The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Thursday, 01 April 2004]

Maybe the music’s just lousy?

Yet another article in Wired News about a study suggesting that music downloads aren’t affecting record sales all that much. The article suggests that perhaps people aren’t buying that much music anymore since not very much good music is being released these days.

Another, even more crucial, factor hampering music sales has got to be the homogenization of radio. In a typical town, you have your top 40 stations, your classic rock, your country, and your R&B. Apart from the classic rock stations, they’re all playing some variation of what’s currently popular and sells well. So where is a person whose music tastes run outside the tip of the ice berg supposed to find out about which music to buy? When you’re in college you have the time and inclination to read Spin, Rolling Stone, The Face and whatnot to find out about new and interesting bands, but outside of that, or hearing about music from your friends, where are you supposed to find out about new bands?

The answer used to be radio. That venue is now closed to new and interesting music unless you’re lucky enough to live near a large university with a radio station. And if you do, the nature of the beast is that it’s very hit and miss.

Internet radio? Sure, if you can find a good station. But you’re going to have to hunt for it.

The industry has painted itself into a corner, and then exacerbated the situation with an incessant hunt for knock-off bands that sound almost like whatever trend surprised the labels this time.

You want sales to go up? Start signing on more bands and get their music played on the radio. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

Sure, a radio station that takes risks is going to shoot itself in the foot every once in a while, and will not be the kind of safe cash cow a ClearChannel station is, but if you put together a team that actually loves music and let them share their tastes with others, you just watch CD sales take off.

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