Open QQ Music or NetEase Cloud Music, “Tik Tok Top Chart” and “Tik Tok Song List” are already popular, and even most of the top of the “Soaring Chart” are occupied by “Tik Tok Hot Songs”. “Flying Birds and Cicadas”, “White Moonlight and Cinnabar Moles” and “Blowing Gale”, these are the “divine songs” that started with short videos and then occupied the music streaming charts.
These popular “divine comedies” can generate tens of millions of copyright revenues, and soon become the bullseye of many creators. A large number of homogenized works have emerged, and the speed of mass production has exceeded any previous era.
In the short video App, “Tik Tok Musician” and “Kaishou Musician” can be seen everywhere. For musicians, the short video platform was originally a place to promote songs, but now it has become the source of influencing the creation of many musicians.
When “Vibrato Divine Comedy” has become a phenomenon, short video jamming has become a popular element of popular music, a large number of music companies and independent musicians are mass producing “Divine Comedy”, and some creators are even applying “chorus priority creation” The mode is to write the climax part of the song first, and then complement the chorus that has a good effect as a short video background music.
——Short video gave birth to a unique music creation process and mode, realizing large-scale and industrialization. In this new music creation competition, traditional record companies have been rarely seen.
In the current context of music consumption and creation, the influence of record companies has weakened. Why do the “three major records” (Universal, Warner, and Sony) still receive high copyright revenues? How do they exist today? How is the definition of “musician” in the online music era different from that in the record era?
In fact, as long as you review the history of the music industry, you can discover the “changes” and “unchanged” in it.
The beginning of the music industry:
What the market sells is not records, but music scores
At the end of the 19th century, Ding Bang Alley on 28th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Broadway) in New York was where the scale and commercialization of music creation began. In the 1880s, when there was no record company and record market, a large number of publishing companies gathered here. They started the business of music. Their main business was selling music scores. Consumers bought back music scores for performance, singing, or collection.
(In front of the stage) In order to sell more scores, these publishing companies hire musicians to play their own “music works” in stores. When people pass by this street, they can always hear the sound of “ding bang” music. This is how the street “ding bang alley” and “ding bang alley song” are named.
(Behind the scenes) Due to the gathering of publishing companies, a large number of music creators, performers and singers also gathered here for job hunting. These practitioners were also the “musicians” of that era.
After blending in with the market, their mainstream works also have commonalities. They have a strong general melody, with a relaxed and soothing rhythm. Most of the music styles are clear “Venue + Chorus”, and the paragraphs are mainly 32-bar AABA; Singer singing also pays attention to vocal music skills, especially wording and resonance.
Due to the market orientation, the mainstream music created and sold by Ding Bang Alley tended to be the same, mostly lyrical pop songs loved by the white middle class in the United States from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century.
The pop songs (POPs) of the 20th century actually followed the “Ding Bang Alley Songs”, and Chinese music such as “Ye Shanghai” and “If Without You”, which were popular in early China, had their iconic AABA musical structure rooted here.
In the 1940s, with the popularity of microphones and recording equipment, music could be recorded, stored, played and disseminated, and this gave birth to the earliest physical records (starting with vinyl records and then evolving to tapes, CDs, etc.). It was the popularity and marketization of records that opened the era of the record industry and the golden age of popular music came.
With the rise of record companies, the focus of operating music has shifted from “sheets” to “records”, and further to “artists”. The “musicians” of the previous generation also moved out of Ding Bang Alley, and gradually focused on “record companies” in their work and business activities.
Ding Bang Alley disappeared, the “musicians” changed careers, and the music industry entered another stage. “Record companies” and “brokerage companies” began to become “production lines” for mass-produced music works and artists.
Elvis Presley (Elvis Presley), The Beatles (The Beatles), Michael Jackson and Bob Dylan are all “superstars” of the recording industry era, and the “three major records” of Universal, Warner and Sony are also the most expensive in the recording industry. heritage. In the current digital music era, the copyrights of most classic music recording works are still owned or represented by the “three major albums.”
The appearance of singer-composer:
Content dominance begins to swing
In the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Queen (Queens) staged a content dominance dispute with the record company: the record company refused to use the 6-minute “Bohemian Rhapsody” as the title song , Causing the band to leave. From then on, musicians with the right to speak began to be able to dominate their own music content.
In the beginning, the A&R (artist and repertoire) department of the record company was responsible for the discovery and training of singers or artists, from musical works to artist positioning, including the “writing, composition, arranging, recording and downmixing” of musical works, and the “planning of records” , Production and publicity”, investment and risk subjects are also borne by the record company.
But with the emergence of superstars, such as Queen, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan, when they have the right to speak, and when they disagree with the record company, they either leave the record company, or form a record company themselves, or replace the record company. Supervisor (responsible for his own A&R business).
The identities of these superstars are often individuals or bands with independent creative ability, that is, “singers and composers”. They dominate the music, while the record company retains the functions of distribution and brokerage.
While the singer-composer is in control of more music content, he also assumes the corresponding investment risk: the “musician” has begun to take over part of the music management function from the record company. Regarding the dominance of music content, it is swayed between the company and the “musicians”; the music and commercial achievements produced are often the result of the game and balance between the two parties.
Lin Qiuli, a well-known lyricist and record artist, once described a game between a well-known singer-songwriter and a record company.
After all the first 4 albums achieved great results, the singer-songwriter became famous “with a smooth journey” and insisted on leading the fifth album, including album positioning, expression theme and visual image. He especially yearned for “samurai” and “killer” (and the company worried that this conflicted with his dimples and cute images), and finally implemented it as an artist, but the sales result of this record was the most unsatisfactory. Then the company and artists summed up their experience and made adjustments, and the sixth album was back on track.
