Art and Entertainment


Record Companies Struggle in Digital Age

January 19, 2008 02:07 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
CD sales are sliding for the seventh year running, artists are striking out on their own, and the record industry is in the doldrums. But not everyone is singing the blues.

30-Second Summary

Recording giant EMI said on Jan. 15 that it is planning to cut a third of its workforce and restructure the label. Plummeting CD sales and the losses of major artists have dogged the company of recent. Radiohead and Paul McCartney are two major acts to have abandoned the label.

Warner Music, another major label, lost Madonna last year. Other recording artists have also started to bypass record companies in favor of alternative sources of revenue.

For a limited period last year, Radiohead made their album In Rainbows available online at any price customers were willing to pay.

The trend away from the labels spans the entire record industry.

In the early 2000s, illegal music-sharing started chipping away at companies’ profits, but observers agree that it is the advent of broadband that sped up the decay.

Today, people can listen to music on YouTube or download it free elsewhere online. 

The growth of legal downloading has brought some hope for the industry, but has failed to offset the losses, The Wall Street Journal wrote.

The explosion of digital downloading is not necessarily a bad thing: it has benefited consumers, most observers contend. Music buffs now have more flexibility in picking their music, which is available to them at a fraction of what they used to pay.

Not everyone applauds the pace of digitization though. When the Tower Records stores closed last year, The Nation bid it a reluctant goodbye. “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” columnist Max Fraser wrote, quoting the verse of an R.E.M. song of the same name. But we don’t feel fine, in Frazer's estimation.

Headline Links: Times are a changin’ for major labels

Radiohead releases online album independently
Madonna leaves Warner

Background: Digital kills the compact disc

Opinion & Analysis: The future of music is digital


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