The proliferation of file sharing and its more recent offshoot; easily accessible artist promotion, has completely changed the face of popular music. It is now an age where we see the recording contract as everything other then the holy grail. Being seen and heard is no longer synonymous with big business. Recording contracts while now harder to get are becoming more and more obsolete. And the avenues for self promotion and are success becoming more and more prevalent. On the surface this can be seen as simply a positive for contemporary popular music artists and fans and a negative for the 'music industry'. However it is my belief that the effects of file sharing and internet promotion are only now just being realized. Unprecedented changes, some good and some bad are now beginning to effect not only the way in which artists produce music but the ways in which the audience consumes it.
Firstly consider that promotion via Myspace and Facebook is free and has the potential to reach millions of people not just individually but as networks. Customize your profile, choose your friends, upload your songs. Your identity as an artist is completely malleable. In terms of a tool or meeting place to share your material, promote yourself and organize shows, myspace and facebook are phenomenal. It is truly an unprecedented form of communication. Additionally, consider that an artist can be listed on itunes for under one hundred dollars. Through this process of self promotion and distribution middlemen such as promoters, A&R personnel and managers are seemingly cut out of the loop. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing remains to be seen but there is no doubt that a change in the tides is occurring.
For now the demise of the big business side of popular music can be left alone as I address the more important side effects of this evolutionary process. The demise of the album. While it can be argued that the album died many years or even decades ago, I believe that it still held weight until quiet recently. In previous times, artists would create an album and that would hopefully contain a few singles. But now the game has completely changed. While its true that artists have the ability to constantly be in touch with fans, network with other bands ect. They are under exceeding pressure to reinvent and update themselves on a daily basis and that definitely applies to the music they produce. Take this and combine it with the fact that our consumption of music is now based around a device that contains thousands of songs and its pretty clear that we have a problem. Not only are artists under constant pressure to churn out fresh and new but quiet often unrelated material it is being consumed in a way that discourages the album format. So while possibilities for self promotion, exposure and distribution continue to grow in unprecedented ways the consequences i believe will be detrimental to the art-form of popular music.