Today’s music industry has rapidly changed from where it was a decade ago and the surreal speed of the evolution of music shows no sign of slowing down. The days of visiting your town’s record store to buy the latest chart topping CD are looking numbered. With the availability to download or stream the same music from your laptop or phone at a much cheaper price it’s no surprise that physical record sales have seen declines in recent years. Statistics from the Official Charts Company show that just last year CD album sales dropped by 7.9% from 60.6 million to 55.7 million. Bucking the trend however over the same time period was vinyl sales which increased by 51.8% with 9.2 million units sold in 2014.
The question is what impact has the rise of digital music sales had on physical sales? The simple answer is that the average price of an album bought in a shop has reduced. Ten years ago the average price of an album was £10.02 whereas last year this figure had dropped to £7.84. Asides from the emergence of digital subscription services such as Spotify and Deezer streaming is another metric which has driven down physical music sales. In 2010 streaming overtook physical sales for music singles and has continued to pull away ever since. When Mark Ronson released ‘Uptown Funk’ earlier this year it created history by becoming the first track to be played over 2 million times in a week. This was then repeated for the next 10 weeks.
How Artists Have Adapted to the Evolution of Music
Artists signed to a major record label are entitled to some significant types of investment. They can receive advances on deals from anything between £33k to £230k. Then there are budgets into the hundreds of thousands covered for their recording, tours, promotions and music videos. These numbers are a far cry from independent labels, who have to budget for everything themselves.
However the emergence of digital has been a huge boost for independent artists. They have easy access to music distribution through digital channels such as YouTube or Soundcloud. At the 2014 MOBO awards Independent artist Skepta won best video for ‘That’s Not Me’ which cost £80 to release. Along with his brother JME, they are founders of their own label Boy Better Know which started in 2005.
Other examples include Taylor Swift who opted not to put her music on Spotify. Radiohead also released an album online asking their fans to pay what they wanted for it. Then U2 teamed up with Apple to automatically put their album on new iPhones.
Dr Dre set up a headphones range ‘Beats by Dre’, and expanded into other avenues under the name ‘Beats Electronics’. This was purchased earlier this year by Apple for a reported $3.2 billion.
Consumers and artists are opening their eyes and ears to the changing face of the music industry. The evolution of music seems to be showing no sign of slowing down.