Do you think the major labels will survive the transition from discs to downloads?

Do you think the major labels will survive the transition from discs to downloads?
They'll die a quick death
21% (21 votes)
They'll die a slow death
39% (38 votes)
They'll stay about the same
26% (25 votes)
They'll actually grow
8% (8 votes)
They'll reach new heights
6% (6 votes)
Total votes: 98

There's been a lot of speculation that the music business as we know it cannot survive the download era, now that artists can sell their music direct to fans. Do you think the major labels will survive the transition from discs to downloads?

C.  Healthgut, M.D., FACS's picture

The RIAA seems doggedly attached to its strategy, despite serious questions about its success possibilities. Ultimately, consumers will offer a final verdict, part of an increasing power-shift across numerous industries. If that is the case, then why is the RIAA pushing so hard with "we're winning" opinions like the one found in the Wall Street Journal? Does a well-executed PR campaign have any effect on the underlying market? Perhaps the perception of a recovering major label could boost stocks like WMG, but will it make consumers buy more CDs, or purchase more tracks on iTunes? The answer is no, especially since the most engaged music listeners—teenagers3are mostly disengaged from mainstream media outlets. And in an increasingly fragmented media landscape, the market is likely to change on its own, regardless of what major press outlets—and anyone else besides consumers—have to say about it.'s picture

They'll reap what they sow.

Jim Merrill's picture

A slow death. Mail order will gain, as the few artists who refuse to sell music to downloaders consolidate out of stores into online retailers.

Geordy Duncan's picture

It wouldn't surprise me if they actually got bigger. These clowns will figure out a way to really profit from downloads. They missed the boat on the Internet close to 10 years ago but I wouldn't put it past them to get caught up somehow. With the amount or crappy music out there and the fact that 99% of Joe Q public is perfectly satisfied with iPods, real bad computer speakers and a genuine liking for present-day music from the majors—how can they not capitalize on that?

Cihangir Güzey's picture

As the profits of each record company will drop in each year, they will not publish CDs for each artist (and not all of their material) and we will see more selective artists, yet better CDs in the coming years, which will also result cheaper CD prices. So, this consumption craze will slow down and people will spend more money on CDs (that's because they will be more special than today). On the other hand pirate downloads will never end since they are free.

Stefano Lindiri's picture

...I hope!

Stephen Curling's picture

They'll hold on to their cash cow as long as they can. I'm guessing a "down with the ship" mentalility. Some server-based record company will come around and show the rest how it's done.

Johannes Turunen, Sweden's picture

They can sell downloads, can't they? Otherwise, nature has a funny way of breaking what doesn't bend.

roundmound's picture

The biggest problem is the major labels are choosing poor talent to push. There is a lot of quality talent for all types of music on small labels or private custom labels. Until this changes, the majors will die a slow and painful death.

Nodaker's picture

Too much capital for them to go completely under. I'm guessing they will survive but won't grow that much.

Tony P., Washington, DC's picture

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the average music fan is too dumb to investigate music for himself. He'll passively swallow whatever crap is fed to him through television, mainstream web sites, and other marketing channels. And the record industry is a master at doing just that—stuffing crap down your throat, charging you money for it, and making you feel happy in the process. So they'll do just fine. It has nothing to do with music, but everything to do with marketing.

Mike Agee's picture

The image industry is experiencing a similar period of change, wherein the arrival of the answer to many of our dreams has attendant issues that can alternately look like fulfillment or nightmare. On the looming nightmare side is a reduction of exclusivity without an established role for the money that that the exclusivity once commanded. Somehow, the ubiquitous "rocks and trees" or "other half of a canoe on a lake at dawn" or "empty cabana on a tropical beach" images seem comparable to the umpteenth version of the The Four Seasons: Potentially positive, yes, but who is going to pay for yet another version? The new, edgy, and those that sell a larger Idea of product will find purchase, as will, hopefully, genius, but so many questions about supply and demand have yet to be answered.

