Music industry ought to embrace change

by Sarah Berentson

Just like any other industry, the music industry is weary of change. Unfortunately for them, change is all the rage due to the surge in information and access made available through the Internet. The fear is that the music industry is losing money because of the easy accessibility of music via the Internet. And the truth is, the music industry has lost money. In fact, from 1999 to 2008 the worldwide revenue of the music industry fell from $24 billion to $14 billion. Though the labels might see a hit, the musicians don’t have to.

Musicians, especially those who are not in the ultra-famous realm, are met with a new age of music that actually promotes entertaining, high quality live shows. This encourages communities of music listeners to support their favorite bands, and gives a chance for bands to stay true to their own sound.

All music is available at the click of a button. While this availability has helped small names spread their music and enabled many artists such as Death Cab for Cutie to blow up due to viral fame, it has also taken away the close relationship that people used to have with the music that they listened to. More sharing doesn’t necessarily mean more engagement.

Growing up, my mother had a pile of vinyl records and we would listen to an album in its entirety. With the rise of iTunes and online music engines such as Spotify, we have been given the luxury of creating personal playlists. Though sharing music becomes simple and easy, it takes away a very important element of an album. An album is a piece of artwork, and the tracks on a well-made album are crafted specifically to be on that album, in that order, for a reason.

When you sit down and listen to an album in its entirety, you foster a relationship with the album, and your connection to the music becomes stronger. You have this experience at shows as well. Now that there is much less money to be found in online sales, bands have to work harder at their live shows. Though I don’t know the ins and outs of every label deal, I do know that for independent artists, the pathway to success is putting on a good show. Musicians are in an era in which being a live performer can be everything. Bands can live off their music now if they can put on a show, and they don’t have to fake it.

Larry and His Flask, a band you may not be familiar with, has been together for almost eight years. Over those eight years, they have only put out two records, but in the last year they played 300 shows. This is a group of men who are very talented musicians that know how to have a good time and engage the audience. Their lives center around music, and they are sure to make you dance. They are where music is heading.

When an audience engages with a live show, it’s comparable to engaging with an entire album. A good show leads to album sales, even if you can pirate the music for free. When you are in awe at a live show, you immediately want to support the music being created.

This change demands that audiences pay attention to what is being said by musicians. I have several qualms with many pop artists today. There is a point when music can just be fun. It doesn’t always have to have the most meaningful and profound lyrics. Sometimes it can just make you dance. However, there seems to be, especially in the pop industry, times when the music is just killing brain cells.

As live shows for bands grow in popularity, so does the opportunity for musicians to stay true to their sound- an important and controversial issue in the music industry. Yet, art is art, and it shouldn’t be com- promised at the hands of the mainstream industry. With a new surge in live shows, bands have the opportunity to share their music as they intended. This is when the Internet helps. With the availability of music, one band leads to another and a community of listeners begins to form.

Though the music industry is facing great changes and new hurdles, I believe it is changing for the better. Though this change might not be noticed in the top 20, the musicians flying under your radar will certainly notice it. It comes down to this: If more people are listening to music, and more people are then going to shows, more bands can be successful without having to compromise their sound to meet a label’s mainstream needs. Musicians can create habitats for their music and create communities catered to their specific style. Somehow, the Internet has indirectly eliminated the need for conformity. Musicians have an opportunity to once again be free to purely create their art.

Berentson is a senior majoring in English and Spanish. Comments can be sent to

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