Until the 18th century, the composition, recording, and distribution of music was mainly carried out with the support of organizations such as churches and aristocracies but by the mid-18th century, music artists such as Wolfgang Mozart began to reach out to the public to buy their music. It was not until the 20th century that the industry began to realize great progress and this was due to the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison in 1877. This led to great inventions of recording devices and music storage devices as companies competed to outdo each other in producing the best music.
The invention of the radio in the late 19th century heralded a revolution in the way music was going to be distributed as even the obscurest of bands could get the radio airplay and reach out to millions of people. The radio led to an increased interest in recorded music and music producers began to get real earnings from their work and saw the radio as a blessing.
Despite the positive effects of the radio on the recording industry, the music recording players industry has long claimed that AM-FM Radio broadcasting is a form of piracy and the radio stations should pay artists and recording houses before playing their music (Kravets, 2008, para. 1). They claim that the radio industry makes billions of dollars from recording artist and their producers, however, radio broadcasters have hit back saying that they should not pay any fees as they offer ‘invaluable exposure’ to the artists and market their music.
The development of the internet radio has worsened the situation as some of the stations have programs that function in an iPod-like manner and can store more than 50 hours of music by subscribers. Online radio firms such as XM Satellite are currently embroiled in court battles with music producers over the payment of fees for the playing of music, however, XM compares their music device to a video recorder, which can be used to download and store video programs legally. XM subscribers pay $12.95 per month and access over 170 entertainment stations (The Associated Press, 2006, para. 7). The battles between radio stations and recording houses are set to continue as each party strives to establish its market dominance.
Piracy over the Internet
Besides the radio, the recording industry faces further risks with the development of electronic media and the internet, millions of music tracks and videos are available for free download over the internet through illegal file-sharing. Studies show that 95% of music downloaded is pirated. The music industry has responded to these threats by the formation of bodies to represent them. These bodies include the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Rhythm & Blues Foundation, and Recording Academy among others, RIAA has successfully initiated lawsuits on persons involved in music piracy (Condry, 2004, p. 344). The industry also issues distribution licenses to online music distribution and download services such as Apple’s iTunes, Amazon, and eBay.
In order to fight piracy, producers have been releasing copy-protected CDs. It has been proposed that mandatory caution labels should be placed on these CDs in order to avoid alienating the customers as this would make consumers snub music from such production houses, resulting in low album sales.
Bypassing Music Companies
Artists can use the internet to sell their music instead of relying solely on the producers. They can create online fan bases where they sell their music, products, announce new music releases and tour concerts, and even sell tickets. Online sites such as Topspin have the tools that can perform these tasks (Pham, 2010, para. 19). Besides, sites such as iTunes, eMusic, Napster, Rhapsody and Amazon MP3 offer artists avenues through which they can bypass music companies.
Condry, I. (2004). An ethnographic comparison of the US and Japan. International Journal of Cultural Studies. Volume 7(3): 343–363.
Kravets, D. (2008). Recording Industry Decries AM-FM Broadcasting as ‘A Form of Piracy’. Web.
Pham, A. (2010). Digital music pioneer looks for new frontiers. Web.
The Associated Press. (2006). Recording Industry Sues XM Satellite Radio. Web.