The Future of Music

When we were talking in class last week about music, I began to consider what the music industry might look like in the next five or ten years. One of the arguments made in class was that there will be a streaming service (Spotify, SoundCloud or some other alternative) that figures out some type of model that will effectively be able to charge users an amount that they’re willing to pay and still makes the record labels and artists happy.

I’m not sure this is going to be the case.

The music industry is slowly dying, a fact that’s made evident not only in the record stores – iTunes sales have fallen at least 13 percent in the last year. According to that article, digital track sales are falling at nearly the same rate as as CD sales, as music fans are turning to streaming services like iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora and many more.

In addition to all these websites that allow you to listen to pretty much whatever you want for free, there are also plenty of ways for internet users to download whatever they want for free.

For example, I my friend knows plenty of different ways to download just about any song or album without paying for it. From YouTube-to-MP3 converters to SoundCloud downloaders to torrents, my friend can have any song or album he wants in his iTunes library in a matter of minutes.

Illegal downloads and streaming services are causing the music industry to suffer, and artists from all genres are realizing it. One of my favorite artists at the moment, Chance the Rapper, said last year in an interview with Rolling Stone that he doesn’t believe there’s any reason to sign with a record label because the industry is already dead.

“The whole point of Acid Rap (Chance’s first project, a free mixtape) was just to ask people a question: does the music business side of this dictate what type of project this is?” he said. “If it’s all original music and it’s got this much emotion around it and it connects this way with this many people, is it a mixtape? What’s an album these days, anyways? ‘Cause I didn’t sell it, does that mean it’s not an official release? So I might not ever drop a for-sale project. Maybe I’ll just make my money touring.”

Chance is taking a pretty interesting stance here – one that the majority of artists in music would likely be vehemently opposed to (looking at you, T. Swift). It’ll be interesting to see if any other artists adopt this mindset, or if they continue to fight for every cent they feel like they’re being cheated out of by Spotify streams and illegal downloads. Don’t you just feel terrible for them?

Unless someone somewhere finds a way to efficiently police illegal downloading and prevent millions of people all over the world from getting their music for free over the internet, they’re not going to stop doing it. It’s just so simple to do, and the odds of being caught and/or punished for doing it are almost nonexistent. If anything, more and more people are going to start adopting the same method my friend uses, and the music industry is only going to continue to decline as a result.

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