The current state of the industry is experiencing rapid growth across all parts of the business. More and more people are purchasing tickets and are experiencing shows live which contributes to the growth in revenue in ticket and merchandising sales which is expected to reach $9.1 billion in 2021(adage). Creativity is at an all-time high as well. The advancements in production technology has allowed anyone to become an artist seemingly overnight. Music can literally be created anywhere because of this technology from bedrooms across the U.S to the far corners of the globe music which has expanded an artist’s reach. Millions of people are now able to instantly download a new song from anywhere in the world and listen and share it with others. With all this good however there are some bad things that are currently happening in the industry.
Music Industry Issues
Some of the major problems that are occurring include major streaming platforms are financially unreliable, piracy levels are rising, and artists are struggling to make a living off the music they make. Given the overall popularity of music in this day and age these problems are expected. Most of these problems are hidden from consumer’s eyes so the harsh realities of the music industry go unnoticed (digital music news).
Despite the problems in the music industry today the musical culture in the U.S has and still remains strong. For many music is an escape, a medium where people can express themselves freely or blast their favorite song in the shower or slow dance with their crush on prom night. Music touches every part of our lives through television, video games, sports etc. and it’s become one the biggest parts of our culture as a country. The history of music in the United States has always been rich.
US Music History
From the very beginnings of when this country was fighting for independence Francis Scott Key wrote our national anthem. Which laid the ground work for other patriotic songs to emerge like ‘My Country Tis of Thee’ and these songs established what it meant to be American. The influx of immigrants to this country have also contributed to enrichening the music culture of America and despite their struggles during slavery Africans turned to music and created songs in the underground railroad like ‘Follow the Drinking Gourd’ to escape their reality. These were starting moments that have made our music culture what it is today (the artifice). More recently during the time of the world wars when our country once again turned to patriotic songs to build moral. After the wars the country went through political, social and cultural change in which several artists emerged during the 1960s like Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley. These artists ignited the advocation for change and inspired youth to stand up for what they believe in.
Without the early mixing of cultures and diversity those changes may have never occurred. 1970s and 80s were more controversial and America had to face some hard truths as country. The Vietnam War sparked outrage throughout society and many artists spoke out against it. The civil rights movement of the 1960s was still lingering in society as black people began to express their struggles through music. Our countries values were in question not only by everyday citizens but artists as well. The music industry is once again being used in our current political, cultural, and societal environment.
Cultural Shifts and New Genres
One of the most recognizable shifts in the musical culture over the recent years has been the rising popularity of hip hop. The most popular genres of music in the U.S are hip hop, rock, country and pop. According to Nielsen Music’s 2017 year-end report hip hop surpassed rock as the most popular genres in terms of total consumption (usa today). It seems like every day there is a new artist discovered in the hip hop world and they become overnight sensations. In 2017 hip hop album sales were down by 19% but to make up for that streaming surged dramatically. Hip hop streaming grew by 43% and saw 400 billion streams within the genre compared to the 2016 total which was around 252 billion. The rise in the popularity of hip hop can be equated to several factors. One being the rebellious messages tones that are sent through the songs.
Sophomore Amir Meyers a rapper and producer Harrisberg High School thinks this is why the genre is so popular among the youth in America. “I think it’s cringy, but there’s a type of rebellious nature that comes with hip hop. Rock was considered rebellious and that’s what the youth listened to, and now we have hip hop and rap.” Myers said. (HHS media). Another factor as to why hip hop has become so popular is given the political climate in America. Many artists have become social advocates for change, such as Kanye West visiting the white house which received mixed reactions from citizens. A more common theme among rappers now is to include political messages within their songs. Rapper Childish Gambino’s song “This is America” highlighted the realities of gun violence in America. These types of actions have all contributed to the popularity of hip hop in the United States and has made hip hop a tool for societal change and expression in America.
