Adapting to shifting formats within the music industry on a local and national scale |

Adapting to shifting formats within the music industry on a local and national scale

Audrey Dwyer
Denver based Euforquestra at their initial tracking session in Scanhope Sound studios. In this photo

Nielsen Music 2014 survey data on music consumption

93% of the U.S. population listens to music, spending more than 25 hours each week listening to their favorite songs

On average, consumers spend $109 annually on music activity

Americans streamed more than 164 billion on-demand tracks across audio and video platforms in 2014 and they streamed 135 billion in the first half of 2015 alone

Vinyl LP Sales Increase 52% in the past year and now comprise over 6% of physical album sales

Radio remains as the top source for music discovery

A look at music consumption over the years

In 1973, LP/EPs dominated the market receiving the most in recording revenue at 61.8. Vinyl received 9.4 percent in revenue, 8 track was at 24.2 percent and cassette tapes at 3.8 percent

In 2002 the leading outlet to access music was CDs, dominating the recording revenue market at 95 percent

In 2008, mobile music became more popular along with subscriptions, streaming, downloaded, music videos, singles and albums

In 2014 the recording revenue market saw a mix of on-demand streaming, paid subscriptions, download albums, sound exchange distributions, CDs, LP/EPs, vinyls (full length and singles)

Info. found on Digital Music News, "41 Years of Music Industry Change, In 41 Seconds..."

— What fills that daily void of silence? What passes the time or creates a stir of emotions?

It’s music.

From a textured vinyl sound that fills a room to the portable Walkman carrying cassette tapes as the new accessory, from CDs to iPods and then to smartphones with their multitude of apps and Internet access. Music has started to follow us virtually everywhere.

But how are music consumers listening to their essential melodies on a daily basis now?

“The music industry has been changing underneath our noses this whole time,” said Kyle Hollingsworth, soloist, keyboardist for the String Cheese Incident and Boulder-based music producer. “It’s scary. Everyone is on the cusp of something new.”

According to Nielsen Music — the largest source of sales records in the music industry monitoring radio airplay, online streaming and music consumer behavior — 93 percent of the U.S. population listens to music spending about 25 hours each week listening to their favorite songs. About 164 billion of those were streamed on-demand through audio and video platforms during 2014 and about 67 percent of music consumers listen to music online.

“The industry has changed the immediacy of accessing music,” said Marty Loyd, frontman of the Chicago roots group the Freddy Jones Band who has been recording and performing music since the 1990s. “There is no longer this build up or this lag time, everything is in real time. The immediacy of everything is what has changed and it’s primarily based on songs, not albums.”

For musicians struggling to make it in the music business, there is a question of survival as more and more people turn to free live streaming or downloading outlets to access music.

“It’s like the Wild West right now,” said Logan Farmer, the local musician known as Monarch Mtn who has produced and released an album in Steamboat. “Everything is available to you with lots of different artists who can’t make money off of records anymore. It’s an exciting window of time right now but I don’t know if it will be like this forever.”

Technology is undeniably changing each day, creating a new experience for listeners. Methods for how music is made, distributed and sold is constantly reinventing itself.

“Listeners want to download everything in sight and now there are more people exploring different kinds and cultures of music,” Farmer said. “It’s an unprecedented time for the industry right now.”

But how are musicians adapting to the shifting formats nationally and locally.

A new era

An older model of the music industry centered on bands and solo musicians touring, selling merchandise, getting discovered, signing with a record label and producing new albums. Radio stations, print magazines such as Rolling Stone, and television channels, such as MTV, choose what the best music was. Bands not on a label had little chance of exposure.

“I remember the days when I couldn’t wait for an album to come out,” said Chris Painter, director of the Bud Werner Memorial Library, who has helped implement Hoopla, the new online streaming service for all library card holders. “If I had a favorite artist and the word was that they would come out with a new album, I couldn’t wait for it to hit the stores. But now the industry has created quite a bit of instant gratification to download music and stream it really quickly.”

With more than 1,000 albums in the database, the library’s Hoopla subscription was introduced in March 2014 for users to sample music for their own personal library.

Painter said as the library’s card holders discover the service use has increased dramatically, with close to 8,000 music albums, audio books and movies checked out, borrowed and downloaded.

“The popularity of Hoopla continues to grow,” Painter said. “It is easy to use, there is no wait, they have a good selection to choose from and you can use Hoopla anywhere, anytime that you have an Internet connection as long as you have a valid Bud Werner Library card.”

By creating an unlimited supply of shelf space for songs, this service allows listeners to sample collection and albums rather than individual songs.

Digital stores like iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, eMusic, SoundCloud, MixIr, Spotify, Pandora and many more outlets have changed the playing field for releasing and accessing music that allows singles, EPs/LPs to be available on a daily, even

hourly basis.

Chris Hawkes, from the duo Dawn and Hawkes, who became a national phenomenon after its appearance on NBC’s “The Voice,” said the Internet has become an established communication and delivery channel. With it comes some of the most effective and popular ways to listen to music from file sharing, to paid downloading and streaming.

Musicians today have the ability to directly connect with their fans and supporters through a grassroots following utilizing websites like KickStarter, BandCamp and GigFunder. These sites allow independent artists the freedom to create material in a physical and digital format with quality videos and photos.

Dawn and Hawkes was able to fund “Yours and Mine,” their newest album, set to be released in October, through KickStarter, which helped them fund the production for the music video of the title track “Yours and Mine.” The video gave them promotional material to share with devoted followers before the full album release, a trend that is occurring more and more in today’s music industry.

