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Recording Industry


Does the idea of having a hand in creating the music of a generation appeal to you? Would you like to find and nurture new musical talent? Would you listen to music all day if you could? Working in the recording industry can be an exciting career for those who love music. While the industry has seen its share of ups and downs in the last decade, it seems to have found its footing and is on an upswing, albeit a slow one.

Recording began with Thomas Edison's invention of the phonograph, and Emile Berliner's Victrola a decade later made recorded music available. Improvements upon the machines and their devices evolved into records played on a gramophone, something featured in nearly every American household. In the later decades of the 20th century, record albums were eclipsed by cassette tapes, largely because of their portability, and eventually compact discs, which boasted superior sound. By the dawn of the 21st century many Americans were downloading digital sound files and listening to them on their iPods.

With advancement in technology came innovations in obtaining music. The days of going to your local record store to purchase the latest record have waned. Now that music was available digitally, hackers learned how to pirate it, or obtain it for free. An online service called Napster offered file-sharing of music, bypassing record labels entirely. Napster was quickly closed down, but pirating did not stop.

The recording industry entered a period of diminishing sales, in large part because so few people were actually paying for their music. In addition, executives seemed to resist the digital revolution, failing to change with the times. In 1999, growth halted altogether, and it would not be until 2012 that the recording industry would see an increase in sales, and it is only recently nearing the level of sales last seen in 2006: $12 billion in the United States. In 2019, total revenues were $11.1 billion, which was a 13 percent increase over the $9.8 billion in revenue in 2018. According to a report by the Recording Industry Association of America, the recording industry's strong growth is attributed to paid subscription streaming, which generated $1.4 billion in revenue in 2019.

The business side of the industry has changed, as corporations were forced to innovate new ways of selling music. Free and subscription streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, and affordable and easy ways of purchase such as Amazon and iTunes have increased digital record sales. What hasn't changed in the recording industry is the need for passionate individuals who care about creating good music and fostering recording artists. Since the outlook is slightly limited, at least until the industry gets back on its feet, jobs will be competitive. Individuals seeking entry into the recording industry need to prove that they are motivated, committed, and, most of all, able to evolve as technology and circumstances change.

Jobs within this industry range from creative to corporate. Aside from talent, such as singers and musicians, some job titles include songwriter, audio engineer, A&R (artist and repertoire) representative, producer, publicist, promoter, distributor, studio manager, agent, and music executive. Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville remain the top U.S. cities in which to find jobs in the recording industry. However, because of technological advances, many artists and producers are able to record in their homes and other locations, so jobs involved in recording can take place anywhere.