Prince & Mellencamp: Digital Music Is The Devil

Prince and John Mellencamp both spoke out recently about the negative effects of digital technology on the music industry.

In an interview with the Guardian; Prince says he has no plans to release another album anytime soon, even though he has lots of new songs he could record.

“Nobody’s making money now except phone companies, Apple and Google. I’m supposed to go to the White House to talk about copyright protection. It’s like the gold rush out there. Or a carjacking. There’s no boundaries.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with Reuters, John Mellencamp calls the internet “the most dangerous invention since the Atomic bomb”. He continues, “It’s destroyed the music business. It’s going to destroy the movie business.”

While those statements might sound extreme; they are not inaccurate when it comes to the enormous toll digital music piracy has taken on the once booming music industry. Music sales dropped from $27.8 billion in 1998 to $15.2 billion in 2010; a more than 58% decline, largely as a result of illegal music downloads.

In Steve Knopper’s highly entertaining and thought-provoking book Appetite for Self Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry In The Digital Age; the demise of the industry can be traced back to changes in copyright laws that allowed digital data to be ripped and burned to CDs. 

Although the original intention of that part of the copyright law was to enable computer users to back up their data; it also made copying and sharing music via the internet easy.

Once that happened; the digital Genie was out of the bottle, and peer-to-peer file sharing sites such as Napster made sure it never got back in.

Then you add the record industry’s inability to embrace digital technology, file-sharing lawsuits against consumers, the invention of the iPod, the enormous popularity of iTunes, new entertainment options such as video games, and you have a recipe for disaster. 

If this is a topic that interests you; I can’t recommend Knopper’s book more highly. It is an absolute “must read” for anyone seriously interested in understanding the music industry meltdown.

But, all is not yet lost. Digital Music News reports that ad agency Digitas is projecting that 50% of all music industry revenues will come from brands in the next five years. The money will come from sources including ad supported digital music services like Pandora and Spotify, mobile phone ringtones, and venue naming rights.

But, whether that will ever make up for how much the industry has already lost is yet to be seen.

In the meantime; don’t waste your time trying to find a new Prince record online. He’s making his money the old fashioned way; by touring. In fact, he’s raking it in by the millions. For example, in 2007, he reportedly made $22 million dollars when he played 21 consecutive sold out shows in London.

Mellencamp does have a new CD out, though. It’s called “No Better Than This”, and despite the artist’s low opinion of what the internet has done to the music industry, you can buy it online.


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