Sunday, October 10, 2010

Swan Song-- The Middle Class of Music

Goodbye middle class.

Like many other young church-goers, I dreamed of being a Christian Super Star singer/songwriter/recording artist.  Now I know I'm the only one, because the rest of you dreamed of just servin' the Lord in whatever capacity (oh please let it be music stardom, oh please, oh please).

Of course I was motivated to learn guitar and piano to just worship Him.  I never thought about what I would say to the audience right before this song or that song.  I never dreamed about what my album cover would look like.  Or what I'd title my first album (btw, it was going to be called "Sold Out" and have like a ticket stub for art).

Those were the heady teenage years... and maybe into the twenties.  So for you few out there who have dreams of Christian music stardom, let me paint the picture of the times we live in.  The "middle class" of music artistry is going away.  All that will be left are the million units sold performers and the 50 units sold performers.  The solid 100K selling artists will go the way of the dinosaur.

You see, the music industry as a whole is not doing very well.  In fact, it's sick and dying in its current form.  A recording artist friend of mine used to move 80K of his CD's.  Last one out didn't even break 10K.  His music is just as good.  And these kinds of drops are across the board to other artists and genres.  Yes, the Great Recession can be blamed, but this was happening before that.  Piracy is the big problem.  People just don't want to buy a song when they can get it for free from their friend.

So let's play the tape forward.  When a CD is bought, maybe a teeny bit goes to the artist.  Much more goes to the label, where they have to pay for offices, executives, the A&R guy, the publicity company, the marketing people, the ads, the cost of the units themselves, the graphic artist doing the layout of the CD and booklet... and on and on.

What we're seeing is labels go under and shut their doors.  Or layoff significant numbers of people.  When they do get behind a musical act or artist, it's going to be someone they know can sell some product-- otherwise, they're going out of business.

Now is one of the hardest times to make it as a Christian recording artist.  And it will only get harder.  There will be millions of really good CD's that are home grown and sold one at a time.  There will be a few that become viral sensations.  I just don't think you'll see the solid base hits and doubles.  It will be homeruns or strikeouts.

Don't even get me started on movies.

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