When the Rolling Stones agreed to lend Microsoft
The Stones certainly weren't the first rockers to become corporate shills, but the situation hasn't improved any since then. The final nail in the recording industry's coffin, however, may be the rise of so-called "branded music." While it may not be a new concept, it's a considerably more virulent one.
Name that tune
According to Forrester Research, total revenue from music sales and licensing was more than cut in half over the past decade, plunging from $14.6 billion to $6.3 billion. The Recording Industry Association of America says album sales have fallen an average of 8% each year over that time period.
If the phenomenon of branded music takes hold, the recording industry won't be able to lay the blame for declining music sales on peer-to-peer downloading via Limewire or other software clients. Today's music is already fairly insipid, and what passes for a hit today probably wouldn't have succeeded as a B-side years ago.
The sponsoring companies like to think of themselves as "curators" of music, patrons of the arts. Where major labels used to provide the backing for artists, now NASCAR, Carhartt, and Coca-Cola
They're not the Medicis
Branded music doesn't involve a celebrity endorsement, or a band releasing a CD compilation exclusively for Starbucks
There's a precedent of sorts for this in the publishing industry. Amazon.com
Get your motor running
Banshee Music has become a leader at this, producing "Defend the Dome" for the Atlanta Falcons, "Bristol Nights" for NASCAR's Bristol Motor Speedway, and "Party Up at the Downs" for the Kentucky Derby.
More recently, Converse sneakers got the ball rolling when it hired musicians Pharrell Williams, Santogold, and Julian Casablancas from the group The Strokes to write a song, "My Drive Thru," for the company's 100th anniversary. PepsiCo
How much does banal cost?
Forrester says just 44% of U.S. Internet users and 64% of Americans who buy digital music think that music is worth paying for. And that's from the people who actually pay for it. Is it any wonder many people don't?
If corporations want to become patrons of the arts, that's all well and good. Musicians need a new business model. But co-opting artists to churn out corporate pitches is hardly the innovation that will going to save the music.
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