Is Music Business, Art, or Both?

Today, the role of record labels has changed complete, and the world of music business with it. As a result, more and more artists are interested in completing a music business degree, because they want to make sure that what they create, also puts food on the table. But doesn’t that mean selling out on an art? Is music still an art, or is it now solely a business? Or is it both?


When the internet first came around, Napster also developed and people could suddenly get any type of music, without having to pay for it. Of course, it wasn’t clear whether this was legal but, until it was confirmed that it wasn’t and Napster was forced to shut down, people enjoyed free music as much as they wanted. What became clear from this, was that the digital era would bring about a lot of change.

Before the internet, small bands needed record labels to discover them in order to become big. This has changed, however, with the advent of legal downloads. As a result, bands now circumvent labels, producing, promoting, and releasing their own work. But not all of them really have the skills to do this.

No More Labels?

For a lot of bands, the idea of being free from a label is a dream come true. They have full creative freedom, get to decide which songs to include on the album and in which order, and can essentially build their own brand. However, the quality of their music, and the quality of sound, is much less good as what can be produced by professional labels in professional recording studios.

It is certainly true, however, that thanks to social media, bands are able to promote their own sounds. The need to put up posters, for instance, is long gone. Again, however, while using social media is easy, it does take a lot of time and it has to be done properly. Building a fan base, something that a record label can do, is a huge exercise in its own.

The Times, They Are a-Changin’

As Bob Dylan famously said, “the times, they are a-changin’”. Today, the music business is one of both art and business. What is clear is that record labels are still absolutely necessary to really make it big in the world of music. But record labels no longer do all the leg work, because they want to see that bands they work with also have a degree of business acumen themselves. Hence, what they are looking for now is a band that has been able to establish an online presence, and to create a few tracks that sound, if not fully professional, at least good enough to be listened to.

So is music, and particularly music performance, and art or a business? It is basically a bit of both. Artists have to be artists in the first place, but they must now also be business people if they want to make it.

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