Music in the Digital Age

As we all know, these days a lot of music gets ‘consumed’ by downloading music from online stores or streaming music from your favorite music service. Judging by the current industry numbers, it certainly looks like the CD/record/album will be a thing of the past pretty soon (at least for the main stream music consumer). And if you listen to some industry insiders, downloads might follow suit pretty soon – being completely replaced by music streaming services.

There are a couple of issues with this trend we should all be concerned about:

1) Seems like the ‘consumer’ has finally completely given up on trying to listen to music in the quality it was supposed to be listened to. On one end, recording studios try to get better and better quality (by constantly ramping up the resolution music is recorded with) only to be ‘dumbed’ down when it gets converted into downloadable and/or streamable file sizes.

2) Sustainability for the creators of music (writers, singers, musicians, producers, engineers, etc) is taking a huge hit as their songs are not creating enough revenue anymore to justify future investments. Most local artists record and release their work backed by their own funds and are having a hard time breaking even as it currently is. With streaming becoming the primary way of music distribution, a lot of local and national artist will not be able to break even anymore. This will most likely lead to less music being recorded, less songs being needed, less work for studios, producers, engineers, musicians and so forth. Expect the streets to musical success to be lined with a whole lot more broken dreams and destroyed souls. If this trend continues, the creation of music (and art as a whole) will be limited to the fortunate few that were either able to create their fortune in the past or have limitless funding from outside sources (which has nothing to do with their talent and/or creativity).

3) Nobody gets to read liner notes anymore – lyrics to the songs, stories, credits and thank you’s are apparently close to extinction. Some albums we download today will still have PDF booklets that most people probably don’t even notice but once you get into the streaming world all that is gone.

Personally, I think it is only fair to give the songwriters, session musicians, producers, engineers, studios, photographers, etc credit for their creative work on songs they have been a part of. For me it has always been exciting to read the liner notes on any album I purchased to find out who was playing/singing/working on it.

A lot of people in the music industry used to get new client work from artists reading somebody else’s liner notes (who wrote the tune, produced, played, sang on it). I guess this ‘referral by proxy’ will be a thing of the past pretty soon.

I honestly also enjoyed the artwork of a lot of albums in the past – there were some awesome photographers and graphic artists creating album covers that left lasting impressions. I guess we’ll send all these creative professionals into retirement, because we won’t need awesome cover art anymore for a little icon on your streaming devices screen.

This is not about one artist or one career, this is about the health of the whole industry (as if it has been very healthy lately). Make no mistake about it – even the ‘big boys/girls’ are feeling the effects:
– if you can hire your favorite A-Team musician online to play on your next album you know he/she is feeling it, because they wouldn’t even had time to think about that during the 80’s and 90’s.
– if one of the biggest recording artists in the world shuts down his own company to sign up with one of the major music distributors, you know they’re feeling it (even though this happened for the right reasons).
– if one of the most popular Rock bands decides NOT to record a new album, because they don’t want to loose money, you know they’re definitely feeling it.

For years, Garth Brooks has been very vocal about trying to protect songwriters and the concept of ‘albums’ as a whole instead of selling song-by-song. Every wonder why? Because not every song is/can be a hit song but carries the same amount of effort and the same production price tag as the next one on the album. How many times have you listened to one of your favorite artist’s records and discovered a ‘hidden gem’ after many many years? Circumstances change and all of a sudden well crafted songs/lyrics take on completely different meanings. If we had only gotten the hit single off that album; we would have never even heard that gem …. think about it.

And as for the writers, not every song can be a hit song – even some of the most successful songwriters will tell you that they are still working on perfecting their craft and are still looking for THAT perfect song. If we only buy the hit singles, we take away the funding for the writers of all the remaining songs – and does anyone really believe that the hits are always the best songs on an album?

I don’t live in a dream world where everybody buys all the music they listen to and I am not against streaming services at all (as a matter of fact, I use streaming a lot of times to have background music and/or listen to songs I have to learn for my job) BUT I do make it a point to buy CDs of my favorite music even though I might already have the MP3s on all my devices. And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking Aaron Watson’s “Underdog”, Mark Chesnutt’s “Tradition Lives”, Mo Pitney’s “Behind This Guitar”, Reba McEntire’s “Sing It Now”, Don Henley’s “Cass County” or Toto’s “Toto XIV” – I bought them all.

The moral of the story: Support your favorite artist(s) by buying a hardcopy (!!) of their music at their shows or on their website(s) – spend the money to get their latest CD and a t-shirt and know that you’ve contributed to keeping them in business and enable them to create more music in the future.

And at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what their name is …. they’re all in the same boat, from your local favorite to international superstar.

How much is your favorite singer/song worth to you? Hopefully more than the cup of coffee you had this morning ….

To all of you that support your favorite artists РTHANKS for keeping music and artists alive and creating.


“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of Music is the greatest treasure in the World.” – Martin Luther