“As humans, we still seek that human connection and in many ways get even more of a direct line from afar,” Hawkes said. “Like many creatives, we feel an almost parental responsibility to our songs. Crowdfunding gave us a way to engage our closest supporters who felt the same way.”

Social media has enabled musicians to stay constantly connected to their fans. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give artists the ability to market themselves and share new music or news.

“It’s easier now more than ever to share your newest stuff with a lot of people,” said Steve Shepler, local DJ and videographer. “Here in Steamboat, I will put up a mix I made on SoundCloud, share on Facebook so friends here and even in New York (where Shepler is originally from) will be able to hear it and share it with everyone they know. Instantly.”

Creating music today

According to Steve Boyton, local music producer and owner of First Strings Music, producing an album now is frequently done in pieces by layering instrumentals, rather than recording a group’s full length album as a whole.

“The downside is that anyone can record music, and there are all sorts of really bad underdeveloped musicians,” Boyton said. “There is a lot of lousy music recorded now.”

Scheduling their own tours, writing and recording on their own schedule gives more artistic freedom back to the musicians.

“Before, the record label companies were in control but now, music is more in the hands of the artists,” Farmer said. “With the right ambition and drive, musicians can be 100 percent independent now and can do it all on their own.”

They have more control in producing a track via self-production methods with a laptop. The music can then be uploaded to the Internet with the hope it is shared and spreads like wildfire to the masses as a means of promotion.

“For a young up-and-coming musician, Spotify could be a way to gain publicity and get the name out, but with that, you are selling yourself short in making a living as an artist,” said Mike Tallman, frontman for the band Euforquestra, which has been creating music since 2005. “It’s a double-edged sword, and it’s hard to tell where that threshold is.”

Not only are some musicians feeling inadequately paid for their hard work, but self-production and accessibility to recording and releasing music have generated an overabundance of those who call themselves musicians.

“Nowadays, with music so readily available, the industry is flooded with mediocrity,” said Brent Rowan, esteemed session guitarist from the Nashville music scene and an established producer who lives in Steamboat Springs. “Musicians have to make a decision to never give up if this is what you are called to do.”

Local impact

“The industry is constantly being updated with new things right around the corner,” Shepler said. “The sky is really the limit now because of the software and equipment available.”

“Today’s model for reaching audiences is much different from 20 years ago. We’ve seen a significant growth in live music, especially here in Steamboat Springs,” Boyton said.

“There are always people who are writing songs and trying to establish themselves,” Boyton said. “People here have open mic nights and gigs, but beyond that, they have to get out of Steamboat to get seen by people. It depends on what level you are working at. As a musician here, you can do ok if you are out to have a good time. You just have to be able to experiment and adapt to the current landscape.”

Though Steamboat is somewhat isolated, it attracts a large number of visitors who come from all across the world who enjoy good music.

“You can make money and get more paying gigs here better than a bigger city,” Farmer said. “That’s in the hands of the artists. They have the freedom to take their career where they want, whether that be touring or going to a resort town like this and get paying gigs.”

Back in 2003 and 2004, local music store All That saw a peak in the sale of CDs

and DVDs.

Now, the store is faced with the challenge adjusting to the current state of the music industry. Due to the popularity of digital sales and streaming, All That has incorporated more clothing, gifts, turn tables, headphones into their inventory.

“We had to adjust five years ago because being a physical music store was basically impossible,” said Kevin King, music manager at All That, who grew up in Steamboat Springs and remembers when the store first opened in 1977 as All That Jazz. “If we didn’t have other products we wouldn’t have made it. Especially in a town of 10,000 or 11,000, that’s just not going to happen.”

King said the hardest part of the transition is answering the question of what to do with all the music, especially when the volume of physical music has dwindled during the past few years which is why the local business rotates music catalogues frequently to bring old and new records onto the shelves.

But that interest is not for CDs anymore; it’s for vinyl records.

“It’s funny how much of a conversation starter vinyl is for older tourists,” King said. “I haven’t seen this kind of thing happen in 30 years. Meanwhile, there are kids over there with their hands full of vinyl records.”

At a crossroads

Predicting the future of the music industry and determining which format will be “the next best thing” is difficult, according to King.

However, vinyl records offer a distinct sound, one that is rising in popularity among music lovers of all ages. The mix of artists sold at All That for the 2014 calendar year ranges from Pretty Lights to Jack White, Frozen to Led Zepplin, Miles Davis and more.

“I don’t think the format will determine the success,” King said. “If you are a good musician, people will find you no matter what the medium is.”

While 2014 was a monumental year for streaming music, it showed the landscape is becoming fragmented. CDs and cassettes have continued to decline; meanwhile, vinyl records report a ninth consecutive year of sales growth with 9.2 million units sold past the 6.1 million sold in 2013, a nearly 52 percent increase. Now, vinyl accounts for six percent of physical album sales.

“It’s absolutely harder to survive now,” Hollingsworth said. “With musicians able to do things in their basements and create a new track makes it difficult for the traveled and trained musicians to make a living. What it comes down to is bringing the best live performance you can.”

The methods of recording, distributing and accessing music are still constantly changing.

“We are always trying to come up with new ways to do things like that and think outside the box with more possibilities available at our finger tips, a few clicks away,” Tallman said. “But I don’t think there is one set equation that works well.”

Musicians and the music industry are faced with the challenge to be ready for an even

newer era.

“I think we all need to be ready to try something different,” Hollingsworth said. “I think that something is coming and there needs to be a way for musicians to monetize that and make a living; otherwise, it will be challenging.”

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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