TubeGuy's picture

I was trying to put together my thoughts on how this could be a boon to classical music when I took a break and read some of the other stuff on the site, including Wes Phillips article today about ArkivMusic. Yes, this will work as long as it can be done without DRM. It allows access to a larger catalog, which in classical music especially remains sought after, and it vastly improves upon the inefficient distribution system. Next up, jazz archives.

Brian Huempfner's picture

I think the giants will perish, but smaller niche labels that already exist will flourish and new ones will spring up as well. I think that there will always be a need for a middleperson to funnel music from the artists to the fans. It may be Apple computer that controls the market, until a more musically inclined company can assume the throne in the download kingdom.

Al Marcy's picture

Any height at all would be new ;)

Craig's picture

A majority of them will adapt and survive and the rest will die.

Francisco Valery's picture

Not all the people in the world have a PC, or the ability to know how to use it to download music. mMaybe in 20-25 years, and then? Isn't radio alive in this Internet era? The physical medium would be alive too!

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

There's this thing called marketing that most people miss. No matter how wonderful a disc may be, if no one knows it exists no one will hear it. The record companies are often maligned and spend too much time looking for blockbusters rather than the well laid brick, but they do know promotion.

Tim Bishop's picture

I suspect they will die a slow death because they will still do buisness as usual. They will have fewer royalties coming as people will revert to the old way, ie music singles as opposed to album buying. In addition, indies will be on equal footing when it comes to the ability to access the market.

Chris S.'s picture

The record companies can survive if they stop fighting the inevitable. It is us and our hobby that are in real trouble if we lose access to high-quality recordings.

Matt W.'s picture

More than likely you'll see restructuring efforts and major labels will continue to exist, maybe not with the same names, but they'll remain afloat. More than likely, we are going to witness an era of increased quality in independent/house labels.

Donald's picture

They do not have a clue.

Joe Hartmann's picture

In classical music, major groups seem to be issuing their own performances and I assume we will see fewer studio recordings. I wonder if this will translate to chamber works. I also fear this will mean less adventure in recorded music. I have yet to download, but my son does it all the time.

Dave N.'s picture

I don't like it, but do we have a choice? The big boys will stay big, the independents will die. Bad downloads. Bad music. No covers. No fun.

Macksman's picture

To badly paraphrase Joni: Everything comes and goes/marked by logos, execs and coke. So, too, will "major" labels as we now know them go and who will really care? Only those of us with long memories know the majors used to nurture the entire chain from artiste to concert goer. Now they're suing the fans. The musics will remain and the markets will adapt to the times and all will be well.

Don Stone's picture

If iTunes offered Apple Lossless downloads or another music provider offered a lossless download format, I'd be bankrupt! Sooner or later the major labels will have to provide their content online because the market demand will drive it. Less money in manufacturing, packaging and distribution should mean the labels could recoup potential losses due to piracy. Hopefully, they'll come up with a DRM scheme that will protect themselves and still be user friendly to the consumer.

GVA2's picture

We are entering a new era. Sorry, we enterered a new era a good while ago. Some of the major labels are struggling to come to grips with this. You can tighten the laws, litigate, increase copy protection. It won't make an ounce of difference. The majors will need to adapt, be innovative and re-invent themselves to survive. The days of monopolies and inequitable profiteering are over. Whatever the future will be, it will be drastically different from the days of vinyl and early CDs. Their reign has ended. Just as some coach-builders at the turn of the last century struggled to come to terms with the technological changes ushered in by Mr Ford and his automobile, so are the current dinosaurs struggling. Adapt, or perish.

S.  Chapman's picture

Honestly, who cares? The "major labels" are all owned by megacorporations that make bottom-line decisions, see music as a product, and don't give a damn about artists or developing real new talent. They'll probably stay around for awhile longer, pushing their focus-grouped pap, filing lawsuits against the consumer, and trying to install root kits on our PCs, but they will continue to be irrelevant to anyone concerned about quality music.

Michael's picture

They'll have to morph their business models like many othere industries have because of the Internet. Cameras and the picture printing business for example.

William Crable's picture

Branding is branding...