in the beginning,the music business was important to our culture. artists connected with their fans. record labels signed cutting edge artists,and fm radio offered an incredible variety of music. the music business was healthy and strong. all of that has changed...
today,the music business is in crisis. sales have decreased between 20 and 30 percent over the last three years. record labels are suing children for using unauthorized peer-to-peer (P2P)file sharing systems. only a few artists ever hear their music on the radio. independent music stores are closing at an unprecedented pace. and the artists seem to be at odds with just about everyone-even the fans.
contrary to conventional wisdom, the root problem isn't the artists,the fans or even new internet technology. the problem is the music industry itself.
the industry,which once was composed of hundreds of big and small record labels,now is controlled by just a handful of unregulated,multinational corporations determined to continue their mad rush toward further consolidation and merger. the executives who run those corporations believe that music is solely a commodity. unlike their predecessors, they fail to recognize that music is as much a vital art form and social barometer as it is a way to make a profit.
at one time, artists actually developed meaningful,even if strained,relationships with their record labels. that was possible because labels were relatively small and accessible,and they had an incentive to join with the artists in marketing their music. today ,such a relationship is practically impossible for most artists.
labels no longer take risks by signing unique and important new artists,nor do they become partners with artists in the creation and pormotion of the music. after the music is created,the artist's connection with it is minimized and,in some instances,nonexistent. in their world,music is generic. a major record label president recently confirmed that when he referred to artists as"content providers."
radio stations used to be local and diverse. deejays programmed their own shows and developed close relationships with artists. today,radio stations are centrally programmed by their corporate owners. the delicate balance between artists and radio networks has been dramatically altered:networks now can,and often do,exert unprecendented pressure on artists.
music stores used to be magical places offering wide variety. today,the three largest music retailers are best buy,walmart and target. in those stores,shelf space is limited,making it harder for new artists to emerge.smaller,more personalized recod stores are closing all over the country-some because of rampant piracy but many others because of competition from depatment stores that traditionally have no connection whatsoever with artists.
piracy is perhaps the most emotionally gut-wrenching problem facing artists. artists like the idea of a new and better business model for the industry,but they can't accept a business model that uses their music without authority or compensation. suing kids isn't what artists want,but many of them feel betrayed by fans who claim to love artists but still want their music free.
artists finally are realizing their predicament is no different from that of any other group with common economic and political interests. they no longer can just hope for change:they must fight for it. washington is where artists go to plead their case and find answers.
so whether they are fighting against media and radio consolidation, fighting for fair recording contracts and corporate responsibility or demanding that labels treat artists as partners and not as employees,the core message is the same;the artist must be allowed to join with the labels and must be treated in a fair and respectful manner. if the labels aren't willing to implement those changes on their own, the artists have no choice but to seek legislative and judicial solutions. simply put, artists must regain control, as much as possible,over their music.
welcOme to hOtel california.
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