Five Niches In The Music Industry, And The Companies That Make The Most Of Them

WWe often make the mistake of talking about the music industry as if it were a single, monolithic thing. It most certainly is not. Music has been around a lot longer than the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Even now, it is a multifaceted beast.

Music exists without industry. Every time you hum a tune, you are making music. When mothers sing to their babies, that’s music. It is not music with a capitol “M” just because a multi-billion dollar corporation throws its weight around the chromatic scale. There are many aspects of the music industry that are niche, only in the sense that they do not make the kind of revenue as the recording industry. They are no less successful, and no less worthy of our attention.

Music Instruction

Photo credit: champaignschoolofmusic

Photo credit: champaignschoolofmusic

One of the oldest music industry niches is the instruction business. With the exception of a very few savants, and the small handful of people who can teach themselves, we all have to learn music from a teacher.

While that has not changed over the centuries, the methods of teaching and learning have most certainly evolved. Jam Play lessons is a prime example of that evolution. Jam Play is an online service that provides streaming video guitar tutorials. From their website:

Beginner to advanced, heavy metal to country; we have the lessons you need to develop your playing. Our guitar lessons are filmed with multiple HD cameras and stream to any mobile device or computer.

While the recording side of the industry has demonstrated stagnation, innovation in the instruction industry continues apace.

Music Consumption



Remember radio? There is a whole generation whose only experience with a radio is in an automobile. The idea of a radio being a dominant entertainment component in the living room would seem alien to them. No one asks for a radio for their birthday.

As anachronistic as radio seems today, not so long ago, it was the primary means of music consumption. The radio was in every room of the house, including many restrooms. Today, radio is being usurped by music streaming services.

In a sense, radio was music streaming for its time, minus the on-demand component. Spotify is quickly becoming the default streaming service of this generation. There are many competitors. But Spotify benefits from an early lead.

Radio was a means to an end, the end being the purchase of music. Streaming music services like Spotify are an ends unto themselves. We pay for the service of having the music streamed to us on demand.

Music Licensing

When you can be fined for singing “Happy Birthday” in a public place, something has gone horribly wrong with the business of music. Most of the business of music is about licensing. It has nothing to do with chords and scales, and everything to do with money.

TuneCore seeks to put an end, or at least, reintroduce some semblance of sanity into the mix. Their licensing model is a little like the Creative Commons of music. While too complex to fully unpack in this piece, TuneCore, and efforts like it might just hold the answer to a lot of what plagues the industry. It is a company worth watching.

Musical Instruments


Photo credit: Doug88888 on Flickr

There was a time when our default idea of a band consisted of 76 trombones, 110 cornets, and thousands of reeds sprinting up like weeds. While not exactly common, today’s band can easily consist of four guys on a bus cranking out the jams using nothing more than iPhones for musical instruments.

There are too many great iOS apps for iPhone and iPad to choose just one. My personal favorite is one that is not even compatible with modern iDevices. It allowed you to play your iPhone like an ocarina. That was one of the early iPhone instruments. Things only got better from there.

Music Production

Gone are the days when a multi-million dollar studio was needed to record an album of a listenable quality. Today, almost anyone can do it for $500 or less, including the computer. There is even software that provides professional accompaniment to your original tunes. Band in a Box is the best in the business at that particular bit of magic.

Over the past decade, the legal antics of the RIAA have given the music industry a bad name. But there is much more to the industry than the latest headlines. From where I sit, the music industry is healthier than ever.