A new survey released by ReverbNation and Digital Music News this week revealed that three out of four unsigned music acts today would prefer NOT to be (unsigned that is). That equates to a sweeping 75 percent of the near 2,000 artists surveyed across varied pop, rock, alternative and hip hop genres – all aspiring for a record deal. What's more, the bands surveyed leaned heavily towards being signed to a major music label specifically.
While the findings may not come as a surprise to some, the confirmation that artists themselves recognize the value of a successful label-artist partnership is a notable one.
So why would an act want to be signed by a music label today? For starters, the investment associated with developing new talent is substantial. IFPI estimates that music companies internationally invested $4.8 billion in discovering, nurturing and marketing artists in 2010. Record labels today invest an average $1 million to break a new pop act in a major market. That investment supports a variety of production and promotional pursuits that most individual artists would never be able to afford on their own, including advances, recording time, music video creation, tour support and marketing.
In a world where there are 2.5 million hip-hop and 1.8 million rock acts on MySpace alone, more often than not, the addition of a music label is usually the difference between a band that offers songs to a few devoted fans online, and one who embarks on a multi-city tour, whose music is featured on a hit TV show or commercial and who goes on to earn Gold and Platinum plaques. In a noisy digital music market, it takes a label to help acts stand out in the crowd.
And with investment comes a need for returns. Music labels provide the financial and human resources to help artists achieve their dreams. We, alongside the broader music and tech community, have worked to build a thriving digital music marketplace that boasts 400 legal services worldwide offering 13 million tracks. But fans have a role to play too. Choosing legal music services that compensate creators enables music companies to continue to invest in new artists and give talented bands new opportunities. That’s the bright future of music we see.
For more details on music labels’ important role in developing tomorrow’s bands check out the IFPI’s Investing In Music report.
Liz Kennedy, Deputy Director, Communications, RIAA
The four New York Times reporters who were taken hostage in Libya recently wrote a first-person account of their experience. It is harrowing, traumatic, captivating and at times, just plain bizarre. I was struck by many thoughts, not the least of which is that this is a useful reminder that news reporting is a serious business staffed by serious professionals who take extraordinary steps to help us better understand our world.
The New York Times also recently made news by beginning to charge online users for access to news articles after a select amount of complimentary viewing. I’m no expert on the economics of newspapers and online advertising rates and all the complicated business calculations that presumably went into determining that precise structure. But, fundamentally, I understood why. And the story about the four correspondents taken hostage in Libya was probably the most vivid and profound illustration. It costs money to produce professional journalism and compensate professional reporters. In the ocean of information available online -- the overwhelming majority of it free and quickly available with the click of the mouse or screen -- it can be easy to lose sight that it takes time, effort, experience and resources to field and craft quality reporting. It’s a rich online universe of content and a wide range of voices who contribute to our public conversation, but I still firmly believe there is no substitute for original, credible and objective reporting.
There are some lessons that are relevant to the music business as well. It’s never been easier to record and “distribute” music. According to SoundScan, there were more than 75,000 albums released in 2010. But here’s the catch: only 851 albums sold more than 10,000 units. Granted, the sale of an album is not the only barometer of commercial or artistic success, but it’s nonetheless a telling metric. There’s a demand for professional, quality music, and rightly so. And there’s a hunger for trusted sources of information to help sort through the mass of music to learn about upcoming releases from favorite bands and find new artists that are unfamiliar but might match a fan’s musical tastes. That all similarly takes time, effort, experience and a financial investment. It’s that financial support that allows an artist or band to make music their full time job and hone their craft and make their music even better.
It’s great news that the four New York Times reporters were freed and have returned to their jobs safe and secure. Hopefully it’s a small reminder that quality content that informs, inspires, and entertains us does not magically appear. It requires acumen and skill, often necessarily backed by a professional infrastructure to help ensure the content is of the highest quality and reaches its intended audience. Paying a few bucks for that privilege isn’t a bad thing.
Jonathan Lamy, Senior Vice President, Communications, RIAA
If you're a music lover and looking for a way to contribute to tsunami disaster relief efforts in Japan, look no further. The major labels, along with an all-star artist roster and the major music publishers, have joined together to create a charity album called “Songs for Japan,” exclusively on sale for just $9.99 at iTunes. That means for $10 you’ll get 38 hit tracks from participating artists such Elton John, Lady Gaga, John Lennon, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, Josh Groban, Cee Lo Green, Keith Urban, Madonna, Bon Jovi, Foo Fighters, Adele and many more. And for a great cause: all proceeds from the sale of “Songs for Japan” will go directly to the disaster relief efforts of the Japanese Red Cross Society which will use the funds for the ongoing provision of immediate relief and for eventual recovery support to the affected population. Check out the news release for “Songs For Japan” here and donate by buying it on iTunes here.
A new release today from the NPD group (here: http://www.npd.com/press/releases/press_110323.html) shows that illegal downloading of music via P2P networks declined significantly at the end of 2010. According to the firm’s analysis, both the total number of people using P2P to download music and the amount of music they are stealing have fallen. Specifically, LimeWire fell from being the service of choice for most P2P music downloaders, to accounting for a little less than a third of all users by the end of the quarter. This decline shows that targeted anti-piracy efforts – like our lawsuits against a handful of leading P2P operators – can make a real difference.
While this is undoubtedly good news, the report also shows the continuing threat as other services have grown in popularity to fill the void that LimeWire has left. Both FrostWire and uTorrent grew during the quarter, and 16 million people are still using P2P to steal music without compensating artists and creators. Clearly there is a sizeable contingent that will continue stealing until such points as they personally experience real consequences.
This highlights the need for a multifaceted strategy to address the ongoing problem. Music labels are already fulfilling the important need to provide fans with great legal alternatives, and new services are coming to market all the time. We also need to continue educating consumers about copyright online, and the impact of digital theft on creators. Enforcement remains important, too. And there’s a vital role for the broader online community to play – such as ISPs alerting their subscribers when their accounts are used for online theft; advertisers ensuring that they’re not advertising on infringing sites; and payment processors not transacting payments for pirates. Together, the online community can make a difference.
Joshua P. Friedlander, Vice President, Research and Strategic Analysis, Recording Industry Association of America
An article worth reading, “Illegal downloading: The real cost of ‘free’ music,” appeared this week in Boise State University’s official student newspaper, The Arbiter. The piece addresses both the tangible and moral issues surrounding illegal downloading, including the revenue, investment and American jobs lost to digital music theft as well as what should be a fundamental right of musicians and the music community: compensation for the content they create that is used and enjoyed by others. From the story:
Most people wouldn’t go out and steal a shirt from a retailer, or steal a car from a car dealer. These people are causing others not to make the money they worked hard for and deserve.
We applaud The Arbiter for publishing this thoughtful piece and encouraging college students to think twice about who pays when music is stolen. While we understand that there is no single solution to cracking the piracy problem, the mounting recognition that music and other content creators deserve to be compensated for their work is certainly one essential component.
Liz Kennedy, Deputy Director, Communications, RIAA