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The Wall Street Journal mentions the music industry is showing signs of renewed strength.

After years of losing buyers, caused by many consumers who simply stopped buying music, the total number of CD buyers increased for the second consecutive year, growing 2% to 78 million [in 2011]

Paid downloads also increased:

Total music-track sales rose 4% last year, the first gain in many years. Paid download buyers increased 14% in 2011, to 45 million customers. Digital buyers also spent more at iTunes Music Store, Amazon AMZN MP3, and other digital music stores in 2011.

People are spending more time with music discovery sites like Pandora and Spotify as well as mobile devices:

It’s so obvious what has happened in the last year or two,” said Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at NPD, in an interview Tuesday. “Consumers have a lot more ways to discover new music than they have had traditionally. Services like Pandora P , Spotify and Rhapsody have made it easier to get a song you like into your head, and consumers are then going to iTunes or a physical store like Target and putting that song or album on their shopping list. With more mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, people are just spending more time with music.

I believe breakout artists such as Adele and Katy Perry have skewed the sales numbers. For the last year, Adele is selling 100,000 copies a week, which isn’t typical for the last 5 to 7 years. Regardless, the 4th quarter will  paint a clearer picture.

The quality of pop music been better recently, from Adele to Lady Gaga to Katy Perry to Susan Boyle, and people are responding to that,” Crupnick explained. “And 10 years after the advent of Apple’s   AAPL   iTunes, far more people buy CDs than downloads.”

Ironically, people are still buying CD’s. It’s been predicted that CD’s would be obsolete by 2012.

In our rapidly changing world, it is perhaps odd to suppose that a physical medium would still resonate with people. However, Crupnick said, there are still plenty of Baby Boomers and other listeners who just enjoy the CD experience in the car, and there remains a core contingent of consumers who find CDs to be the best way to enjoy the album format, which offers an assortment of songs from a favorite artist, tied to a unifying theme.

Piracy is on the decline as well, the UK just singed a bill (ACTA) that makes illegal downloading on par with “Class A drugs, people smuggling and human trafficking, major gun crime, fraud and money laundering.”

One other thing has clearly helped the music industry claw its way back to growth – a decline in piracy. The NPD report also noted a decline in unpaid music acquisition, such as P2P file sharing and trading music on hard drives. NPD estimates that 13% of Internet users downloaded music from a P2P site in 2011, down from a peak of 19% in 2006. In addition to giving customers more legitimate sources to find music, the industry has worked hard to crack down on file sharing sites.

The music industry is still finding it’s place in rapidly changing landscape, but it’s still breathing.

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Businesses and artists have used Facebook as a promotional platform, and we all have depended on Facebook more and more. Even multimillion start ups are using Facebook to fuel their fanbase.  As the addiction grows, so do the rules that can effect artists.

“VEVO just latched its entire registration system to ‘the social network,’ and Spotify isn’t far behind.  Investors are boosting startups like RootMusic that completely revolve around Facebook, while bands think Facebook likes are three times as important as email signups.” Digital Music News

Facebook has been extremely helpful but it also makes the rules that can change your business over night for better or worse.  Facebook is now making a major modification that will effect your business.

Digital Music says this:

This is all part of a major layout overhaul that revolves around Timeline, and the changes could have a dramatic impact on artists and Facebook-centric businesses.

Bands can no longer make there app page their default page:

The biggest of the changes seems to be this: as part of the shift, bands can no longer make their app page their default landing page (for example, RootMusic’s BandPage).  Instead, all visitors will be sent to the Timeline-loaded front page, with apps relegated to a tab (though bands can direct-link).  Which means far less control for artists, and a potentially monstrous setback for businesses like RootMusic (and to a lesser extent, FanBridge, ReverbNation, and others).

Facebook will limit how you market:

But wait! There are more game-changing shifts being splashed in your face, most likely with little-or-no advanced warning. That includes certain limitations on your gigantically-revamped, 815×320 masthead photo.  For example, a band cannot incorporate any marketing language, special offers, Like buttons, or any calls-to-action into this showcase pic.

March 31st is the transition day:

Actually, RootMusic has created a quick-and-comprehensive guide to the changes.  It’s a great primer – and remember: transitions are mandatory by March 31st.

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The UK is taking an aggressive step to curtail illegal downloading. Britian’s organized crime police shut down the popular file sharing site RnBxclusive.com that received 70,000 hits a day and 250,000 Facebook subscribers.

