Music Sales, But At What Cost?


Digital music sales are up, but concert revenues are at an all time low. The music industry is struggling, while the online retailers are flourishing. It seems now more than ever that labels are churning out artists, capitalizing on the one-hit wonder and moving on as fast as possible. Today’s Katy Perry is yesterday’s Black Eyed Peas. It does not appear that anyone is interested in investing in musically sound, but commercially weak artists. This may not be a new business model, but the rate of attrition feels like it is tenfold.

Waaay back in the mid-80s, I would take my barely earned allowance and head to the local record store. You know, stores that only sold albums or tapes? Anyway, once there, I would pick out the latest cassette tape of any one of the bands from the genre du jour. My musical awakening just so happened to coincide with the emergence of metal. Now, I might have heard one of the songs off of the tape, maybe. Mostly though, the bands had earned my attention from their previous works, friends who already had the tape, or articles that I had read in the latest Hit Parader or Circus magazines. I was a sponge and would soak up everything I could. I would listen to my tapes over and over again doing my best to wear them out. I remember taking a family vacation and we drove from Dallas to Austin and I played the same Whitesnake tape the whole way. This happened to be their self-titled 1987 release that spawned four singles; very popular songs that garnered a ton of radio airplay and music videos. None of which happen to be in my top two off of that album.

In today’s ever increasing need for instant gratification, things are much different. People need simply to log on to iTunes, Amazon, or any number of mp3 sites to get their music (provided they actually choose to buy their music). The ability to buy just that one song that you have heard and really, really liked seems like a great idea, right? I mean, you know you like that song, and it is only $1.29, so why not just get it? Because you are doing a disservice to the artists that you should be supporting and missing out on some potentially great music, that’s why. Personally, I think buying singles is a waste of money. If I know that I like one song, then chances are I will like others and this theory has only burned me once or twice in all of my music buying years. Another recent example would be Ozzy’s new CD, Scream. If I had just bought the single, I would not know that this is some of his best work in decades. I realize that I am being genre specific but I could have just as easily chosen Michael Bublé or Eminem to prove my point.

When artists sold singles pre-iTunes they were not just selling one song. They were selling at least two (possibly up to five) and thereby exposing the listener to music they might not have heard otherwise. So go ahead, be not afraid, buy the whole thing. Oh, and if you really want to go above and beyond, seek out your local record store (i.e. NOT big box) and buy it from them.


Pietro Filipponi  |  Managing Editor

Pietro Filipponi's picture

Very much agree. I still only buy albums through stores. Singles on iTunes once in a while, but few and far between. Great read pal BLAM!

NickinDallas  |  Correspondent

NickinDallas's picture

Many thanks!