I've never payed much attention to the music industry. Video games are my thing. I'll go my entire life not knowing or caring what the acceptably garbled lyrics of any given song from any given genre. I'm glad to see many people are disillusioned with it to the point where they just focus on the music they like and are comfortable existing outside the industry. But too many others at least blindly accept the marriage of art and for-profit.
I've picked up a few unromantic impressions of the industry as a whole along the way and feel like it's important to emphasize that something as universal as an appreciation for music and an insular self-interested industry don't always mix. Business is not the arbiter or culture, and when decisions for things like art are made that way, everyone just dooms themselves to the low, routine, socially driven purgatory of entertainment standards that are the norm.
The amount of original bands just making a living playing music is one percent.
Original, like the band your friends are putting together and maybe writing songs for, is not manufactured based on a mixture of luck (connections) and market data. Next time you read some public relations abomination about how illegal downloading is killing the music industry, keep the one percent figure in mind. What is it killing exactly?
If you're one of those lucky one percent of bands that manages to land that major label or major indie contract, great. You now have around a ten percent chance of making that money. The top ten percent of the label's artists typically pay for everything else the label does. The rest just aren't profitable enough. This isn't necessarily the band's fault, but instead because of how much they're relying on some people's ability to artificially market and hype them and even end up owing money to their overlords. That's the way it's always been, and if you don't like your music being a complete product of market data the solution is simple: ignore the authority the industry cloaks itself in — music award shows. You know what article you never see anywhere? A small, completely unknown band, group, whatever, using digital technology to get their music out to more critics and fans than they thought possible in places that would have been completely inaccessible five years ago, a very short amount of time ago now that time in these terms is based on technological growth. But that's just what I've witnessed. It costs nothing to make a download link and you have nothing to lose when you have nothing. The internet, for all the extra avenues of stuff it can sell its created for the industry, helps the independent proportionally way more than it helps the industry. Which isn't necessarily to say that is hurts the industry, but there's a lot to be said for zero entry level cost in the arena everyone has already moved to.
You know why you rarely hear anyone saying this? The industry controls the music press and has spread their poison about how they control the internet far and wide. The entire idea of music journalism is a moot one, because when it appears like you're presenting popular perceptions and analyzing them, your sample has been completely manufactured. If you're not giving analyses, you're just doing public relations.
Finally, this is something you always hear, but it's no less relevant. If your main goal when listening to music is to give Apple more money than the musicians you like, buy your music on iTunes.
Music on iTunes not only costs more but they give next to nothing to artists compared to other services like Amazon and Bandcamp which only take 15 to 20 cents on the dollar.
These big industries do the consumer no good and it's important to continue wrestling power from them while we can.
— Wiley Robison is a senior in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.