Is the Music Industry Making an Epic Comeback?

2012 marked the first year in more than a decade in which the music industry showed growth (0.3%) according to news. The industry isn’t what it used to be back in its 80s-90s hay day, but don’t let the previous reports of “stalled” growth fool you. The music industry still rakes in more than $16 billion per year.

Part of the stability returning to music is the industry embracing digital delivery. The early days of Napster transforming the music industry are gone. The battle to keep CDs alive is over. Digital music is what the consumer wanted and it’s what the consumer got. The massive catalogs in Apple’s iTunes, and the Amazon MP3 store, plus free services like Spotify, are evidence that the music publishers got the hint about digital…it’s here to stay. Sure, the industry had some growing pains before it decided to stop fighting digital and instead look for ways to take advantage of it. But now, most of the music industry growth is in the digital space. In fact $5.6 billion of the 2012 sales were digital driven largely by the European digital music market growing by over 20% in 2012.

Since the industry has transitioned from resisting digital delivery to driving it, the piracy rate for digital music has gone down. It seems that if you make your product available in the way your customers want it, they don’t try to steal it as much. There is, of course, a long way to go before piracy is gone – it may never disappear – but the numbers show digital music piracy has dropped significantly. In 2012, the industry estimates 11% of people over the age of 13 pirate some form of music.  That’s down from 1 in 5 (20%) back in 2005[1].  In any case, the willingness of consumers to pay for digital music is increasing to help the music industry regain stability and show some growth.

Possibly the biggest driver of growth for the music industry is the new generation of artists and their rabid fans. Adele’s “21” is the first album to remain in the top 10 worldwide for 2 straight years. Close behind her are pop music juggernauts One Direction and Taylor Swift whose dedicate fan base continue to buy the latest singles and albums from these artists.

So what does the future hold for jobs in music? 2013 doesn’t seem to be measuring up to the turnaround of 2012.  Digital sales are seeming to reach some sort of plateau.  However, with more digital distribution, production costs continue to drop thereby causing a steady increase in music sales margins. The exact path to the future may still be a little muddy, but the bottom line is the music industry has endured and innovated for centuries and will likely ensure for as long as consumers want to listen to music. So it’s not a bad idea to ride the transformation of the music industry getting into the mix via radio jobs, jobs in broadcasting or finding music production careers on, the premier source for jobs in entertainment.


[1] We should keep in mind that when everyone was copying CDs on home computers or dubbing albums to cassette tapes to share with friends before that, the industry had no way to measure the piracy rate. So take the numbers with a grain of salt.

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