Where have all the sales gone?


I’ve been saying for years that the music business is splitting into two almost mutually exclusive camps – one where corporate entities are grooming superstars for the mass market (think Britney, Christina, Justin, etc) and the rest of the world, where all the interesting music is being made and listened to by people who really like music.

Now Kevin Kelly notes in his very cool Long Tail blog that the mass market will actually shrink to become less important over time. An astounding fact he brings up:

By my count only ten of the top 100 best-selling albums were released in the last decade, and only four of those were in the last five years.


And John Pareles notes here in the NY Times that major record labels have almost entirely lost interest in non-maintream music made outside the United States and the UK.

With the Internet, CD’s manufactured abroad are a few clicks away at large retailers or dedicated specialists like the Latin-music experts at descarga.com. Digital distribution brings the music even closer. World music has its own clearinghouse for downloads at calabashmusic.com, where it’s easy to stock an iPod with music from Uzbekistan or Curaçao or just read up on them. Subscription services like Rhapsody and eMusic have a surprising amount of international offerings.

And the Smithsonian Institution has just gone online with the ethnographic answer to iTunes: smithsonianglobalsound.org, with museum-quality annotation and royalties paid to musicians. Information and recommendations are also available at sites like worldmusiccentral.org and afropop.org.

I wonder if the RIAA has sued anybody who’s file sharing Celia Cruz and Salif Keita?

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