I was listening to The Future Of Music Book podcast this morning, and they mentioned something interesting. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was passed back in 1996 allows companies to own more than one media station in a single market. Over these years, (mostly) Clear Channel and Infinity Broadcasting (to a lesser degree) bought a ton of radio stations. Now, programming of multiple radio stations take place from on central decision maker. Over the years, all of radio programming had become homogenized.
My hypotheses is that with fewer programming choices, (less diversity), and the repetition of playlists, two things happened. People stopped discovering music they liked because there were fewer choices (so they are not buying music that like), and since a song on the radio one might like could be heard at least once an hour, why buy it? This is what caused sales to decline. MTV not playing as much music videos (or playing the same thin roster of songs) didn’t help the situation either.
At the same time, and not by coincidence, people needed a way to find new music since the radio conglomerates provided less exposure. That is when Napster happened. Next, the RIAA blamed P2P/Napter for the decline in music sales.
People’s thirst for new music never went away, but their mode of discovery changed (radio got lame), and then their mode of consumption had to change (P2P). Now, free music is available under Creative Commons licensing distributed via podcasting, and commercial free, automatically-generated-playlist-to-my-taste internet streams of licensed music like Last.fm and Pandora are available.
RIAA, you can blame Clear Channel’s crappy programming of 1200 radio stations thanks to the DMCA for your crappy sales in the last 10 years, not P2P. People who really like music will discover, and then will buy it.
My new theory: Around the same time P2P happened to come about, other forms of media that people discovered through the Long Tail (becuase of the internet’s ubiquity) such as video games, movies, books and non-mainstream music took people’s attention form the mainstream music offerings. Music sales declined and P2P was the scapegoat.
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