I was reading an article in Wired magazine over break that was suggesting that the music industry may be on the verge of collapse. According to that magazine, CD sales fell by 11 percent last year on top of a 3 percent fall from the year before. I almost hate to say it, because the idea of what I am about to say sounded weird even to me when I first thought it, but I think that the collapse of the music industry would be good for music.
Why do I think this? Well, first of all, the collapse of the music industry would not necessarily hurt the artists. It is well-known that except in a few exceptional cases, musicians hardly make any money off of CD sales. Instead, their major revenue comes from tours. Now, it is true that the music industry often makes it possible for artists to make new music, but it is hard to believe that musicians will stop making music if the music industry collapses.
Second, I believe that the primary reason that the music industry is collapsing is that no one over the age of 30 cares! The music industy has been pointing its finger at the rise of file-sharing programs such as Napster, KaZaA, Gnutella, and the like, but these really are just a convenient scape-goat. The music industry has very effectively captured the teen market in its promotion of Brittany Spears, Christany Aguilera, N Sync, etc. The industy has at the same time, however, completely ignored the development of artists whose music does not necessarily appeal to the instant-gratification desires of teenagers. Sure, there are a few of these musicians hanging around (U2, Sting, and the Rolling Stones come to mind), but there are even more of such musicians singing to local crowds in America's bars than there are making CDs with $100,000 production budgets.
The Wired magazine article predicted, quite correctly, I think, that the collapse of the music industry would "produce fewer global superstars and more locally successful musicians". And this is why I think the collapse of the music industry would be good for music.