365 / 46: Originality in Music – Where Has It Gone?

Listening and watching commercial music has become a very boring thing to do these days. Each song sounds and looks like the one before it and, most likely, the next one will sound and look like the previous. So what has happened to originality in music?

With the global broader music industry reportedly worth $130 Billion dollars (US currency) in 2006, there has been a steady decline in the sector. Some indications are that the market will drop in value by somewhere between $6 to $10 Billion dollars.

Retails sales of recorded music totalled $13 Billion globally in 2006. In that same year, the global commercial radio advertising market was worth $34 Billion.

So the simple fact is that the commercial radio stations do not want you to turn your radio off. Every second that you have it off means a loss in profit to them. Only 1% of advertising revenue flows back to the record companies, so the remaining profit is kept by the radio networks. This allowed Austereo, Australia’s leading network with 10 major radio stations, to report a half-year profit of $30.44 Million.

Does any of this have to do with boredom in music? Of course it does. Music has become another marketing tool and big companies love to make a profit.

A breakdown of the United States market in 2005 showed that Universal, Sony Music and Warner (3 of the Big 4) accounted for as much as 72% of sales. The remaining 28% is divided up between EMI and independents. Those three companies as US based, and that particular market makes up almost 35% of the global market in album sales.

To give an indication of the sheer size of the US market, sales were (based on 2005 figures):
DVD 11.6 million
Singles 14.7 million
CD 300.5 million

The Australian market does not compare. At a total unit count, the US was 326.8 million to a measly 17.2 million.

With the steady decline, the music companies (I do not think that I can call them music makers anymore) have taken to increasingly playing it safe. This dictates that the music made now is the music that sold yesterday.
There is little room left in a shrinking market to do something new. To be original has become taboo in a world where the next big thing can be shaped and moulded straight out of school.

If you enjoy your music and you dislike the crap that passes for music on the commercial radio networks, then do as Molly Meldrum used to say – do yourself a favour.

Get out there. Listen to some new music. Find a pub and support a local band.

This industry will only stay alive if we find a way to break the shackles of commercialism and find something different, and most likely exciting, to listen to.

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