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Music industry: The future is now!

Craig Fernandes in New Delhi
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January 05, 2008

For a good number of years, we have been given the impression that the music industry has been in nothing but decline and that the livelihood of musicians is in a constant state of threat from illegal music downloads and the steep drop in global music sales.

However, if anyone were to say that today, it would be as good as proclaiming ignorance and a lack of innovative thinking to the world and no fewer than the heads of two major music corporations have had to deal with the shame that came with saying things in opposition to the increasingly popular digital music format.

Staring out at the beginning of a new year it becomes a lot clearer that, globally, the music business is, in fact, in a state of transition and not peril.

Traditional ways of popularising music and making it purchasable are giving way to more innovative and interactive ways and even conservative major labels have now woken up to the benefits of working more uncompromisingly with companies that sell and promote music on the digital front.

Granted, illegal downloads and piracy are rampant and will continue to hinder the commercial success of music, but as far as opening up new revenue streams and avenues is concerned, it has never looked like a more opportune time for artistes and forward-thinking music managements.

Last year, the release of Radiohead's album In Rainbows in the digital form was one example of how artistes can flourish independently.

It proved that music needs to meet the needs of consumers and, just like any other business, the more you mark up the price and try and force things like digital rights management technologies that restrict the sharing of music to other devices, the more you increase the chances of driving your customer away.

Even major labels EMI Music and Universal Music have realised this and have now opened the floodgates for DRM-free music to customers.

The digital music retailer has been selling DRM-free music for years, a reason for which major labels (Universal Music, EMI Music, Sony BMG Entertainment and Warner Music Group) refuse to sell through the site. Still is second only to iTunes in the selling of digital music.

It is crystal-clear that Internet and newer technologies will continue to be a breeding ground for new ways of promoting and delivering music to audiences worldwide. iTunes, and are only the tip of the iceberg.

The increasing popularity of music blogs, podcasts, online radio, mobile streaming and downloads, music subscription services, pay per play and the buffet of other digital services are set to replace the overall way we experience music and the way we buy it.

The benefits to the musicians are manifold. On one level, the increase in avenues means that they have options and, therefore, bargaining power when it comes to cracking deals.

For the first time they have the option to hold on to a majority of their rights and creative control and still take home a major share of the earnings. The new age in music is finally upon us completely and whether you realise it or not, you are a part of it.

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