The music industry has changed hugely over the past twenty years, locally and globally.
The internet has resulted in music being made available for free in tonnes of different formats, whether it be streaming websites like Youtube and WE7 or sites which allow files to be shared online. Of course, this has also meant that music can be downloaded as MP3s from the likes of iTunes which has revolutionised the way music is bought.
Figures show that once again digital sales are increasing exponentially, while CD sales are dwindling, yet sales of music in physical forms is on the up this Christmas.The fact that Cardiff’s record shops such as Spillers Records are too busy to comment on this topic shows how busy they are around Christmas:
One down side of the digital overhaul of music consumption is the rise in illegal downloading which has seen the music industry take a huge financial hit. A recent survey carried out at Cardiff University showed that 70% of people download illegally, and only half of that amount feel uneasy about doing so. Only 23% stated that they never download illegally, although research has shown that people are still interested in buying physical copies of music.
Dan Tonkin, 21, from Newport said: “I do still buy CDs and I am probably one of the few people that still does from what friends I know are up to. I just like being able to have an actual physical copy of the music and I also enjoy flicking through the booklet, or at least having the option to do so.”
Dan is in the minority though, and with more people seeming to think that illegal downloading is not a serious matter, this is likely to continue. Paul Davies, 45, from Cathays, Cardiff, said: “What is the difference between my sister recording the chart show on a cassette tape when we were young, and someone downloading music on their laptops these days? It wasn’t frowned upon back then, why should it be now?”
Ben Jones, 23, an ex-Cardiff University student, shares similar views, although does acknowledge that illegal downloading is wrong, as well as stating that Spotify is now the happy medium between illegal downloads and parting with our hard earned cash.
Will Gilgrass, another ex-Cardiff University student, now working for BBC6 Music agrees: “It is too late for the illegal downloading to be stopped. I think streaming sites like Spotify where you pay £10 a month for unlimited streaming is the way forward. Record labels should have got onto it sooner.”
He added: “Music being available online on sites like youtube is extremely healthy. Obviously bands gain so much more exposure because of people being able to experiment with the music they listen to.”
Bands looking to gain recognition and exposure profit hugely from being able to share their music with fans for free. Aberdare five-piece Reaper in Sicily owe their growing fan base to their online presence and mainstream successes like Merthyr Tydfil’s The Blackout use social network sites to increase their fan base. Some have gone far enough to say that without exposure online, bands looking to make a name for themselves will not stand a chance.
That said, the financial losses suffered by bands are a worry for the industry. Without the promise of profit, bands starting out for the first time will struggle to keep producing music, and those with large fan bases may spend more money satisfying the demand of their fan base than they do from music sales. Russell Pugh, 21, from Cardiff sees things differently though.
Will Gilgrass believes the quality of music currently produced has been affected by the availability of music online. “It used to be the case that albums would have 10 or 11 songs on. Three would be shit hot and released as singles but the rest were just filler. Now, if that is the case, people will just download the good tracks, leaving the band out of pocket.” Bands also profit from the availability of music online, by enabling them to listen to artists which could influence the music the band goes on to produce. Dan Tonkin said: “In a perfect world, any losses which the band suffer through their music being available online will be more than made up for in their own music and income from their increasing fan base.”
If bands were to stop making their music available online then how would they gain exposure? Before the influx on digital platforms, radio was the only platform available to listen to music for free, with John Peel OBE being the most iconic figure for exposing new bands. Although it is argued that traditional DJs will withstand the mass of online music reviewers, bloggers are becoming more influential in exposing up and coming bands, and the availability of music online is pivotal to this trend continuing.
- This feature will be followed up by an interview with Ashli Todd, owner of Spillers Records, in January.