost $1,000. It’s clear where the profit lies – and it’s not in recorded music. The music has become a brochure for what we really sell!”

Madonna, Prince and Radiohead turbo-charged the swing to new digital models in 2007, ditching traditional labels and giving millions of copies of their albums away for free, or “for whatever you feel it’s worth” – leaving the choice entirely in the hands of consumers. Radiohead says they have returned to the “travelling minstrel” model. Economists are starting to take note of this new, networked model of consumerism. “It’s akin to tipping – and economists can’t really explain that phenomenon at all,” says one frustrated economist. Suddenly it all seems so obvious. The consumer really is king.

Apple’s iTunes service, first forced by consumer pressure to cut prices by 90%, has been a free service for more than a year. There used to be just two choices – ‘pay’ or ‘steal’. Now new business models are leading the way into the future of music.

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