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Royalty free music help change the music industry


The evolution of the indie artist royalty free music and the music industry in general has come a long way in the last 25 years. Some would even say that it has come along way in the last 5 to 10 years. Although this is true, the changes have been in place for a very long. These changes have brought a lot anxiety to major record labels and artist a like.  As the industry evolved from analog t digital the entire land scape changed. But as it relates to royalty free music the change began a lot sooner. 

  If we go back to the way back machine about 30 years ago. Hip hop was becoming an excepted form of  music by major labels.  However, hip hop brought something to industry that was never there before. Hip hop music originally had a rapper and a DJ. The DJ spinned records from songs that were already composed and rappers rapped over it. When they recorded albums it was commonly known as sampling.  Sampling defined early hp hop music. For those of us who are old enough to remember James Brown, George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, you would recognize the  beats from the late 80’s and early 90’s urban music, particularly hip hop. 

   In the early 90’s the sampling industry dramatically changed. in 1992 a judge found rapper  Biz Markie guilty of infringing on Gary O'Sullivan's copyright, ordered the rapper to pay $250,000 in damages, barred Markie's label (Warner Brothers) from continuing to sell either the single or album and, most astoundingly, referred the matter to criminal court, on the grounds that Markie was liable for theft. (The rapper was never charged.) This decision permanently altered the landscape for sampling, not so much curtailing it — sampling is still popular after all  but changing the creative and business practices around it. If fact the ruling went on to create and entire new business model of sample clearing houses , sample cd’s and music loops. This was also the infancy of the digital audio work station.  

     Although the sampling landscape was changed, major record labels would go on to have their best decade largely do the cd becoming the preferred format. In the 1980’s artist were selling 7.99 tapes and now a cd was costing  $16.99 and  artist were getting very little of it. There are many horror stories about records labels ripping off artist TLC, and New edition comes to mind. 

   Back in those days the expense of recording an album was far beyond most up and coming artist could manage. It literally cost one hundred thousand dollars to record an album and that was just for studio time. In the old days the analog studio was where it was. They were insanely expensive for artist and that was not including issues like music producers and promotions. Since all of this came out of the artist budget they general got very little money off of album sells. Very few could do it on their own, Easy-E and Master P were the exceptions but even they needed major labels  for distribution. This was the era in which many indie labels started popping up. Labels like Ruthless record, Death Row, No limits and Bad Boys. Many millionaires were created of of these indie labels with distribution deals. From a financial stand point the 1990’s will probably go down in history as the golden age of the recording industry, at least for the labels. 

     Sometimes comfort and success could be your greatest enemy.  While the labels were cleaning up in the 1990’s, they completely ignored the technology that was coming along that would change the industry forever for everyone, labels, artist, producers, cd printers, record stores and fans alike.  Many believe it was sites like Napster that disrupted the industry, but the facts prove that its simply scape goating, although the technology did play a roll.  Labels should have known that the all the new technology was going to be a problem for them, but they never acted.  

    The first issue was digital music production. Items like the MPC and pro-tools were lowering the barrier of entry for emerging artist. The music production library, sample cd’s, buyout music and royalty free music was making it easier for emerging artist to get the music they needed. The cd burner and cd printers also made it possible for indie artists to press and burn their own cd’s This lead to many indue artist recording  , burring and selling cd’s out of their basements and the trunks of their cars. In the early 2000’s a company named CD baby popped up.  This gave artist a platform to sell their cd’s online without a major label.  While all of this was going on major labels had turned their attention to suing companies like nastier and other file sharing sites. They also went so far as to start suing fans who participated in file sharing. They called it piracy. What they did not realize is that they were losing out on a lot of new talent who decided to go independent. Also fans were tired of paying 16.99 for a cd and only getting one or two songs that they liked. 

   Although it was diminished, labels stilled held the advantage in things like marketing and promotion and other things music video productions, but even that was about to change.  By 2005 apple introduced iTunes, which lead to the age of the digital music label.  These take full advantage of  the digital audio workstation, royalty free beats and music, high speed internet and MP3 downloads.  And now with youtube online artist were able to produce their own promotional videos for their music and in some cases getting millions of views. Today an artist can uses a a daw with software instruments or even music and samples to produce a single, shoot a video and have it on youtube and iTunes almost immediately. This is now a fraction of the cost that use to be.  Also out of these changes grew the business of digital music licensing.  All over the internet you will find companies leasing beats for hip hop and R&B. You will find stock music library selling buyout and royalty free music for practically every genre. Today we consumes more music than ever. Although revenue is down, the profit margins are way up.


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