7 Ways the Music Industry Has Changed in the Last 15 Years

Written by Michael Eastwood Founder & CEO of Mastermind Promotion

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7 Ways the Music Industry Has Changed in the Last 15 Years

The music industry has evolved experientially over the last fifteen years. The rise of the digital age, cheaper personal technology, more technology available - all factors that have catalysed the huge changes that are taking place in the industry. The 1985-2000 era saw long-dominant vinyl compete with newer cassettes, the latter being quickly replaced by the far superior CD. But while the earlier era saw interesting and significant developments, the later 2000-2015 era proved more relevant and more complex.

The last 15 years have seen CD sales fall drastically. Replaced globally by cheaper digital downloads, as well as the recent emergence of online, on-demand music streaming. Interestingly though, since 2008, vinyl sales have been slowly increasing.

Collectively, these developments have had a profound effect on the music industry we know today.

So with this in mind, here’s a quick rundown of 7 significant ways music has changed in the last 15 years:

  1. Monetization is about experience, not sales:

15 years ago, the financial return of music was mostly based in CD sales and publishing royalties. The formats have changed and we’ve seen the dominant trend shift from CD sales to MP3 downloads to streaming services (such as YouTube and Spotify).

However, the fundamental difference is that the monetization of music today does not rely on your fans making a purchase. Today, it’s more about the social aspect of music. Now you can make money when you enable your fans to do something WITH your music, such as:

  • Sharing it with their friends on social media
  • Adding it to a Spotify playlist
  • Creating a video on YouTube that uses one of your songs
  • Events

The lesson: Don’t be overly stingy with your music. Let people have it, love it, share it and use it.

  1. Media is no longer monolithic:

Years ago, it really mattered if your music got written about in Rolling Stone or Spin. The big outlets had a huge impact on how listeners reacted to emerging artists and new releases. Today, the number of available outlets has vastly increased, both online and offline, serving every niche and genre. This in turn means that any artist has a greater chance of getting press coverage. Great in general, but with the spiking number of media outlets, their word isn’t as powerful as it used to be.

Since there are now so many outlets dedicated to writing about music, bog-standard reviews, interviews and stories won’t strike a chord with readers like they used to. That said, there are many more opportunities to get yourself and your work covered by the press, which is good news for anyone looking to get their work heard.

The lesson: The music press is more diverse with more opportunities, but its power is diluted.

  1. People are making albums on their computers that sound as good as studio albums from the 1960's:

These days, you no longer need a big room, top-of-the-line outboard gear, and a $5,000-mic to create quality recordings. Nothing replaces the ears and experience of a great audio engineer, but affordable digital tools are now at your fingertips that can help you develop honed engineering and production skills yourself. Sometimes all the tools you need can even fit into an iPad, so it’s not as if you need any real space to work with, either.

The lesson: home-recording still requires great ears, but if you’re willing to put the work in, you can make an album on your own that sounds just as good as anything else you’d hear on the radio.

  1. You can get your music used in films, TV shows, adverts and video games:

15 years ago, it was almost unheard of for big film, TV and game producers to use independent music for their projects. Now, it’s the norm. Sync licensing has become one of the best ways for independent artists to make money, gain a following and establish credibility. Not that this is surprising, considering how many people consume media today. Like all new opportunities however, many artists are considering this route. Therefore, competition is very high.

In the case of television, you stand to earn more money in the form of performance royalties every time a show airs with your music. With sync licensing, the age of your music doesn’t matter either. Often on the radio, DJs tend to favour new releases or popular songs from the past. By contrast, music supervisors who select songs for film and TV productions only care that the song is suitable for the scene, irrespective of when it was released.

The lesson: Your entire catalogue of recorded songs can earn you sync fees, so it’s a good idea to get ALL your music into a sync licensing catalogue.

  1. Streaming sites such as YouTube and Spotify are fundamental to the success of your career:

YouTube has become the world’s top search engine for music, while also being the most-used listening platform for younger music fans. Videos from sites like YouTube are highly sharable through social media and can help generate wider audiences. As such, it is important that your music is accompanied by good video content, or eye-catching album artwork to catch the attention of the viewer.

The lesson: Consider where most of your listenership comes from and devise schemes that will appeal to them. Streaming and social media are great ways to share your music and build a great reputation.

  1. Many revenue streams form a river:

Monetization in music, more and more, is about experience. Social media along with sites like Spotify and YouTube are making it easy to share music. The more your music is shared, the more money you make.

That being said, there are many people out there who prefer to buy CDs, and many others who prefer vinyl. As such, you want to continue offering your music in physical formats to keep your options as wide as possible. In addition to earning from digital and physical musical sales and streaming, you should be collecting your global publishing royalties, trying to find sync placements for your songs, touring, and seeking out sponsorship and endorsement opportunities with like-minded brands.

The lesson: Diversify! As an independent artist, you have more opportunities today than ever before to make money from your music. There’s no single path to success; there’s no single way to finance your career. You need to take advantage of every possible source and avenue. Combined, it can add up to something big.

  1. The importance of focussing on the quality of your music:

The industry has changed, allowing for artists of varying talents to become recognised by the underground. However, record labels often remain brutal in their treatment of artists - should an album prove unsuccessful, they are frequently dropped and vanish into obscurity.

As such, it is vital that you focus on keeping the quality of your music at the highest possible level. Mastermind comprehensively understands the industry as it currently stands, backed by 160 years of collective experience. Should you choose to work with us, we will fulfil all your promotion needs, secure video premieres on leading sites, maintain the quality of your social media profiles and obtain widespread press coverage. So all you have to worry about is keeping your music as polished as it can be.