Recently, the British Government signed a bill titled ACTA that allows them to prosecute illegal downloaders that comes with a 10 year jail sentence.

“The Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) in Britain normally tackles crimes “that affect the UK and its citizens.” Now simply downloading illegal content from a file-sharing website has been put on a par with “Class A drugs, people smuggling and human trafficking, major gun crime, fraud and money laundering.”

Although this type of sentence seems extreme, it’s welcomed by the music industry that’s been hijacked by theft.

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Madonna’s single Gimme All Your Luvin fell out of the top 50 after launching her new song to an audience of 114 million at the Super Bowl. As far as press and promotion, it doesn’t get better than this. The single has dropped out of the Top 50 in the Official UK and iTunes charts.

The world watched Madonna lip synch her greatest hits at the Super Bowl which received mix reviews.

The Telegraph’s music critic Neil McCormick said the stunt was a “shameless promotion of her return to the pop front line”.

“This was Madonna’s first performance at the Super Bowl, and the “it-girl” of 1980s pop confirmed she is no longer at the height of her popularity or provocative powers with a tame, somewhat leaden performance.” (Indianapolis Business Journal)

Early critics said the only reason Madonna was tapped for the gig was to attract a large share of women viewers for the Super Bowl.

Regardless, It is one of the worst showings in almost three decades of chart hits for the singer in a career that has generated 13 UK number ones. The record executives signed Madonna to a three-album deal earlier in the year are scratching their heads.

Madonna who has conquered the world of music has failed to see the latest trend. The world fell in love with Adele, the exact polar opposite of the material girl who swept the Grammy Awards with her sophomore album that pushed past Whitney Houston’s soundtrack to “The Bodyguard” for the longest command for an album by a woman in the chart’s 56-year history.

Madonna appears on stage like a Gucci-coated cheerleader, carried out Cleopatra-style, by a group of dancers dressed as ancient warriors. Adele sings in front of a band never ceasing to wow her audiences.  Nothing flashy.  Nothing over the top.

Adele said in an interview:

I like having my hair and face done, but I’m not going to lose weight because someone tells me to. I make music to be a musician not to be on the cover of Playboy.

Madonna should take cues from the new queen of pop.

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Music fans may have witnessed a glimmer of hope watching Adele clean up at the Grammys who scored an award in all six categories including Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Solo Vocal Performance, Short Form Music Video, Record Of The Year, and Song Of The Year.

Lady Gaga was shutout at the Grammy Awards as Adele beat her 3 times. It seems that auto-tune and manufactured songs written by overpaid songwriters which has saturated radio may have hit its peak.  This may explain why Adele’s smash album spent 20 weeks on the chart at #1, sold 6.6 million albums and will sell another 250k records this week.

Foo Fighters David Grohl commented on the state of artistry recommending to learn an instrument and sing in the microphone.

“To me this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what’s important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do… It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes on in a computer. It’s about what goes on in here [your heart] and what goes on in here [your head]”

In the case of Adele’s impact, will the music industry scramble to find the next Adele? I’m not sure if that is possible because Adele is unique.

“She’s a rare case of an artist where she can breeze in, sit down and just knock everybody out. On top of the quality of the songwriting, there’s just an indefinable charisma and power to her voice. It was so obvious that there didn’t need to be anything to mask it,” Thompson recalled. “There wasn’t an issue of production…there was nothing dressed up about it…She never even took off her gloves.”

Instead of the music business flooding the market with Adele clones, it should be viewed as a learning lesson. We can learn that the public picks up on sincerity in performance and artists are still capable of selling millions of CD’s. The cliche “it’s all about the music” comes to life.

Richard Russell, founder of her record label, XL Recordings says:

“The whole message with [Adele] is that it’s just music, it’s just really good music,” he told U.K. newspaper, the Guardian.

“There is nothing else. There are no gimmicks, no selling of sexuality. I think in the American market, particularly, they have come to the conclusion that is what you have to do.”

Russell said the “faux porn” imagery of some female artists had left him feeling “a bit queasy.”

With Adele topping charts, he thinks record companies will think again about how they market female artists and suggests that will have a positive influence on young girls.

He said: “Now you see that Adele is No. 1. What a great thing, how amazing. Not only are young girls going to see that, but [also] the business people who are behind all those videos.

“It’s going to make them rethink what they should be doing.”

Adele said in a recent interview with Q magazine that she did not sexualize her image because it did not fit with her music.

“Even if I had Rihanna’s body, I’d still be making the music I make and that don’t go together,” she said.

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