09 July 2007

Time to Face the Music

I've been rabbiting on about this for some time; now The Economist is saying it too, so it must be true:

Seven years ago musicians derived two-thirds of their income, via record labels, from pre-recorded music, with the other one-third coming from concert tours, merchandise and endorsements, according to the Music Managers Forum, a trade group in London. But today those proportions have been reversed—cutting the labels off from the industry's biggest and fastest-growing sources of revenue. Concert-ticket sales in North America alone increased from $1.7 billion in 2000 to over $3.1 billion last year, according to Pollstar, a trade magazine.


The logical conclusion is for artists to give away their music as a promotional tool. Some are doing just that. This week Prince announced that his new album, “Planet Earth”, will be given away in Britain for free with the Mail on Sunday, a national newspaper, on July 15th. (For years Prince has made far more money from live performances than from album sales; he was the industry's top earner in 2004.) Outraged British music retailers were quick to condemn the idea. As far as the record industry is concerned, it is madness. But for the music industry, it could well be the shape of things to come.

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