Hollywood Must Face The Music

Raw talent is undeniably the most important thing for someone to make it big in the industry. Of course, a pleasing personality and a beautiful face to boot are also big factors but not all the time that famous musicians and singers are always good looking. Many things have changed in the music industry over the years. Gone were the days when people used to listen to cassette tapes or their walkman to enjoy a good song or two.

Nowadays, everything has gone digital. Although conventional CDs are still sold by music labels and make up a big chunk of music sales, music is now being sold online through iTunes, for instance, where everyone can listen to their favorite music from the comfort of their smartphones. Technology may have helped the music industry grow and reach out to more people but it has also limited the industry in some ways. Even the movies are also affected by all these changes.

With theater attendance at a two-decade low and profits dwindling, the kind of disruption that hit music, publishing, and other industries is already reshaping the entertainment business. From A.I. Aaron Sorkin to C.G.I. actors to algorithmic editing, Nick Bilton investigates what lies ahead.

The future looks dismal and it is expected to get worse than it is now.

In the mid-90s, the first time I downloaded an MP3, I realized that the music industry was in grave trouble. People who were my age (I wasn’t old enough to legally drink yet) didn’t want to spend $20 on a whole compact disc when all we coveted was a single song on the album. Moreover, we wanted our music immediately: we preferred to download it (illegally) from Napster or eventually (legally) from iTunes without the hassle of finding the nearest Sam Goody. It turned out that this proclivity for efficiency—customizing your music and facilitating the point of sale—was far from a generational instinct. It explains why the music industry is roughly half the size it was one decade ago.

These preferences weren’t confined to music, either. I also felt the raindrop moment firsthand when I began working at The New York Times, in the early 2000s. Back then, the newspaper’s Web site was treated like a vagrant, banished to a separate building blocks away from the paper’s newsroom on West 43rd Street. Up-and-coming blogs—Gizmodo, Instapundit, and Daily Kos, which were setting the stage for bigger and more advanced entities, such as Business Insider and BuzzFeed—were simultaneously springing up across the country. Yet they were largely ignored by the Times as well as by editors and publishers at other news outlets. More often than not, tech-related advances—including e-readers and free online blogging platforms, such as WordPress and Tumblr—were laughed at as drivel by the entire industry, just as Napster had been years earlier.

The glamour of Hollywood is slowly disappearing as technology starts to dominate the world. Compared to other industries where high-tech gadgets are the main products, it is easy to see how much the music industry has fallen behind.

Hollywood, these days, seems remarkably poised for a similar disruption. Its audiences increasingly prefer on-demand content, its labor is costly, and margins are shrinking. Yet when I ask people in Hollywood if they fear such a fate, their response is generally one of defiance. Film executives are smart and nimble, but many also assert that what they do is so specialized that it can’t be compared to the sea changes in other disrupted media. “We’re different,” one producer recently told me. “No one can do what we do.”

That response, it’s worth recalling, is what many editors and record producers once said. And the numbers reinforce the logic. Movie-theater attendance is down to a 19-year low, with revenues hovering slightly above $10 billion—or about what Amazon’s, Facebook’s, or Apple’s stock might move in a single day.


And it does not help that performers and artists invest too much of their time and attention to political issues that the nation faces and attack the new president every chance they get instead of focusing on their artistry.

So who are the A Listers who’ve ruled out performing at Donald Trump’s Inauguration balls?

For his part, Trump denies that he cares. After stories circulated that top names were refusing to perform at his January 20 inauguration, Trump tweeted that he preferred to party with “the people.”

The biggest name to surface so far, the Beach Boys, were a “maybe.” But that hasn’t yet panned out. The Rockettes are performing. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is too. Jackie Evancho of America’s Got Talent is confirmed. The latest performer to say maybe: British inger Rebecca Ferguson, who says she would “graciously accept” but only if she can perform Strange Fruit, a protest song about lynchings, according to BBC.

Tim Rushlow and His Big Band, which performs retro hits by American icons like Frank Sinatra, will perform as Donald and Melania Trump make their first dance, Buzzfeed reported. Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down, and Lee Greenwood are also lined up to perform.


It is hard to tell what’s in store for the music industry in the years to come because the world is still changing as we speak. Technology becomes further advanced as the days go by and the industry has to keep up with all these changes if they want to stay relevant in the new world that is to come.

Even though the people will always have a place for music in their lives, the first thing that artists, music labels, and record companies should address is to overcome challenges involving technological advancements so they can reach out to more people who will listen and patronize their music.

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