It’s internet-culture day at The Times. Below, I link to a story about the internet exploding TV. Shortly, I’ll have a post about the Times story on Amazon’s author blogs. And there’s also a story about the net and musicand, again, how the public is finally able to decide who the stars should be:
Even as the recording industry staggers through another year of declining sales over all, there are new signs that a democratization of music made possible by the Internet is shifting the industry’s balance of power.
Exploiting online message boards, music blogs and social networks, independent music companies are making big advances at the expense of the four global music conglomerates, whose established business model of blockbuster hits promoted through radio airplay now looks increasingly outdated….
In a world of broadband connections, 60-gigabyte MP3 players and custom playlists, consumers have perhaps more power than ever to indulge their curiosities beyond the music that is presented through the industry’s established outlets, primarily radio stations and MTV.
“Fans are dictating,” said John Janick, co-founder of Fueled by Ramen, the independent label in Tampa, Fla., whose roster includes underground acts like Panic! At the Disco and Cute Is What We Aim For. “It’s not as easy to shove something down people’s throats anymore and make them buy it. It’s not even that they are smarter; they just have everything at their fingertips. They can go find something that’s cool and different. They go tell people about it and it just starts spreading.”
There are several signs that as more consumers develop the habit of exploring music online they are drawn to other musical choices besides hitmakers at the top of the Billboard chart – a trend that suggests more of the independent labels’ repertory will find an audience.
On the Rhapsody subscription music service, for example, the 100 most popular artists account for only about 24 percent of the music that consumers chose to play from its catalog last month, said Tim Quirk, Rhapsody’s executive editor. In the brick-and-mortar world, he estimates, the 100 most popular acts might account for more than 48 percent of a mass retailer’s sales.
“It’s no longer about a big behemoth beaming something at a mass audience,” Mr. Quirk said. “It’s about a mass of niche audiences picking and selecting what they want at any given time.” …
But no factor is more significant than the Internet, which has shaken up industry sales patterns and, perhaps more important, upended the traditional hierarchy of outlets that can promote music. Buzz about an underground act can spread like a virus, allowing a band to capture national acclaim before it even has a recording contract, as was the case this year with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, an indie rock band.
Is every star in the new world as big as the stars in the old world? No. But neither is the industry dependent on a blockbuster economy; success has new definitions and so does fame.
Small is the new big.