The music business gets off the gurney

The industry grows for the first time since Napster launched. Did it have to be this way?

Topics: Music sales, napster, Piracy, music business, , ,

The music business gets off the gurneyA table of the iPod nano is seen at the Apple Store. (Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam)

Global music sales rose in 2012 for the first time since 1999, reports the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

The rise wasn’t huge, just 0.3 percent, and the total sales figure of $16.5 billion did not come close to the music industry’s peak year bonanza  of $38 billion, but growth is always better than relentless decline. People are giddy.

From the New York Times:

“It’s clear that 2012 saw the global recording industry moving onto the road to recovery,” said Frances Moore, chief executive of the federation, which is based in London. “There’s a palpable buzz in the air that I haven’t felt for a long time.”

At TheAtlantic.com, Derek Thompson provides four interesting reasons for why sales are up, including the intriguing possibility that successful government crackdowns on piracy have given new life to “legitimate” listening options. Or maybe the industry is just now finally figuring out new business models to use in a world of easily shared content.

Whatever the case, the industry seems to finally be having its come-to-digital-Jesus moment:

“At the beginning of the digital revolution it was common to say that digital was killing music,” said Edgar Berger, chief executive of the international arm of Sony Music Entertainment. “The reality is that digital is saving music.”

When was the beginning of that digital revolution? For music, the year  was clearly 1999, when Napster exploded on the scene and music sales started to drop. The two things were obviously connected.



But what would have happened if the music industry had reacted to Napster’s emergence by co-opting it, instead of attempting to sue it out of existence? Napster was certainly more than open to getting in bed with the music industry. If Sony et al. had recognized where their true interests lay, they could have owned the distribution platform for digital music and prevented interlopers like Apple from ever jumping into the music business. Who knows where sales might be today if the recording studios had started looking forward as soon as the writing was on the wall?

After all, it’s not like they weren’t warned.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>