Another cultural shift that is occurring is the rise of a relatively new genre in music compared to other popular ones is that of EDM (Electric Dance Music). This style of music has been around since the 1980s but only around 2011 really became one of the biggest genres not only in the US but around the world. The artist Skrillex became a pioneer in the genre after he posted one of his very first songs on Facebook which received criticism and asking, “where’s the drop?” Those simple 3 words would go on to be a catch phrase for many fans of the genre. (Pitchfork). More and more artists began to emerge during this time, like Swedish House Mafia, Daft Punk and Avicii. These artists, many of which came from outside the United States brought their new style of music stateside and really took the genre to a global level. The global estimated value of EDM is estimated to be around $7.9 billion and over 160 million EDM festival tickets were sold in 2017 (lowtone.co).
Streaming of EDM on Spotify is around 16 billion streams alone. In 2013 EDM became a viral hit with the emergence of the Harlem Shake challenge which was inspired by Baauer’s hit song.
Drug Issues in EDM Culture
Despite this vast popularity the genre has experienced controversy and tragedy in recent years. In 2012 nine people were non-fatally stabbed at a Swedish House Mafia concert in Dublin, Ireland. In 2013 two Electric Zoo attendees died due to drug related deaths. The issue of drugs has been a problem within EDM culture because of the nature of the music and the environment in which they experience the music has contributed to drug use among fans. Avicii before his death earlier this year “lived on a cocktail of prescription drugs” that he said, “kept him going”. Drug culture with EDM has far reaching within clubs, parties and festivals. Many organizers refuse to allow nonprofit organizations like DanceSafe at their events because of the drug testing that they provide to attendees. Event organizers fear that they could be held liable for any overdoses or deaths that might occur at their events. Shane Morris, a former manager within the EDM industry, spoke out against the realities of the drug culture at music festivals “…The promoters win because they collect at the door, and a percentage of the Molly sold in the venue… The security wins because any ‘non-promoter-approved’ Molly dealer is thrown out and/or arrested, so they keep appearances with local law enforcement.
The drug dealers win because their product is sold in a monopolized environment, free of competition, where they are free to set the price. The venue wins because they can avoid the rave laws and feign ignorance…”. (odyssey) This is how the EDM genre has shifted and now it poses risks for millions of attendees because of the refusal by organizers to provide educational opportunities to fans of the genres.
The drug culture within music festivals is a problem that needs to be addressed but music festivals still remain popular pilgrimages during the summer months which are “festival season”. Thousands of people each year patiently wait for lineups to drop and began the journey to major cities, small towns or parks across the United States. Music Festivals have become not only massive hubs for art and music but have become major financial generators which have major impact on the economies where they are held.
Coachella for example which occurs in small the small desert town of Indio, California creates about 3,000 temporary jobs and in over $250 million dollars into the economy in 2012. The festival saw $47.5 million in revenue making it the most popular and most profitable music festival in the U.S. (Clark the economics of music festivals). Music festivals serve as places where people can freely express themselves and advocate for change or even register to vote. These gatherings bring people from all cultures and walks life together for one weekend and to make lasting memories. Despite the issues that need to be addressed festivals will remain one of the core staples of American music culture. With live consumption being at an all time high another form consumption is also experiencing rapid growth.
Role of Streaming in Economy
Streaming is one of the most profitable areas in the music industry. According to The Recording Industry of America streaming now accounts for 75% of all the revenue within the music industry (the verge). Most of the major streaming platforms such as Spotify, google and Apple music offer paid subscriptions for users, so they can avoid ads.
According to the RIAA “The music streaming economy presents myriad new opportunities, but also its share of challenges too,” the RIAA writes. “According to Nielsen, more than 70,000 different albums were released by mid-year. Finding an audience amongst an extraordinary range of music choices, competing for the user’s attention against other entertainment options on the ubiquitous smartphone, and being prominent on dozens of different digital platforms is … critical for success.” (the verge). These platforms provide users with an endless supply of music at their fingertips. Spotify will even curate specific playlists based on one’s listening habits. Streaming has also allowed artists to upload their own music without having to go through a record label.
As the pattern continues the success does not come without controversy and the streaming industry has its fair share. The most common problem within the industry is the low financial reward the platforms give artists for their work. Apple Music has been in the process of fixing this and Tidal, a new platform has emerged as being artist friendly (digital music news). This has left artists to question their value. Most notably was Taylor Swift who went into a legal battle with Apple over royalties.