Is The Music Industry Dying?

“The glass is half full even if there’s only a drop.” -Gary Vaynerchuk

The short answer is: it depends on how you look at it.

As anyone who’s been living in the last decade pretty well knows, it’s been a rough one for music sales.

In 2016, CD sales decreased by 16.3%, digital song downloads decreased by 25%, and digital album sales decreased by 20.1%. Vinyl LP’s were the only bright spot, increasing by 10%. Physical and digital music sales overall as a whole decreased by 16.7% (Source:

However, with the advent of streaming services taking over, overall music consumption has actually increased by 3%. 

It’s pretty simple, really, and it’s happening across many different industries. As innovation spurs convenience, industries become disrupted by the players who are making it most convenient for the end consumer to have the product or service. Physical CD’s and digital downloads are merely Blockbuster Videos, with Spotify and Pandora being the Netflix & Amazon Video. 


There are certainly a lot of opinions floating around about the current state of the music business. Most I hear are pessimistic, citing reasons why there’s no hope, blaming this and that. It’s the general sentiment among those who have tried, failed, and given up.

There are also those (such as Steve Albini) who are of the opinion that things are surprisingly sturdy.

In a keynote speech at Face The Music Conference in Melbourne last year, Steve Albini differentiating the “Music Industry” from the “Music Scene”:

According to Steve, the so-called ‘Music Industry’ is nothing but an administrative structure of people, and people making legal relationships among all of them. An administrative structure that, according to Albini, is artificial, unnecessary, and siphons money out of the ‘Music Scene’. 

The ‘Music Industry’ is a parasite on the ‘Music Scene’ – the fans, bands, shows, and people who help them. The ‘Music Scene’, unlike the ‘Music Industry’, is organic, fraternal, and comfortable. 

While I understand, appreciate and respect both viewpoints, I’ve always been an optimist. I personally think the 2017 landscape really favors the ‘Music Scene’, and it’s reassuring to know that heavy hitters like Albini agree. 

So screw the ‘Music Industry’! Who needs it? Taylor Swift & Nickelback?

My opinion is this: The music business is not dying, and it never will die, as long as humanity is a thing. It will certainly change and evolve, but at the end of the day, the fact remains the same. Music is always going to be there. People are always going to go see live music. Albums are always going to be recorded, promoted, and distributed.

I look at the “dying” state of the music industry as a blessing for the passionate, dedicated, determined hustlers stepping up to the plate in the new landscape of it. Why? It’s so easy for people to just give up, move on and do something practical. Of the other students I graduated with in my Recording Arts program back in 2009, if I had to estimate I’d say around two-thirds are now doing something completely unrelated.

The majority of those who try to break into the music business, as soon as they face struggle (which is inevitable) will come to the conclusion that “it’s a dead industry, and there’s no hope for me”, and simply walk away from it. 

The dedicated few who love music so much that the very thought of making a living in some other field makes them physically ill in the stomach and brings literal pains to their chest are the ones who will embrace the struggle and ultimately win. Being overly ridiculous, aggressively passionate about making it is simply part of what it takes. And that’s why only the most dedicated few will make it. 

If you work hard, continue to learn, adapt to change, do whatever it takes and perhaps most importantly don’t quit, you’ll be one of the few.

Thanks for reading! I am Joseph Herald!

“I went from… “Aha! – I’m going to start my own Pro Audio business!” to “Oh shit! I’m making more than I was at my job, and doing what I love on my own terms!” …and I’m sharing every step of my journey. Check it out at

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