Monday, August 13, 2007

You don't know what you've got till it's gone

Thanks to Karen Schrempf for a great article on Joni Mitchell's forthcoming album. It's wonderful to see Mitchell's rediscovery of her muse, and interesting that she's turning to Starbucks to promote it.

There's no doubt the music world is changing. CD sales are faltering. Stores that sell recorded music exclusively are disappearing.

And Starbucks, which now has it's own label, has had tremendous success with the handful of artists it markets through its high-priced coffee outlets. In fact, Starbucks has been so successful that it now has it's own label, Hear Music, which has signed near-geriatric artists like Mitchell and Paul McCartney.

I'm old school. I like the CD and the package, the lyrics, the photos, the artwork. I've grown to love the concept of an album of songs (called an album because in the days of 78 rpm's, a collection of disks was held in an album very much like a photo album). My son has jettisoned most of his CDs once they're burned on his hard drive, and often he buys songs as files.

It's still not clear how record companies plan to continue to make money in the future. Or how artists can make money on the music they create. Small artists can tour like mad, and expect to earn a respectable income for all their hours on the road. And big artists can fill the stadiums. Question is, where will the big artists come from, Starbucks?

The last bastion of hit records is country music, whose fans were the last to give up on the audiocassette. Perhaps there's something to be learned from C&W where radio play still has an effect, the music video is still coveted, and the artists still understand fan appreciation.

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