(Previously: Part 1 and Part 2)
3. Now It's Everywhere
The 21st century and increasing maturity of the Internet made it trivially easy to distribute all these albums. For fees ranging from zero to modest, one can make an album available worldwide, 24/7 in a wide variety of formats at any desired price point.
This is a profound change, making it dramatically easier to get heard. Prior to the Internet, you, the artist (or label) had to physically truck those CDs to stores and then directly manage collecting the revenues from these distributed locations. You either cut a distributor in on your "profit" to manage this for you and just focused on trying to get stores to order product - or you managed it yourself, which frequently meant spending hours on the phone trying to get record stores to pay you $7.50 for the 3 CDs they may or may not have sold.
In short, it was terrible. Managing distribution beyond the trunk of your car was huge time sink for the up-and-coming musician.
Today, there are many options for distributing your music. You can still do the good ol' car trunk and sell CDs or vinyl or cassette or whatever paleolithic format you want to push directly to your fans. You can still lug stuff to your local record store and see if they'll take a few on consignment. You can sell music in a variety of formats and packages off your website directly to your fans (Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead). You can partner up with companies like CDBaby or Tunecore who will handle getting your digital music into as many of the digital music services as you want.
There are a ton of legitimate, semi-legitimate, and totally illegitimate new ways for people to discover, find, or hear your music, too. There are fancy customized radio stations that will mix you in with other things. Or you can run your own internet radio station. You can give away a promo single or snippet totally free...or exchange it for an e-mail address. There are tons of MP3 blogs, aggregators, and sites all aimed at promoting music in specific genres to specific demographics. If you like music, it's hard not to be overwhelmed by stuff you actually want, not to mention the junk.
More importantly, it is now incredibly easy for people to buy music - there's no more "sold out", "out of print", or "where can I get it?". If you hear something you like, purchase is as close as an Internet connection. Buy it on your phone right now. Download it to your computer right now. Order the CD right now. The music is there.
Easy to make, easy to distribute, easy to purchase. That's good, right?
At this point, the veteran professional musicians usually come charging in and talk about how crappy all this new music is. They'll say it's poorly recorded, badly written, and lacks the wonderful packaging and "vibe" that good ol' vinyl records had. They'll talk about how no website feels as good as walking into a good record store (not that any are left anymore).
All they have to do is start with "...in MY day..." or throw in a "get off my lawn!" to complete the picture. People have been saying "this new music isn't as good as the old music" as long as there has been music.
The old guard are upset about the increased competition, to be sure, but I think they're really upset about something else...
Next: Part 4 - The Audience Isn't Listening
1. The Problem Nobody's Talking About
2. Too Much Music?
3. Now It's Everywhere
4. The Audience Isn't Listening
5. What The Internet Really Means