The current retail and distribution model allows the artist to sell music directly as well as go to a distribution company directly instead of having to find a record label that will then sell to a distribution label who will then go to retail like in the old model. Today most major labels have direct contact with retail such as Itunes and Spotify. But, for musicians who can’t afford a major label, because of social media sites and easily accessible digital downloads musicians can do quite a lot of promoting themselves online – but not necessarily have the same sort of income success as those on a major label.
These days most music is being bought/downloaded in a digital format and with the fall of the album, singles and EP’s have become popular because of the rise in personalized playlisting and streaming. The music industry relies on media to use, promote and distribute musical content. Most professional musicians exploit the use of social media’s such as radio, social networking and magazines, to promote new tracks/albums to their audience.
In Patrik Wikstrom’s book ‘The Music Industry: Digital Media and Society Series’, he talks about ‘audience action’. ‘The links that connect media presence, audience reach, audience approval and audience action constitute a reinforcing feedback loop that plays a crucial role in the music industry dynamics.’ (pg 88) Radio uses audience action when it releases its top 40 tracks. The most popular records that have been sold in the preceding week feed back to the media presence, in this case as radio air play.
But the Internet is the media’s largest promotional tool and has caused problems for the retailing and distribution of music because of audience fragmentation thus disrupting the relationship between media and the audience its trying to reach. Marketing a new release has become harder. Distributors and retailers have less control now, consumers used have to go to one place to buy the physical product – CD, vinyl, tape. Because of digital formats and the internet, music distributors and retailers have to spend more money and resources to expose musicians in more outlets and target more areas of the media to keep a constant audience views/sales levels.
Some musicians are investing in apps being developed on smartphones where consumers get updates and other features they wouldn’t necessarily get on a computer. Also streaming platforms are becoming more popular. The streaming site Spotify is said to be the model that could ‘break’ streaming but as of yet they have not made a profit. It is dependant on the consumer and whether they are willing to convert from Freemium, where it is free of charge but there are limitations and disadvantages such as a limited amount of listening hours every month and adverts, to a subscription model (Premium) where the consumer pays for the advantage of unlimited listening hours and no adverts.
The distinction between distribution and promoting has a blurred a little because of the internet. Marketing and promoting releases has become part of the distribution phase – without one the other can’t function. But there are other area’s of retail, such as merchandise that also act as a promotion tool for releases as well as generating its own income from t-shirts and other fan intended items.