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The Death of the Record Company: Music in the 21st Century

The twenty-first century has ushered in a tremendous variety of technological and social tools for musicians to utilize to create music – and to promote and manage their careers. The end result? The standard record company label – still booming just a decade and a half ago – is dying.

Increasingly musicians are turning to the digital realm to create and market their work. Previously, many marketing platforms and digital tools were only accessible by record companies on merit of financial ability to purchase or pay for them. Now, marketing music has become dramatically more simplistic. While musicians must still develop skills in marketing and advertisement, social media outlets and social media management tools have become available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection – and significantly reducing the need for record companies to market musicians' work for them. 

In addition to increased access to marketing platforms, digital recording and mastering tools, like Acid Pro, Logic, Cubase and ProTools, have become more affordable in recent years. With increased access to these and other freeware audio production tools like Giada and Rosegarden, musicians are building home studios and purchasing or downloading cheap and free audio production platforms and doing all their recording at home. While previously record labels might have fronted the money for bands and solo acts to pay for studio hours, this has become – with some exceptions – almost entirely unnecessary. More often than not, musicians will record their material at home and digitally send it over to a studio for mastering, saving themselves a ton of cash in the process.

Finally, musicians are opting to create their own record labels – often collaborative efforts in which musicians on the label work together to market and promote each other's work. This new approach creates a much more artist-centered platform that is less about simply making money off the work of musicians and creating new opportunities and lucrativity for the musicians themselves. 

Will the record company die off entirely? Probably not – but the old model is almost completely out the door, and record companies must adapt to provide musicians with what they are unable to do themselves, and with the rising reign of technology, that has become comparatively rare. The next decade or two may witness the death of the record company entirely and give way to an entirely new generation of musicians that does everything digitally – and keeps the returns for themselves.

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