In the final analysis, even if the right to define content fluctuates, the record company still controls the core music production and publicity resources. The record company in its heyday was not only an output machine for music content and singers, but the biggest competitiveness was the “star-making ability” of the various resources of the integrated record industry.
When mainstream media channels were limited to radio, television, and print, record companies almost had absolute voice and market influence. Entering these media through the resources of record companies is the ticket for musicians to enter the market, and then compete in a limited media environment. The more concentrated the resources, the easier it is to win, and the influence will be magnified.
Record companies gather high-quality production resources, it is easier to create a “quality singer”, and then it is easier to win the charts. For example, Jolin Tsai, promoted by the record company, outputs works and images that are well-crafted, and then succeeds on the charts. She became the idol of the students. Not only can she decide what songs the students listen to, but what she wears will affect the hearts of the majority of fans. “Fashion”. The influence of record companies can not only influence the popular music market, but can even become the driving force of leading-edge popular culture.
This changed until digital music moved to the center of the stage.
Technological change: pushing musicians to a new stage
With the advent of the digital age, entertainment options have proliferated, and record companies have gradually lost their influence on popular culture and the “song scene.” The emergence of digital platforms such as iTunes, Spotify, Baidu Music, and QQ Music have redefined the way of listening to music and business models. The recording industry has shrunk in sectors other than “digital copyright”, and has gradually lost the “creation of the new media environment”. Star power”.
On the other hand, the rapid development of recording equipment and audio software and technical reduction in dimensionality have made it easier and easier to record musical works, which has also greatly reduced the threshold of “musicians”. With the rise of platforms such as SoundCloud, Kickstarter and Douban Musicians, “indie musicians” began to be mentioned and paid more attention as a group.
At this stage, the stage ladder for musicians is not the media attention, but the change of new technologies and the emergence of new platforms. Xiami took the lead in launching the “Light-seeking Project” project centered on musicians, but “independent musicians” have never had clear boundaries and definitions.
Musicians such as Asi, who have long been labeled “independent musicians”, were actually signed artists of Modern Sky early; musicians who debuted independently, such as Shao Yibei and Hua Congee, have also signed contracts with the company since then. The label of “independent musician” is not distinguished by whether it is signed with the company or not, but refers to the independence of music style and attitude.
”Independent musicians” already have absolute dominance in music content. Even if they sign a contract with a company, they can play a greater role in brokerage and music distribution. Of course, whoever has the greater right to speak will bear the greater responsibility.
In recent years, the rookies of popular music have little relevance to traditional record companies. The key functions and roles of the “Three Major Records” are only to assist musicians in the cross-border distribution of music works, assist in the negotiation of copyright and business cooperation, and part of the project fund turnover and advance payment in terms of copyright trade, distribution promotion and project resource integration. Wait for support.
At present, most influential “independent musicians” have signed to companies or formed their own companies. Artists under traditional record companies are becoming more and more independent, and their freedom of content creation will become higher and higher.
The decline of traditional record companies has led to the exodus of a large number of industrial talents. As an execution tool, the “planning, production, publicity and distribution” system may not be able to understand themselves and the corresponding market better than the musicians themselves, such as how to use short videos to promote their works. The promotion team of the record company may not be as good as the professional MCN, or even the musicians themselves. Therefore, giving the voice of content to the musicians is also a cost-effective choice for record companies.
In the era of the recording industry, the division of labor between creation and management of works has been broken down and reorganized. The “independence” of musicians under traditional record companies and the “corporatization” of independent musicians are happening at the same time.
Has the era of musicians really arrived?
In the current environment, are musicians okay to make money?
The first fact is that it’s getting easier to become a musician, and it’s getting easier to control one’s own content. In the new media environment with more randomness, it seems that there are unlimited opportunities on the surface.
However, the opportunities for musicians are unlimited, and the number of musicians is also unlimited. In the new media environment, it will be more and more difficult to make your music work stand out.
The stage of musicians is getting bigger and bigger, but the road to that stage is getting more and more crowded. Due to technological changes and the development of new media, the competition among musicians has intensified, and it may be more difficult to make money from music. “Musicians” are more often an identity label than a professional label.
The second fact is that part of the market voice that record companies once held has been transferred to digital music platforms and new media. Tencent Music, NetEase Cloud Music and ByteDance have all significantly participated in the investment and production of music content. Based on the data and resources of the platform, they will play a great advantage: at present, if it is not parasitic on the platform or establish a strong relationship with it , Musicians and music companies are getting more and more difficult to seize the seat of the “Divine Comedy”.
In other words, it is getting easier to become a musician, and the cost of creating a “divine comedy” will be greater, and the cost of promoting the work will become higher and higher.
In the era of Ding Bang Alley, the key node of music management is in the publishing company; in the era of the recording industry, the right to speak is in the record company; in the era of new media, the absolute advantages of digital music and streaming media platforms have become more and more apparent.
Those musicians who are busy with the “Divine Comedy” may gradually become the “content tool people” supporting platform traffic; competition on short video platforms will become more and more cruel, and the emergence of a large number of homogenized works leads to the probability of music being remembered Will be greatly reduced.
After the short video Divine Comedy, there will be a new round of transformation in the music industry. The awakening of musicians still depends on the quality and differentiation of the works, and these still need to be accumulated, and there is a very high threshold.
Making music is easy, but making good music and classic works is still not easy.
Billie Eilish and his brother, able to use an album made in the bedroom to win the Grammy laurels are also proving that there are more new opportunities in the music market. They are getting farther and farther away from traditional record companies and independent musicians. The closer-this is also a fact.