North Texas Daily

COVID-19 offers the chance to re-shape the music industry

COVID-19 offers the chance to re-shape the music industry

COVID-19 offers the chance to re-shape the music industry
October 08
12:00 2020

Due to COVID-19, major music events such as Austin City Limits have been canceled and entire tours have been postponed. The entire concert industry is on hold, which is disappointing for fans who have already purchased tickets or had made plans to see their favorite musicians live. 

Now musicians are either performing at virtual concerts or re-shifting their focus to creating quality albums. Music fans are being presented with the opportunity to lower the cost of concerts by supporting record sales. 

The price of a general admission ticket to see Eric Clapton live in 1992 was $16. It cost $7 to see Nirvana in 1991. Today, the average ticket price is $94.83 which is a 55% increase over the past few decades. The increasing price of concert tickets creates a cost barrier for the average music fan with hopes of seeing their favorite band or artist in person. This keeps people of lower incomes out of concerts, making them a luxury. 

This price to entry barrier was placed in front of concerts by the shifting demands of consumers away from record sales and increased piracy. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, 30% of artists’ income came from concert sales, now touring accounts for an overwhelming 75% of musicians’ income. Musicians are now forced to tour because their livelihood is dependent on ticket sales, but now that cannot continue because of the cancellations caused by COVID-19. 

Now is a moment in time where music fans can use their power as consumers to refocus the music industry away from ticket sales to album sales. If everyone supported their favorite artists’ new records then the music industry would notice albums are clearly in demand during a global pandemic when concerts cannot be an alternative. Streaming an album online does not suffice as musicians are often poorly compensated by streaming platforms. Instead, physical albums must be purchased by music fans. 

In a Wall Street Journal article, Taylor Swift wrote about how streaming services poorly compensate artists: “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion music should not be free, and my prediction is individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is.”

Swift received a lot of criticism for taking a bold stance against streaming platforms. However, as the attention of the music industry shifts away from artistry to celebrity, her argument should be reconsidered. 

Consumers have the potential to restore the music industry’s faith in records, revive the dying industry of CD and record stores, and find a new appreciation for music by listening to entire albums.  

In the 1990s, it was common for total album sales to reach 10 million a week. Now it is 1.52 million, which is the lowest it has ever been. The music industry and artists would rather focus on releasing singles that can be streamed online and performed in concert over investing in album production.  

Having a deeper appreciation for music is also robbed from modern concerts which have tracklists that oftentimes only consist of hit singles or fan favorites, not deep cuts that can only be heard if music fans listened to albums in their entirety again. People can fall in love with albums and after a few listens will automatically hear the next track on the album in their head while listening along. Albums are supposed to be held, turned over and cared for. 

Music should be felt both physically through the tactile experience of holding an album and through an emotional affection that comes from loving the art. It is the duty of consumers to decide whether they would rather support an artist through direct album sales or music executives padding their wallet with inflating concert costs. This is a rare opportunity for music fans to decide what they want. 

Music belongs to the people. 

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

About Author

Brett Davis

Brett Davis

Columnist on The North Texas Daily's opinion section since 2020. His stories focus on politics and point out hypocrisy. He is a current undergraduate student at UNT majoring in political science and history. Also, he is the vice president of UNT College Democrats and a student relations coordinator for SGA. In 2019, Davis graduated from Central Texas College with an A.A. in interdisciplinary studies.

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