I had breakfast with a close friend this morning in Venice, California. Richard is in town with his daughter to visit USC and check out the music industry program there. His father was the founder and head of a major UK-based record label back in the 60’s and his aunt was one of the leads in “Help”, the second Beatles movie.
He knows the record industry and follows technology as a consultant and expert. It’s always fun to get together and share what’s been going on in our lives. It’s been 8 months since we last had breakfast at the same cafe on Washington Boulevard.
We talked about a variety of things…the school, family, music, my encounter with Sprint in July, Amazon and an artist that he’s been working with Prince Ea, who’s getting lots of views on YouTube and FB. Turns out you can get millions of views on FB and not generate any revenue…no big surprise. Music is not valued. It’s just something to share with friends.
Then he said, “Last month was the lowest month for music sales on record”. I was not really shocked. When was the last time you purchased a CD…or even a vinyl LP? Audiophiles are certainly willing to spend more money than the average Joe, but with streaming and YouTube becoming the norm in music consumption, it’s no wonder that the music business continues to struggle. Even my wife is using the Apple TV in our media room to stream music through our home theater instead of playing CDs or the radio. There is a fundamental shift taking place these days. And it doesn’t bode well for music regardless of fidelity.
High-resolution audio amounts to about 2% of sales. And that’s not even the real stuff! Vinyl LPs are another 2%. Where is the other 96%? Well about half is happening at sites like iTunes and the other half comes from compact discs. There’s additional money being generated by licensing to the movies and games, but it’s important to recognize that fidelity isn’t a driving factor when it comes to music sales.
Music is important. There is more music being played and consumed than at any other period but the reality is fewer and fewer people are playing for it. There’s just no value in spending the time and money to produce music when it ends up spread across the web for free. I appreciate that AIX fans are willing to support my efforts and purchase our recordings. Thursday, I’ll fly to Toronto to the TAVES show and stand in front of a sales table for three days telling people how great music recordings can be. But we live in a bubble.
The music industry train has left the station and frankly I’m uncertain whether it’ll come back. Richard’s daughter and my engineering students may get a great education in the music business and audio engineering but if there’s no one purchasing music…what good will it do them? High-resolution music is not the savior of the music industry as some people have imagined. We’re a blip on the screen with sales in the 100 of thousands not millions. When was the last time a record went Platinum? It hasn’t happened this year.
Brace yourselves…there will be more new record lows.