That storm, of course, is the internet, which most accounts hold responsible for the music industry’s decline. Though Taylor’s book makes surprisingly little reference to file sharing or other technological developments of the past few decades, other writers have not been shy about opening fire on the elephant in the room. Chris Ruen’s recital of the litany, at the opening of his new book FreeLoading: How Our Insatiable Hunger for Free Content Starves Creativity, is familiarly bleak:

After only ten years, US music industry revenues shriveled from over $14 billion a year to less than $7 billion. From 2000 to 2009, total US album sales (physical and digital) plummeted by fifty-two percent, from 785 million to 374 million units . . . Per capita, Americans in 2009 spent just one third of the amount of money they devoted to recorded music in 2000, from an all-time high of $71 per consumer to a modern-era low of $26 . . . The total number of people employed as professional musicians in the United States fell by seventeen percent from 1999 to 2009 as piracy migrated from the margins and into the mainstream.

As Ruen’s reference to “piracy” suggests, blame for the collapse of the music industry is often placed on peer-to-peer networking and file sharing. This is a considerable oversimplification; Taylor points out, for instance, that many of artists’ current financial woes can be traced back to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which deregulated the radio industry, paving the way for the rise of the Clear Channel empire and a consolidation of playlists that disproportionately affected mid-level artists on independent labels (another force behind the easement of the advertising taboo).

Read the full article at n+1.

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