Chart of the day: The death of the music industry

Sales of digital music are way down in the past five years.

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  1. Brandon Coomer wrote:

    I’d believe this… if it wasn’t for the part that said “Source: RIAA”. I don’t feel it is the most trustworthy source of info on this topic. If not for that, I’d have no trouble believing the (lack of) sales figures.

  2. Magnolia wrote:

    In all honesty, I am not surprised that there would be a decline in music sales. Most music, to include country, rock, pop, alternative and even Gospel, is not the quality that it used to be even twenty-five years ago.

    It seems as though everything has been recorded. With auto-tune and a studio’s ability to make a mediocre singer sound like Grammy material on a CD, the purity is not in the music anymore. Most of it sounds contrived.

    Then, you have the likes of Lady Gaga, a person who is more interested in making a weird fashion statement, complete with strange occult symbolism, than she is doing something truly music-worthy. Last year, she arrived at the Grammy Awards in a red meat dress, and this year, decided to arrive in a plastic egg. Would this be marketing genius or drug-induced entertainment? Even though Elton John wore interesting costumes for years, he at least recorded some good music. There once was a time when a person’s music stood on its own, without the circus-like contributions.

    Today, country sounds like pop and rock sounds like country, and everything in between just sounds the same. When you turn on the radio, the current song you hear sounds like the last song you heard five minutes ago. Nothing sounds original…….absolutely NOTHING. Most modern Gospel music is no different.

    Years ago, there was a very definite difference between the various genres of music. Country sounded country and rock sounded rock……and even Gospel music sounded like Gospel music, not an overdone pop-sounding album with a few mentions of something remotely Biblical.

    A while back, my husband, my mother and I went to a concert advertised at a very small church. It was The Maharrey Family, We had never heard of them and did not know what to expect. They were such a breath of fresh air. Thank you Lord…..there was no “canned music”, no attitudes, no ego, justs good old-fashioned country-bluegrass style Gospel. Their performance of “Two Coats” was outstanding. I realized how much I have missed a pure sound.

    Daniel Maharrey, an incredible musician, played the acoustic guitar and the mandolin. He played similar to Marty Stuart and Ricky Skaggs - what a talent. Daniel’s wife sang back-up. Dad Maharrey was the lead singer, and his voice was reminiscent of the traditional Grand Ole Opry sound. Mom Maharrey and the two grandsons played instruments as well It was just phenomenal, not to mention a very spiritual experience.

    I truly think that people miss the originality, the purity of the performances and the contrasts between the various genres of music. Think about it… many folks out there today have the originality of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, The Stamps Quartet, Dottie Rambo, Vestal Goodman or The Hinsons? Basically, very, very few to none. Yes, I can understand the decline of digital music.

  3. The Art Coach wrote:

    I don’t know much about the source, but even if the $ are off … I can see that the trends would be about right. I wonder about the decline of digital sales. I would think (like with the popularity of other media) that digital would have had to have had more of a “peak” period. What do you think is the cause of it’s parallel decline with CD sales? Is it because we are talking dollars? You get off cheaper with digital downloads.You don’t have to purchase the whole CD for $10 ~ $20 … just the songs you want for .99 ~ 1.29.

  4. quartet-man wrote:

    I think the reasons stated are at least some of the reasons. I suspect there is still some theft, but that has always been true from cassettes to cdrs to illegal downloads. Perhaps internet radio and You Tube also have some effects.

    I also think that there are just a lot of entertainment choices and music isn’t as popular as it once was.

  5. Brian wrote:

    An interesting graph, but your assessment of it is totally wrong. Digital sales are not down over the last five years, but are the highest they’ve ever been. But it hasn’t been enough to offset the decrease in CD sales. The total music sales are way down, but the red portion (digital) has increased.

  6. wanderer wrote:

    The late Conway Twitty said it best. From a technical point of view, music has never been better. From a creative point of view, it has never been worse. Those were not his exact words, but it was idea of what he said. In the interview I was reading, he was talking about how he missed being there when all the musicians were there. He said that we all came up with some really great ideas when we were all here at the same time. Now the musicians come in, then the backup singers and then me. He said it killed the creativity. I believe it. The beancounters ruin everything. They take a formula and force on the public till the public is so sick and tired of it they loose interest.
    Besides all that, the recession has hurt everyone also. I would think even Gaither feels it.

