The sky was all purple
There were people runnin’ everywhere
Tryin’ to run from their destruction
You know I didn’t even care
They say two thousand zero, zero
Oops, out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999
In 1999 worldwide music revenue was $27 billion, in 2014 it had dropped to $15 billion. Most blame Napster for this decline, but if you dig deeper you will find that Wall Street and government policy are the actual cause of this steep decline in music revenue.
Corporate culture is not conducive to developing musical talent. Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Record, quoted in The Song Machine by John Seabrook:
I don’t think the music business lends itself very well to being a Wall Street business. You’re always working with individuals, with creative people, and the people your are trying to reach, by and large, don’t view music as a commodity but as a relationship with a band. It takes time to expand that relationship, but most people who work for the corporations have three-year contracts, some five, and most of them are expected to produce. What an artist really needs is a champion, not a numbers guy who in another year is going to leave.
Adele’s new album, 25, sold 3.38 million copies in its debut week and another 1.1 million copies in its second week. It has smashed the single-week US album sales record, previously held by 90s boyband ★NSYNC. It has become the best-selling release of 2015, bypassing Taylor Swift’s 1989. It is also the first LP ever to sell over 1 million copies in its second week after accomplishing that feat in its first.
Adele’s 21 was the best-selling album in both 2011 and 2012, with more than 5.8 million and 4.4 million sold, respectively. It is the only album to be the best-selling album for two consecutive years.
According to Nielsen, which has studied the demographics of the fans of various pop acts, the typical Adele fan is a college-educated woman aged 25 to 44, who watches “Family Guy” on TV and likes to shop at Target, Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. This is not the teen audience that music industry is now mostly geared to engaged.
In 1983, 90% of American media was owned by 50 companies. Today, six media giants control 90% of what we read, watch, or listen to. This has a profound effect on the music that we get to hear.
This massive media consolidation was made possible by The Telecommunications Act of 1996 that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. This Act allowed media cross-ownership and also allowed broadcast companies to own an unlimited number of radio stations.
In 1953, the FCC established the 7-7-7 rule, one entity could not own more than seven AM, seven FM, and seven TV stations nationwide. In 1985, the 7-7-7 rule became the 12-12-12 rule. In 1992, the 18-18-12 rule was established and in 1994, limits were raised to 20-20-12.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 dropped these limits and at one point Clear Channel (now iHeartMedia) owned over 1,200 radio stations nationwide.
More to come.