This week's theme is the future of the music industry. A major impetus is David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard's The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution.
I've been considering Endates that are alternative visions to the one proposed by Leonhard and Kusek, Music Like Water, which I call The Music Utility. The second installment of this series outlined the 10,000 Mainiac MTV Channels Endstate, an oversimplification of which is that music videos become far more important than simple audio. Yesterday's third installment, The Return of the Artists, suggested that change in industry structure in which Artists and their agents are the most important players is the future of the industry. Today, naturally, The Empires Strike Back.
Music is global. Although the United States continues to be the clear leader in the innovation of new popular genres, the global network combined with increased global migration and travel mean that when away from home, an individual can take her or his culture with them by listening to music-casts originating back in their home country.
In this world, the majors continue to play critically important roles in marketing and distributing music in all important and a majority of secondary markets. Virtually no major artist distributes music without the involvement of the majors at every stage between the final mix and provisioning online and "bricks and mortar" outlets.
The Majors have increased their hold on the music industry through further consolidation and vertical integration. The majors have acquired nearly all the important independent labels. The independent labels have continued to pioneer new artists and new music genres. All but one of last year's GRAMMY's were won by artists under contract to a major label or a recently acquired formerly independent label. More than 85% of the items in Billboard's listings are owned by the Majors.
Nearly all the important online music distribution services have been acquired by the majors. Of the 8 largest US-based online distributors, only Apple's iTunes and Microsoft's music stores remain independent. Lastly, each of the 2 major US satellite radio services has been acquired by a major music company.