Did The Internet Kill The Music Composer?

I was recently introduced to a new tool called UJAM. A free cloud-based music composition tool that enables enthusiasts with tools to create, stylize and share their musical ideas over the web. Little or no experience is required to use this tool and it’s free. Once you publish your songs through UJAM, users can listen to them and share them on social media sites like Facebook. If you already have your songs ready for the internet, other sites like SoundCloud offer a great interface that can be used to embed your music in any site and also has some nice sharing, commenting and social components built into them.

Napster: the game changer

I suppose, since Napster, sharing audio and other media became an inevitable reality that all content owners have had to contend with ever since. Some bands have been successful in using the Internet to propagate their sound, making money mostly on tours and other channels, products or services, but not on the sales of their music.

There’s iTunes and Amazon to buy MP3 files (to name a few), but let’s face it, for each tile purchased legally, there’s probably 100 times the number being pirated. Those of you who remember mix tapes know that this isn’t new. There’s always been some pirating involved, but never to this magnitude.

The paradigm shift

These technological changes have made it easier for people to create and share their music. As a result, it has reduced the perceived value of their creation because there is more content offer available today than there ever was. Yet the demand for professional music has not grown at the same rate throughout the years. In other words, more music (or people available to do it) + less demand = less value. Whereas a few decades ago, technology was very expensive and complicated, the number of music composers with the means and the knowledge to produce an equivalent quality of music (and synchronize it to image in some case) was very small and the demand was there. The end result is that you could run a business, hire people to write the music and others to run the technical parts and still generate a profit. While that model still stands today, it can support a much smaller number of players; especially when you can run a one-person production studio with minimal investment in hardware, a few online YouTube tutorials to give you the basics and lots of trial and error.

For the love of music?

Going back to the UJAM example I was mentioning above and the social media sharing, it’s clear to me that little if no money can be made off these distribution channels. Once someone has something for free, it’s hard to go back and charge them for it. Yes, social media helps in making your creation more visible to a larger audience than your circle of close friends or your family. Yes, it’s possible someone will hear your music and want to buy it or hire you. But it’s more likely you’ll get something out of it. And that’s where a good marketing strategy comes into play and can help you determine the next steps of your business.

 What do you think?

Do you feel internet has affected your bottom line? If so, what have you been doing to help regain some of the value lost?