9 ways our generation is single-handedly destroying the music industry

And why that's not a bad thing—check out exactly how screwed we aren't.

July 22, 2014

It’s official, guys.  We went and destroyed the music industry. Great. Label-backed musicians used to account for three quarters of the scene, and now they’re down to 10 per cent. And you just sat there, for years, shamelessly chugging away on Limewire, ignoring the foreboding laments of countless multi-millionaire artists. They warned you this would happen, and you just kept watching YouTube music-videos and stuffing your face full of Doritos and marshmallow Peeps.

Paul Myers, CEO of defunct online music store Wippit, suggested that Rock n’ Roll died shortly after the release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller—warning that it would be the last truly commercially successful album. He was basically dead on: today’s pop royalty sell a pretty measly fraction of what they once did.  But is the decline of the industry such a bad thing for modern consumers and creators of music? Almost certainly not. The proof is in the pudding, though: check out the list below to find out exactly how screwed we aren’t.

Of the top 72 best-selling albums of all time, only one was made after the year 2010.

Among the top 72 best-selling albums of all time, only Adele’s 21 was released in this decade. Maybe even more telling: of that same list of best selling albums, only eight were made after the year 2000. And we’re talking early Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, and Eminem; the most recent album on the list is Usher’s Confessions—released all the way back in 2004.  

Of the top 96 best-selling artists of all time, only 6 started their careers after the year 2000.

They’re not exactly topping the list either. The highest ranking Millennial artist is Rihanna, at no. 17. Of the rest—basically the biggest pop-stars of our generation (Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé)—most are in the bottom half. It’s entirely probable that Thriller will forever remain the greatest selling album of all time.

Even though people are buying singles in record numbers, no one’s really making money.

Fine, record sales are down, but single sales are way up! Unfortunately, even with this enormous increase in digital single sales, record labels are still ultimately making the same amount of money they did in 1988.

So how are we responsible for this downturn? You guessed it…the Interwebs!

YouTube is the number one way we discover music.

The chart speaks for itself: We’re depending less and less on the music industry to discover new music. And YouTube isn’t the only digital new-comer to subvert the status-quo.

Millennials use media/music/entertainment apps over 75 per cent more than any other age group.

We’ve grown accustomed to listening to and discovering music in a particularly independent way. Rather than bemoan this digital revolution, companies like Pandora, Spotify and Soundcloud have introduced technology that further facilitates our ability to bypass traditional sources of musical exploration, nurturing our generation’s independence from the industry. There’s still plenty of money changing hands though.

Corporations will spend more than $1.34 billion sponsoring music venues, festivals and tours this year.

Record sales used to be the end-all-be-all measure of a group or artist’s worth. Nowadays, the amount of “attention” an artist can generate and sustain defines their commercial success. Sites like Music Metric show just how tangible this otherwise elusive notion of “attention” can be. An artist’s online presence determines whether or not they’ll receive corporate sponsorship—whether they’ll be invited to festivals, and whether people will actually show up when they do. As a result of how we digest music, the modern aim of musicians and promoters is monetizing attention through live events, not selling albums.

Logic Pro costs 200 dollars, and lessons are free.

Making music is cheap as shit nowadays. With the help of relatively inexpensive DAWs (digital audio workstations) like Logic Pro—and equally inexpensive recording technology—someone like Gotye can make one of the best selling digital singles of all time…in his parent’s basement. This technology is made more accessible, again, by YouTube: There are countless tutorials on how to use virtually every DAW on the market.

Musicians are increasingly independent.

Using the kind of apps and online services we mentioned above, musicians basically don’t need to pay a dime to distribute their music. Our generation has nearly eliminated the need for a middleman between music production and consumption. Musicians can make serious headway without the resources only a record label can provide.

Independent musicians can team up with labels.

Huge pop-stars depend on songwriting and production teams to produce quality music at the rate they need to maintain their fanbase. With the advent of services like FindMySong, Millennial artists are finding ways to collaborate and form teams of their own. Of course, people like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift are still dominating the music scene, but independent artists are clearly starting to chip away at these major label monoliths.

Exclusive videos, interviews, contests & more.

sign up for the a.side newsletter

sign up