Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Big Band Era

The Big Band Era is coming back, and stores selling CDs are going down. (8-Mar-03)
Summary As unemployment rises, more and more musicians will want to perform for free or for little money, and so performance groups will get bigger and bigger.

Contents - This page
Return of the Big Band Era
The Death of Retail Music
Music in the 2020s

With so much heartbreaking stuff on this web site, we wanted to provide one example of something a little more fun.

This is a valuable example of how Generational Dynamics interacts with Technological Forecasting to provide investors with valuable predictions that can't be obtained any other way.

Here's an outline of where we're going:

We end by speculating what the music delivery business will be like in the 2020s.

Return of the Big Band Era

The Big Band Era was a unique time in this history of American music and entertainment. It lasted for about ten years, from 1935 to 1945. It gave us bands like the Glenn Miller Orchestra and singers like Frank Sinatra who wrote and produced music which is still as beautiful and wonderful today as it was when it cheered people up during the worst days of the Depression and World War II.

Some will be playing violins and trumpets, as in days of old, but most will be playing new high-tech instruments

Various sociological reasons have been given for why the Big Band Era occurred, but the actual reason is much simpler: With 25% unemployment, everyone who could play a musical instrument was willing to play for free or for a few bucks a week, just to get in front of an audience.

For a band leader, adding one more musician to your two-person band was cheap and easy, and adding ten more musicians was little harder -- especially when musicians themselves were begging for the chance to perform for an audience. Hence, bands got larger and larger, giving rise to what we call the Big Band Era. It ended in the 1940s when the financial crisis ended and salaries increased, making a big band uneconomical.

With a new financial crisis on the horizon, the same thing will happen again. As unemployment grows, you'll see more and more people giving live performances for little or no money. Some will be playing violins and trumpets, as in days of old, but most will be playing new high-tech instruments, probably combined with dance and other performance art.

It won't be called the Big Band Era, of course, but whatever it's called, you can expect to see a lot more people giving a lot more public performances.

The Death of Retail Music

Suppose someone gave you a disk with a file on it, and the file was a database containing MP3s for every song that's ever been recorded. You could put that file on your own computer, and listen to any song from the past at any time you wanted -- for free.

Contents - This page
Return of the Big Band Era
The Death of Retail Music
Music in the 2020s

Imagine that! With a few mouse clicks at any time, you could hear an original Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Maria Callas or Sting recording, occasionally mixed in with a classical piece played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It's like a dream come true.

Would you put that file onto your computer? Of course you would. Even the most rabid "anti-piracy" lawyer would. It's irresistable.

Within 10-20 years, it will be possible to store a file containing all recorded music in history on a typical computer disk

Such a file is technologically impossible today, of course, but not for long, as computer disk sizes grow exponentially.

A few years ago, it was rare for anyone to have more than a few dozen MP3 files on his computer hard disk. Today there are people with tens of thousands of MP3 files on their disk. To get that much music on retail CDs would fill an entire storage room.

As disk sizes continue to grow, people will be storing more than just individual song MP3s on their disks. You'll soon see packages of MP3s, such as a file containing all the recordings by the Beatles.

Not only are disk sizes growing exponentially, but also transmission bandwidths are growing exponentially. It used to take someone a couple of hours to download a single MP3 file. Today, it typically takes only a couple of minutes. Soon it will take just a few seconds.

Within ten or twenty years, disk sizes and transmission bandwidths will be so high, that it will be possible to store a file containing all recorded music on a typical computer disk, and it will be possible to download that file in a few minutes.

There are two more factors besides the availability of piracy, driving down the cost of recorded music: the ease of distributing new music and low cost of internet distribution.

Just a few years ago, a new artist had no way to distribute a music short of negotiating a contract with a large music company.

Today, any new artist can distribute his music over the internet, and so the few established artists, currently charging a few dollars per song, are competing with huge numbers of new artists, giving their songs away for free. This drives down the price of songs by established artists, leaving distribution as the major cost of music.

In fact, distribution over the internet obviously has huge advantages over distribution through retail stores. A person can download songs selectively, and doesn't have to tie up storage space in the form of racks of CDs.

These two additional factors -- ease of distribution and low cost of internet distribution -- would mean the end of the retail CD store even if there no piracy. But combining them with piracy means that retail CD stores will not be able to sustain their businesses for long.

One final technological trend: The growth of wireless technology.

Contents - This page
Return of the Big Band Era
The Death of Retail Music
Music in the 2020s

Within 10-15 years or so, wireless gadgets will advance to the point where we can walk around listening to music of our choice. Since prerecorded music will, in effect, be free, the only cost will be the wireless charges. You'll be able to any music you want, on demand, wherever you are.

Music in the 2020s

(To be supplied)

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