Digitalisation in music production and exploitation – blessing or curse?

Over the last weeks and months, I interviewed a couple of artists and fans of electronic music for my PhD research. I want to pick the topic of the digitalisation, especially in matters of music production and exploitation. The digitalisation is a larger topic, which can’t be handled in just one blog article. So, there is now guarantee for completeness, just want to state a few notes on this topic.

Among other aspects, the image of electronic music has been an important topic in these interviews. Both artists and music fans were quite annoyed by the situation that there is so much music released in these days, which would never have been released some years ago, because it sounds like crap. I blame the digitalisation and how music producers, record labels, and distributors use or do not use the digitalisation.

The music production, nowadays, is more and more happening in the “box”, which means in the computer. Synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, effects, “tape machines”, everything is used, or may be used, in the computer as software. I don’t want to accuse the existence of production software, because I use it myself a lot and it provides possibilities in music production, which have never or hardly been there before. But this development causes some disadvantages:

Due to the fact, music production equipment, respectively software, has become very cheap, or cost nothing if it is downloaded illegally, there are many more “music producers” out there. This situation has advantages as well, because more artists can show and reveal their talent, which previously were restricted by the necessary investment into expensive equipment. BUT: there are also a lot of or many more “wanna-be” producers who share their music which wouldn’t be worth to put on physical records like CD or Vinyl. Because they are too lazy or don’t have the knowledge to create their own sounds, style, approach to music, they use rather pure presets, provided by the music software developer, or (try to) copy the sounds and styles of their favourite artists. This causes a stagnation or even regression of the music styles and scenes. In my interviews, the participants (both artists and fans) mentioned to be annoyed by the fact that there is so much music available in form of official releases distributed by labels and of inofficial productions (unsigned newcomer productions and bootlegs), and less and less outstanding, individual music by interesting artists. The latter may exist, but they have difficulties to be discovered and to pull the awareness of the scene due to the vast number of releases.

In this point, the record labels influence or worsen the situation. Being a record label and distribute music has become easier than before the digitalisation. In those days, record labels had to cover the risk to producer physical records, which was much more expensive and difficult than providing the service to put the releases out on iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, etc. Consequently, many labels were founded to offer artists to release their music, because there was no financial risk to release music. Further, the fact that there is no risk anymore led to a less restrictive signing behaviour by the labels. The music of the earlier mentioned “so-called producers” are getting signed on labels, which would never have happened back in the days, when releasing music was associated with financial risk. Some record labels will argue that they have to release more music to generate more income overall. But I would say this is a vicious circle or even a wrong assumption, because the talented and promising artists get less awareness by both record label and consumers in this case. As many studies and reports tell: the main income of the music industries are made through a relatively small amount of “stars”! But these stars cannot evolve or be developed if they can’t get the awareness by the management in matters of exploitation and artist development and by the consumers/fans because there is too much music available to get to know the artist and develop a strong identification with the artist. Further, media channels (radio, TV, press – both online and offline) don’t have more possibilities to feature artists or music, just because there is more music available. Therefore, more artists have to share the constant awareness of media. Same with the spendings of consumers which are stagnating or even decrease.


Blessing or curse? Both! Sometimes, I think it is a curse due to the discussed aspects above. On the other hand, music has many opportunities to be innovative and different with today’s technologies. Further, the exploitation of and access to music has become more flexible. It would be rather a blessing, if artists and labels would use the given opportunities in a better way.


ARTISTS: be more creative, develop your own style to stand out of the masses!

RECORD LABELS: be more restrictive to focus on the development of your real talents, therefore release less crap music!

CONSUMERS: search for the real talented artists, hope that you’ll find them, and support them by buying their releases, visiting their events and spreading the word!

WANNA-BE ARTISTS: work on your talent and abilities before unleashing your music to the scene … or search for a new hobby.


PS: actually this article has become longer than I expected it to be… I hope it is not too long to read ­čÖé

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  1. Pingback: The importance of the personal network in the current music industries | Johannes Ripken

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