For years the music enthusiasts of the world have been at the mercy of major record labels, and their marketing schemes. From the moment “Colonel” Tom Parker decided to sell merchandise featuring Elvis Presley’s face, the music business became as much about business as it was about music. Collecting items with the logos and likenesses of your favorite recording artists was just as important as collecting the actual recordings by them. Today, we are witnessing liberation from the influence of major label merchandising and a return to marketing for listeners.
Through the development of digital music files (particularly mp3’s), music enthusiasts have been afforded the opportunity to collect vast amounts of recorded music via the internet. It has become possible to accumulate larger personal libraries of music (as well as acquire the entire catalog of any recording artist), and made the greatly increasing number of artists more accessible. No more waiting in long lines at record stores to buy the excessively packaged latest release from your favorite artist, while being bombarded with a multitude of related merchandise. Simply search the web, locate a vendor, and download your purchase immediately.
During the MTV-era, having a visually stunning commercial for a hit song (known as the music video) was essential to the sales of newly released albums. These films were providing impressions beyond that of the listening experience, and showcasing shifts in fashion design as well. With the introduction of digital capabilities for the recording industry, the quality of listening experience is much improved and has practically negated the necessity for a film to sell the music. Granted, the digital capabilities in video editing have made for more imaginative music videos, but the focus has shifted back to the music itself.
With digital recording as the industry standard, and the price of digital audio workstations highly affordable, many artists are recording and releasing their music independently, without the assistance of major labels. They have also created their own marketplaces on the internet by making their works available for sale on their own personal websites. Other vendors of digital music have also made it very easy for independent artists to sell their music at these websites as well.
Major labels are quickly becoming dinosaurs with their dated practices of promotion and overcharging the consumer for average products. Artists will continue to forge their own path by matching the technical and promotional abilities of major labels, developing audiences to lure sponsors, and offering consumers a competitively priced product. As music acts continue to adopt these Do-It-Yourself ethics, major labels will lose their dominance over consumers and the markets they support.