Craig Hockenberry with one of the most concise and accurate analogies of the current state of the recorded music industry:
[...] the best thing for business is to make sure you have the best product available. That’s both the beauty and the challenge of any “try before you buy” system. Good products win, bad products are quickly forgotten. I suspect that the root of the music industry’s problem is this: they have been able to produce sub-standard product for many years. I know there are many albums in my collection that consist of few great tracks along with a bunch of crap that I’d rather not listen to.
Being the stubborn person that I am, after reading this piece, I feel the need to clarify the difference between the recorded music industry to which Mr. Hockenberry is referring, and the 200,000+ year-old music industry as a whole.
Recorded music has only been with us for about 80 years, where as music itself has most-likely existed since the inception of our human race. The portion of the industry that pertains to the sale of music recordings is going through some growing pains as it makes the transition from plastic circles to digital computer files. This is largely irrelevant. Recorded music itself is a minuscule blip in time that may very well prove to be a forgotten anomaly in another 10,000 to 100,000 years. The music industry as a whole is quite lucrative, indeed—if you haven’t put all your hopes in plastic circles.
[Update]: Ivan offers correction in his comment as to the age of recorded music, which came shortly after the invention of the the phonograph in 1878. However, my over all point remains the same. Recorded music, while a big deal to us, is still very much in its infancy and may still prove to be nothing more than a forgotten fad in the grand scheme of things.