  7. DMP wrote:

    Am I the only one who listens to 85% of my music on YouTube? For free? I know I’ve said this before, but I’m not sure how that is legal…

  8. The Art Coach wrote:

    Brian: Looks to me like the red portion of the graph decreases from about 2005 to 2009.

    DMP: I listen to ALOT of music on youtube and pandora. If I do buy a cd. Most of it goes into my iTunes and I listen on my ipod. I have a large amount of cds that never again make it into the light of day.

  9. JM wrote:

    Why should we be surprised? Think of all the recreational outlets and spare time pursuits enjoyed by the “baby boomers;” now, ask how many of them are thriving and/or at least holding their own. Theatre, movies, state parks, baseball, shopping malls and even (dare I say it) church attendance are all suffering from some level of rejection by our young people. Look around the next baseball game, church service or state park you go to and answer two questions: 1) How many young people do you see? 2) How many would you see if they weren’t forced to be there?

    Kids still pay attention to certain singers and groups, but not as much as my generation did. We were zealots; they are casual observers. They prefer Wi to a sunny day outside. They’d rather jump on FB or text than make a phone call. Like it or not, this generation is quite bored to death and there is little in the current entertainmemnt pipeline to change that. Some SGM groups have tried to dovetail into technology to reach out, but it comes out like old people trying to look young. Very lame.

    Here’s a thought…why don’t we try to be genuine and real? Use the talents that were given to you. Pursue your heart’s desire and don’t try to out-smart the kids. They will sniff out a fake every time! The music marketplace is very fragmented because we can so easily hear whatever we wish. Back in the day, every little radio station in the USA played public information programs on Saturday, religous stuff on Sunday and sprinkled in some high-brow classical music, when no one was listening. Like it or not, you got a buffet. Now, radio is almost dead; but, should you wish, there are stations devoted to anything you wish to listen to, at any time!

    Of course people are tuning out music. They are also tuning out many other things. We sit in the midst of a bored and tired generation. We have the answer. But, we are so afraid to offend someone that we do spiritual gymnastics to avoid the appearance of actual Christianity.

    I can still remember an old guy that used to sing in our Sunday night church services. He had a guitar that he couldn’t play very well and a voice that sounded like a dying calf in a hail storm. But, he knew the Master and his love of God overcame his questionable talents.

    I highly recommend Neil Postman’s “Ammusing Ourselves to Death.” For anyone alarmed by this drift into unrequitted entertainment, Postman has much to say. The thesis is quite simple: goverment is not the problem…we are! It is a very good read.

  10. quartet-man wrote:

    #6 Wanderer, I once read that in difficult times Christian music and literature were fairly well recession proof because people were looking for comfort and answers. I do think that that could have changed since there are online resources now.

    #7 DMP, I do listen to You Tube for either things I don’t have at all, have, but not handy etc. However, generally I want to own the music and CDs or DVDs at that. So, it doesn’t keep me from buying stuff, but I am probably different than many. I don’t disagree with your premise though.

  11. Magnolia wrote:

    To #6 and #9: Amen, Amen and Amen! The young people today will not know what it is like to enjoy the simple things of life, without being bombarded with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, texting, Droids, iphones, i-this and i-that. I’m all for technology, but the scales have truly tipped. It seems more like 80% technology and 20% creativity - even less sometimes.

    I used to listen to the radio all the time. Now, I switch from station to station to find something different or original. Sometimes, I just tune into the Spanish station. I may not understand all the words, but it least it doesn’t sound like 24/7 Britney Spears.

  12. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    I have a better test than the graph.
    Check out the parking lot of your local Toy “R” Us.
    You can get a parking space at the front door most of the time.

  13. wanderer wrote:

    #10 quartetman. I guess I’m basing my comment on about a year and a half ago when I went to a Gaither concert. Some of the performers there had signs up “recession special”. And boy, compared to prices just a mere 2 years before that, they were really cheap! Couldn’t believe it. The other thing is it seems the Gospel is being rejected more and more (thanks to the likes of Katy Perry and such). So I question if people are turning to it for comfort and hope like they used to.

