May 102010

Well, I’m back from a couple of weeks of trekking around the country and getting slammed at work. I’ve still got some reviews lined up, but in the meantime, here’s a neat graphic about the state of the music industry. It’s pretty sizable, but a very interesting read.

I’m honestly surprised that the Big Four still commanded so much market share in 2005. It’ll be interesting to see what it’s done since then. Other than that, there’s nothing really surprising. The market for albums is in sharp decline. I doubt this has much to do with piracy (despite industry protestations) and has everything to do with the fact that a lot of music is now being sold in single-song downloads or being given away for free by artists. Add in the tanking economy and albums really have the cards stacked against them.

The US, Japan, and the UK continue to be the three largest sales markets, much as it has been since time immemorial. Digital music is now a $4.2 billion industry, despite the Industry’s best efforts to smother it (and any resulting profits) in the crib. The growth in digital music for the past 6 years averages out to just shy of 150% per year, which is damned impressive.

So really, there aren’t that many surprises to be had in the industry. Catchy pop tunes still dominate sales, the Big Four still dominate the market (though that’s changing), and regressive and unoriginal thinking still dominate the captains of the Industry. Predictions: the Big Four continue to lose market share as more artists realize they don’t need them. Indie labels continue to innovate and bring the most interesting artists to market. More and more artists go completely label-free. Above all else, the digital music revolution continues with more music being sold and distributed over the Internet.

We’re on our way towards a much more decentralized industry that’s powered by the Internet, true-fans, long tails, and all the other weird emergent effects of a world of ubiquitous connectivity. This chart shows only the first few years of that transition. And I, for one, am excited to see what this movement has in store for the music world.

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