According to an article in Digital Music News albums, singles, and recorded music in general will have even less impact on musician’s bottom lines in the future than they do now, in 2014. Instead, the article predicts that fans will be spending more money on live shows, tee shirts, posters, and other “merch.” Recorded music will become a loss leader and promotional tool for the new money makers — the live shows and all the various souvenirs that fans can bring home with them. Recorded music will become a stripper’s feather boa before the real action begins.
Frankly, I don’t care how musicians make a living as long as there is a way for talented musicians to eke out a middle class existence. But the implications for those of us who spend much of their waking hours listening to recorded music is ominous. If recorded music doesn’t make any money the impetus to make recordings is, obviously, diminished. Not only the quantity of recordings available in the future could be reduced, but also the audio quality of those recordings could become a distant afterthought. After all, if the point of recordings is merely to entice someone to attend a show there’s certainly no reason to make the fidelity better than what someone will hear live, and there may even be logical reasons for lowering the fidelity (What are the lyrics? Attend a show to find out).
Are there any silver linings to this extremely large and dark black cloud? High quality, high-resolution recording could turn into even more of a cult hobby than it already is — and maybe if it’s more of a prosumer than pro thing the prices for quality recording gear could get even lower since no one can make any money from their use. And if the vinyl “revolution” continues to generate some big sales numbers (such as what we’re seeing on the new Beatles Mono set) we could see a regular stream of vinyl releases produced with high-resolution digital transfers. The downside is we may never have an opportunity to purchase a high-resolution digital copy generated by these same mastering sessions. Personally, I don’t see this as progress.
As far as the mainstream music consumer is concerned CDs, albums, and physical media in general are dead mediums enjoyed only by “old goats.” If music doesn’t come in by way of a stream from that great cloud in the sky chances are it won’t be heard by a large segment of the population. Audiophilia, already a specialized pursuit, will become even more arcane endeavor.
You can do whatever makes you feel as if you are helping to stem the tide of low-rez streaming music (complaining that there are no sonic differences or that listeners don’t “need” high resolution is not helpful), but in the end high-quality recorded music may be something that gets lost in the 21st century because it couldn’t make any money for the people who needed a way to make a living.
Welcome to the future…