Returning to the Future – Fixing the Music Market by Returning to the Past

Heading into the new millennium everyone within the music industry was wishing for a “level” playing field; a field upon which independent music artists with less financial backing could compete with major artists and their major budgets. With the creation of the Internet, consequent evolution of electronic music, a faulty music business model, and fleeting commercial opportunities, we are able to now say, voila! The taking part in field is officially leveled.

Yet what does it really mean?

I’m no astronomer but I do know that while you look up into the galaxy two points determine your ability to see stars: (1) how brightly the star a shine and (2) your vantage point. The music industry is the galaxy in which stars are often discovered and noticed by their adoring fans. While there are several stars in the galaxy, some sparkle more brightly than others. This just so happens that in this particular music industry galaxy some (signed) stars get to shine more brightly because they have the resources (of a label) to do so.

For the longest period an invisible wall existed between “signed” and “unsigned” music artists. The unsigned often felt the stigma of rejection as they secretly sought acceptance by the record labels that detested them. Then the 90s approached plus talk of the playing field getting leveled became the impetus for a change in attitude about obtaining signed. Being “unsigned” suddenly grew to become being synonymous with being unchained and unencumbered.

As record brands gained more infamy for being controlling, political, and creatively stagnating (thanks in large part to efforts by Courtney Love and Prince who displayed the word “slave” across his face for months during his bitter challenge with Warner Bros. ) the stigma of being unsigned was transformed into a badge of honor plus a more favorable business position to get artists to be in.

Soon after the floodgates to independence swung open. Along with each passing decade an even larger constituency of music luminaries including Nine Inch Nails, Madonna, Tori Amos, Bobby Valentino, Keith Sweat, Velvet Revolver, and respected R&B crooner Joe, have joined the particular ranks of the independents.

And now exactly what?

With the music industry in an overly reported state of flux (though many would say demise) what is going to become of this new breed of independents (those once affiliated with a major or have been the recipient of financial backing)? What impact will it have upon true independents (those never affiliated with a major and have never been the particular recipient of financial backing)?

Will this independent movement create a rippling gridlock effect in terms of opportunity? How will each this new breed of independents and the true independents fair in an industry where there products can be obtained free of charge? Who will determine and create their viability? Without monetary support from a record business, how will they sustain themselves?

The answers to all of these questions are available in a movie called Back to The Future. Several of you may have seen it. Others might have heard of it. The premise of the movie is this: The lead character played by Michael J.
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Fox must go backwards in time to change the events of the future, which is where he will be from.

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