12 Music Business Predictions for 2012
Where were we? Oh yeah, crystal ball and prophesies. You ready for this? OK. What follows is a list of events we expect to befall the music industry in 2012. Yes, these are etched in stone and should be regarded as gospel. Full prophetic titillation ahead.
Photo by Robert Bejil
1. Sales sag on
We wish we had good news for you here, but we don't. The future still looks less than rosy. The album isn't entirely dead, though; it's still in ICU and labels are on all fours, praying to every god in existence for a miracle. The bump in digital sales helps. But digital revenue isn't rising fast enough to fill the gulf created by low CD sales. Besides, a good portion of digital growth is in individual units and other formats not named album, e.g. iTunes' build-your-own-album feature.
2. Major cartels downsize
Photo by Marco Torres Alicia Keys
We're now down to three major cartels: UMG, Sony, and Warner. If Warner accepts Sony's rumored marriage proposal, we'll be looking at just two. Even sub-labels are gobbling up sub-sub-labels. Take RCA, for instance. Peter Edge assumed the mantle over there and immediately axed the three labels under his banner (Jive, Arista and J Records). Artists from all three rosters--Justin Timberlake, Ke$ha, and Alicia Keys, among them--were bequeathed to RCA Music. Expect EMI to do the same to its own labels. We'll soon be saying "bye bye" to: Virgin, Capitol, and Blue Note. It's strictly an economic move. These guys want to cut costs, explore digital distribution, and expand their operations. Edge won't even call RCA a record label because that's just too...restrictive. His vision, the vision of every music exec in business today, is to expand beyond the business of selling music.
3. Indies boom
The allure of a major deal will always be too enticing to resist. But not for long. 2012 will be the year people figure out the difference between indies and majors (mostly leg work vs exposure), and we'll see a gradual migration from majors to indies. Success stories, like Mac Miller's #1 debut, will give new artists fresh impetus to go independent.
4. Adios, DRM
Are we still discussing Digital Rights Management? What is this, 2001? Drop the damn thing already, will ya?