Culture is future » Financing and economic models


Contribution : "Music and digital, from a tsunami to an optimistic wind" by David Lacombled

The music is the cultural sector which has been the first to go through what could be called the “digital invasion”. Even before the advent of the general public of Internet, it has dealt with the birth of CD (the Compact Disc was invented jointly by Sony and Philips) sold at the edge of the 80’s. Already with the CV, digital was in the place allowing a faithful reproduction –without any loss of information as it was the case with the audio tape- and thus it opened the way for a kind of deregulation, via the piracy that could be exerted very easily and efficiently…


Then, with Internet and the invention of the compression format mp3, it was the shock of the peer to peer. For the majors suddenly the nightmare became reality with the possibility –infinite and unlimited – to exchange digital files and to download at will – and for some pirates on an almost industrial rhythm- music tracks and full albums.

This technological deregulation produced a shock and forced the musical industry to redefine itself completely. The entire musical chain was upset. And the relations between the diverse actors reviewed on new basis. With a Yalta in a complete reconstruction. At the same time, the disc was losing its central place of cornerstone because of the falling sales in terms of volumes. While the concerts were considered only as promotional supports for disks (and largely financed by the majors), in the recent years a shift has happened: the disk represents only a support for concerts – the live music – which have become the spearhead for the music industry. The use in an advertisement could become a powerful lever for sales or exportations for a track or a band. Thus, the French band Cocoon[1] that has been chosen to illustrate an international campaign for Volkswagen, has seen its reputation flying by, its sales rising and the concert rooms filling up abroad and especially in Germany.

Sign of this redistribution, the mégamajors then appeared. They manage artists from publishing to disk, through concerts, advertising, appearances in movies, television, etc..

Then appeared streaming, new development/revolution for everyone to have unlimited access to music. And as the study of the Observatory Orange Terrafemina shows, streaming is very well established in digital manners, allows sharing and establishes the gradual shift from the notion of "ownership" (disk) to "use" (the listening on all supports).


But when we could expect a new "shock decay" for the disc, a total disruption, a slow and inexorable decline of the music industry, finally defeated by the digital invasion, new opportunities seem to present themselves otherwise.


With streaming, the music industry has a tool that enables it to respond to the digital invasion by digital invention.

The intelligence of those who made the streaming was to rethink the music as a cultural ecosystem. Streaming allows you to reactivate the basic needs in relation to music: ie access, sharing, advocacy, community organization ... Even if there is a safe bet that 4G will kill the iPod invented by Apple. With the iPod, you had your music library in your pocket. With 4G, so streaming unparalleled comfort, you will have access to all world music.

Today, three very encouraging signs of a renewed dynamism in the sector. First, the physical sales have resumed. The National Union of Phonographic Enterprises reports for the first time in years - since three centuries according to some! - In the first half of 2013, an increase of sales of the disc at 6.1% and seems to confirm a trend reversal. We are now witnessing an encouraging phenomenon: the triumphant return of vinyl. Sales of "black pancakes" increased 100% this year, especially among 18-24 year olds. And finally, streaming and "iPodisation" music, far from being limited to a "jukebox" listening with the explosion of single-kleenex and the disappearance of the artist, continues to promote the album that still remains valid. The album is the incarnation - more than the single – of the status and personality of the artist, of the formulation of artistic coherence. The example of the duo Daft Punk is symbolic: beyond their global hit Get Lucky, the album Random Access Memory - varied, demanding and creative - has also sold millions of copies, becoming also record vinyl sales since 1999.


Finally, the relationship between the digital and the music is not linear. Digital is no longer a threat to the music. He blow, not a tsunami any more, but a real breath of optimism.


David Lacombled




About David Lacombled 

A journalist by training, David Lacombled is a Managing Director for the content strategy at Orange. He is also president of the think-tank, The Villa Numeris and author of the book Digital Citizen (Plon).

His website :

On Twitter : @david_lacombled