The Changing Business of Music

00:00 March 24, 2014
By: 2Fik
Photo Sep 28, 11 12 53 AM
[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]
The Scorseses

In past years, you'd buy an album at a store, take it home, and listen to it, often in its entirety. Along came 8-Tracks, cassettes, and CDs that made recorded music increasingly portable. Now, digital music files can be downloaded and stored in massive libraries in a small device can be played instantly at our leisure.

Despite more music being downloaded, people cleave to outdated modes as the best way to experience music. Vinyl sales have been growing in America and Europe this past decade. Many bands release vinyl, even cassette, versions of their album alongside CDs or digital downloads. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) reported that vinyl sales recently reached more than half a million units in sales, and their American counterpart Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported in the 2012 Music Industry Shipment and Revenue Statistics that, with an overall decline in physical recorded music sales, vinyl sales "continued to grow, up 36% in value to $163 million in 2012." Vinyl is being sold and traded en masse at conventions like the annual Ponderosa Stomp and quarterly Record Raid.

Bryan Kavanaugh recently began a used vinyl store out of his house called Captain's Vinyl located at 2252 Cambronne Street. "I wanted to sell full time as digging through vinyl is a passion to me. I think there's a growing group of younger persons who are drawn to the better sound quality of vinyl: the natural, non-overly processed music of the past. The radio songs I hear tend to be a wall of sound with no emotional value. Melody has given way to beats," says Kavanaugh. He sees customers of all ages as younger generations seek out vinyl albums and older people are adding to their lifelong collection. "A lot of younger people are into the roots of music. I also have surveys asking people their opinions of my store along with their tastes. The predominant wants are genres other than rock, and more new wave/punk," says Kavanaugh. As a record mogul, Bryan Kavanaugh attends massive record conventions and co-organizes Record Raid. "I spent about $600 for 120 LPs and have already made more than half of that back. Ponderosa Stomp is people who attend from across the world prepared to spend $3000," says Kavanaugh.

However resurgent vinyl becomes, digital music is the present and future of recorded music. And RIAA, BPI, and Music Business Association created the website called Why Music Matters to direct music fans to legal websites in an effort to dissuade music piracy. The group claims: "We can appreciate that with so many options for enjoying music online also come questions about which services are properly authorized. That's why we developed this website. You can be sure that each service listed is authorized and that artists, music labels, and the many other individuals involved in the music chain are being compensated. After all, when creators can earn a return on their work, they have the means to continue making the music that matters to all of us." Some bands have tried to capitalize on the free music trend by allowing people to stream or download their album for free and saying that if you want to support this band, you'll donate for the songs, buy merchandise, or see them live. Bands say that they now sell much of their music online with digital downloads.

Local musicians are releasing their music in many ways to appease the varied demands of their consumers. Vocalist Terry McDermott of Terry McDermott and the Bonfires has been in the music business for many years; he began his career in the age of the big record company but has more recently embraced new technology. "When I started, record companies were large, bands were very small, and it cost a lot of money to get anything done. It was the be-all and end-all dream of bands to get signed by a major label. Ultimately, you can get a lot more done with a lot less," says McDermott. Terry McDermott has not released a physical CD in America since 2006 since his band Driveblind dissolved. He has, however, released three solo songs, and his band is releasing an EP all in digital format. McDermott owns vinyl records and downloads music, too. "My taste probably isn't typical of what the market would suggest is current mainly because I used to love buying an album: buying for the experience of the record, buying for the art; there's a reason they were put in a certain sequence. To be honest, the only people who are as enamored with that now are musicians and the older record buying audience. People don't fall in love with the records so much now, they fall in love with a song," says McDermott.

McDermott believes that the timely release of music is the best way to keep an audience engaged. "In modern music environment with an ADD audience, if you put a single out and it doesn't do well, you can be back with another single. You're far more flexible with your audience. And if you can make records yourself, so long as you attend to that audience, you have the ability to put out music, and make money from it," explains McDermott. McDermott landed a spot on the hit show "The Voice," and, though he did not win the top prize, he has received much success from the show. "If you're going to look at it in the cold light of day, it's a tremendous vehicle. This year we've played in Belize, Alaska, Vietnam, everywhere. And that's because of the fact that we've got a talented core of musicians from here in New Orleans; we know what we're doing, we know how to make music, we know how to mix it and promote it. I could not happier. It's making music on our own terms," says McDermott.

Vincent Ebeier, lead singer of The Scorseses, also feels that any attention is good for business and uses free streaming to get his music to potential fans. "Every second someone gives us their ears, we appreciate it. It's basically what we want more than anything, for anyone's time and interest to give our music a chance, whether it be by coming to experience our live show or giving us the attention of their ears musically," says Ebeier. The Scorseses' latest album, Magnumopus, was released on CD and as digital downloads on various websites, and are gearing up to sell music on their own site, cutting out the middle man. He believes that today's music market is friendlier towards artists who don't have to be hand-picked by a major label to be successful.

"With enough hard work and wherewithal now days, an artist definitely has more capabilities and opportunity to record, mix, master, press, distribute, and promote their own records. Granted it does take time, mental focus, and money to get to that goal. With the world of shady deals, control issues, frozen musical assets, and headaches that come with many bigger labels' reputations these days, it seems like artists are leaning more toward self producing or independent labels to keep their artistic compromise as low as possible," says Ebeier. But with easier and faster music production come the fickle audience which creates other challenges. "It seems that many newer generation listeners don't seem to soak up the deeper stuff as much as you or the average music connoisseur would. To the avid, organic music lover, the songs and albums that they immerse themselves into are the soundtracks to their existence. Lately it seems like many of the population just latch to the primal thoughts in songs. I love knowing the words and metaphoric meanings to songs, and where it came from when it was written by the artist. It's massively inspirational to musicians," says Ebeier. The Scorseses performed at the 2013 Voodoo Fest which has helped record sales and made the band want to tour more. "It was a huge step for us to be a part of such an awesome local festival like Voodoo Experience. We are trying to do more national festivals and touring in the coming year," says Ebeier.

However you like to listen to your music, paying for it helps artists continue to make the music that you enjoy. Vincent Ebeier wants to inform people about this fact: "It's a tough industry with a lot of work and time involved. Many musicians sacrifice everything and are away from their families and loved ones constantly to be a part of something great."

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