Sunday, January 6, 2008

2008: The Death of Digital Rights Management

Welcome to 2008! I thought I would celebrate my birthday (Jan. 7th) with a BLOG for the new year, a couple or resolutions and predictions.

Here are some statistics from the NY Times.
The bad news is that music sales of albums fell 15% from 2006, continuing the pattern of double-digit decreases from the last few years.
The good news is that RAP music sales fell 30%! Amazing - people will soon once again have to SING for it to be called music!

The good news is that DIGITAL sales increased by 45%!
The bad news is that this increase only brought the TOTAL decrease in sales down to 9.5% (The decline in album sales drops to 9.5 percent when sales of digital singles are counted as 10-track equivalent albums, per the NY Times article).

In the niche market of jazz, album sales were off 10.6%. That drop pretty much parallels the industry, so Jazz still only reflects about 3% of the total sales in the USA. The Ghetto has not gotten any bigger, it just continues to shrink with the industry as a whole.

Three of the top 6 albums for 2007 were Josh Groban, High School Musical 2 and Hannah Montana - showing that the music industry has already given up on what was it's core age group (16 - 30 year olds). Instead the focus is on music for 'tweeners too young to know how to download, or on parents too lazy to learn how. The #3 album in sales for the year was The Eagles, who totally bypassed the record industry, releasing the album themselves with an exclusive agreement to Wal-Mart. That turned into 2.6 million album sales, so I guess the $10,000,000 advance the Eagles got was a good bet by Wal-Mart, and a brilliant marketing move by the Eagles.

So, a couple of predictions for 2008 - 2010:
- The few remaining stand-alone music stores (Virgin, FYE, etc.) will close in the next 24 months. The few left standing will mainly sell fashion and "lifestyle" products, or become like Amoeba records, catering to used CDs and collectors.
- As attention spans grow shorter over the next 5 years, the concept of an "album" will gradually vanish, except for compilations, greatest hits packages and TV or movie soundtracks. These will succeed by pricing themselves low enough for people to see the value of the purchase, vs. 99 cent single-downloads.
- By 2010 all the major labels will throw in the towel re: DRM (digital rights management). Ease of purchasing music online and competitve pricing (i.e., cheaper, but not totally "free") will offset the losing battle to stop people from copying digital music.
- By 2010 the major entertainment companies will view music as an "ancillary product" that is there to promote a movie or a line of clothing. Even major artists will start to view albums as little more than advertisements for more-lucrative goods like concert tickets and T-shirts.
- Barring a couple of break-out artists, Jazz music will continue to be a niche market, but album sales will increase, as it becomes one of the few music forms that still holds up in an album format.

AS for New Year's resolutions, I resolve to continue to share my music with the world, as that really is my primary purpose.
I resolve to release my Best Jazz Album Ever in 2008.
I resolve to continue to use the internet - "the great leveler" - in creative ways to bring more attention to jazz and improvisational music.