  14. Hector Luna wrote:

    #9. I mostly agree. When Gospel music goes out, so will the quality of baseball. oh no…

  15. cdguy wrote:

    #10 quartetman — The way I heard the adage was the Bible and liquor sales were recession-proof.

    And I often wondered if those 2 were sold to the same people.

  16. Tim wrote:

    #2 “A breath of fresh air” is what the industry needs and sooner or later someone will bring something new to the table. Just hold on.

  17. Mark Crary wrote:

    In my town we have a super Wal-Mart, when it first open it had a good size music department and sold all kinds of music. About 9 months ago the music department was down size by 75% and the moves/DVD was made bigger, a lot bigger. Shoes, dog food, toys, car staff, books, cards, on and on…..I knew that Wal-Mart can make more money selling just about any thing other than music/CDs. This told me that music sale where way down. Just last week I got Rod Stewarts new CD, been out about 2 week for $9.99, I also think that the days of $16/$17 for a cd are over. Go to Wal-Mart or any big box store and CD prices are way down from about 2 years ago. Why….just not selling. Also older artist/groups are still selling…music. All music is not what it was 10 to 20 years ago, in my thinking….. that’s why we have declining CD sales.

  18. wanderer wrote:

    #17 Yeah the music department in the WalMart here has been downsized as well.

    #15 I watched a piece on the internet about a year ago and even the escort services in Nevada were complaining business is down. You know things are bad when that sinful occupation is “suffering”.

  19. Brian wrote:

    Art Coach, it appears to me from the graph that sales of digital music have increased from about $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion since 2005.

    It’s the total music sales that are way down, from about 12 billion to about 8 billion. That’s about 4.5 billion of CD sales (the gray portion) and 3.5 billion of digital sales (the red portion).

  20. GospelMusicFan wrote:

    We thought it was big when Toy “R” Us had our games and music on CD’s and videos.
    Its all about too many choices out there like the changing pace of technology, stealing the music under the guise of “ministry to others” and the ecomony.

  21. The Art Coach wrote:

    I am on chapter 3 of Postman’s book…Verrrrry Interesting stuff!

  22. MidwestDad2000 wrote:

    I am not surprised that music sales, as a whole are down. Music is NOT what it used to be, and it kills me to say that because I’m a musician myself. I don’t think there is a musical genre of any kind that hasn’t seen a decline in quality over the last 10 or so years.
    As far as Southern Gospel goes, I have next to NO interest at all in new material. As a teenager, I got in to contemporary Christian music, but in 1989, I started listening to SG again, largely because I felt the contemporary artists had peaked out. I started listening to the groups that were popular then, such as Gold City, The Cathedrals, Mid South, and others, and I LOVED it. I enjoyed going to the concerts, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new releases.
    But somewhere along the way, something changed for me, and to be quite honest I can’t put my finger on what it is…I absolutely DESPISE the fact that artists have resorted to using soundtracks. I understand that times are hard, and money is tight for everyone, but using tracks has cheapened Southern Gospel music.
    I grew up in an era when groups took bands on the road with them, and the performances sounded different than they did on the studio recording, and that was part of what made things exciting. But now, that’s all gone. Tell me, why should the average fan spend the money to attend a concert when they can essentially hear the exact same thing on a cd? That doesn’t even make any sense to me.
    The other problem SG has is that it seems that unless an artist is associated with the Gaither Homecoming, they seem insignificant. I was once told by a very prolific songwriter quote “when it comes to Southern Gospel music, there’s Gaither, and then there’s the rest of us, and we can’t compete.” In my opinion, the Gaither Homecoming has outlived it’s usefulness, and now, instead of helping SG, it’s DESTROYING it. I miss the days when the Gaither Vocal Band was a real musical entity, and not just a sideshow.
    In short, I don’t purchase new music. I would rather spend my time transferring old vinyl recordings to compact disc than I would to go spend my money on crap.

  23. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Brian is correct. The chart clearly shows that digital sales are up, not down.

    The reason the chart slopes to the right in recent years is because CD sales are declining much faster than digital sales are increasing. CD sales looked to be about 10 billion in 2005, but only about 5 billion in 2009.

  24. quartet-man wrote:

    That’s it, overall music sales are down. More of a percentage is in downloads, but music as a whole is down.

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