The Digital Age has made jazz music easy for its fans, but what about its artists? In recent decades, we have seen a serious shift in the music industry. I’m not just talking about the music that is produced; I’m talking about how it is produced. And how people distribute it.
Online music sharing
Let’s say I’m a huge Ray Charles fan (which I am) and I buy his Greatest Hits album. I tell my friend about the album, and he asks if I can lend it to him. Sure. Why not? This was, in a way, the philosophy of online sharing sites such as Napster.
So, what’s wrong with them? Well, unfortunately, they create real problems for artists who rely on traditional record sales. This is an obvious issue, but the reason for this company’s downfall was a bit more devious.
Metallica heard that a demo of their song ‘I Disappear’ had been playing on the radio before its official release. This leads them to discover that not only this title, but a collection of studio material was available online. Via Napster. Lawsuits followed. Violation of copyright etc. And by the time Dr. Dre filed a similar lawsuit and the company lost the case, they were bankrupt. A win for artists everywhere, right?
Not quite. In this Digital Age, when you cut off one head another two are sure to grow in its place. Introducing Torrentz, and its most recent revival, Torrentz2. Torrent files are the new breed of file-sharing. They contain metadata on files and folders to be distributed. And they help individuals in a system find one another.
Three decades ago, when an artist would release a new album, there could be a real hype surrounding it. Snippets of songs. Piece by piece previews. Not anymore. When people get wind of an album, today, they do a simple search and begin the download. And when downloading torrents, entire albums are consumed in an instant. What’s more? Not a cent will find its way to the artist.
How do artists make money, then?
One common trend the Digital Age has seen is an increase in touring. Artists are still able to make a decent earning on tour. Selling out concerts. Playing gigs at various events. Some bands will book out entire seasons. Totally. A year of continuous touring. That’s not an easy lifestyle. And it’s certainly not an option for lesser known bands.
It isn’t all hopeless, though. Companies such as iTunes and Spotify sponsor their artists. An Even musician can make money with tabs on songster. They also provide a massive stage for artists who are struggling to be recognized elsewhere.
Smaller fish that once relied solely on festivals and local gigs to spread their brand now have the internet. For example, anyone can upload content to Youtube. Youtube is also a good example of a company that doesn’t charge viewers but still, pays. They sponsor artists via ad space. So when an advertisement precedes an artist’s music, you can bet there is compensation.
All in all, the Digital Age is not so friendly to the modern artist. Or, at least, to his or her bank account. What about the status of music, in general, then?
That is surely fuel for another discussion altogether. I will say this though: The Digital Age is an exciting time for music and its fans.