How is the music industry changing?

John Legend, is an American soul singer, songwriter, and pianist. He has won six Grammy Awards.  Born John Stephens, Legend was a child prodigy who grew up in Ohio, where he began singing gospel and playing piano at the tender age of five. Legend left Ohio at 16 to attend college in Philadelphia, and it was there that he first found a larger audience. Not yet out of his teens, Legend was tapped to play piano on Lauryn Hill's "Everything Is Everything" in 1998.

After completing college, he moved to New York, where he began to build a loyal following playing in nightclubs and releasing CDs that he would sell at shows. He also became an in-demand session musician, playing and occasionally writing for a wide array of artists, including Alicia Keys, Twista, Janet Jackson, and Kanye West.

It wasn't until West signed the young talent to his new label that he adopted the Legend name with 2004's Solo Sessions Vol. 1: Live at the Knitting Factory. Get Lifted, his first studio album, was released later in the year. On the strength of enduring single "Ordinary People," the album reached the Top Five of the Billboard 200. This led to three Grammy Awards: Best R&B Album, Best R&B Male Vocal Performance, and Best New Artist. Once Again, which peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and number one on the R&B/hip-hop Albums chart, followed in October 2006. Live from Philadelphia, sold exclusively at Target stores, was a successful stopgap release that predated October 2008's Evolver.

  • Transcript


John Legend:  Well the music industry is changing, one, because of a lot of people who were powerful before are starting to lose power and influence because of a shift. First of all, we don’t sell as many records anymore, so obviously record stores are going out of business.

Record labels, overall their revenues are smaller, because even the digital sales don’t make up for the loss in the physical sales. And so everybody is contracting on the record side.

So that means recording labels have smaller budgets. That means the staff is smaller there. They’re understaffed in a lot of areas I think, and they have to have a leaner operation.

That means for an artist, you get less support from the record label, and you have to have management and a team around you that make up for the difference. And what the label used to do, we have to figure out how to do it ourselves.

Fortunately for us, there’s still other revenue streams other than making records. There’s touring. There’s merchandising. There’s marketing partnerships and endorsements, and all kinds of sundry ways to make money. And the labels are realizing that we’re making all this money. They’re helping us become a star, but we’re making money in all these other areas. And so now the new deals that record labels are assigning, they’re not just trying to take a piece of the records, they want to take a piece of the touring, they want to take a piece of the merchandising, and all the other revenue streams that come in. So realizing that the pie for the actual sales of records has gotten smaller, they’re trying to take a piece of some other pies. And luckily I signed before that started happening. I haven’t had to give up any percentage of my touring to my record label.

Overall I think what happens is the artist and the artist’s management have to take more control over the artist’s career, and be more hands on with every decision, and be more creative when it comes to the right partnerships to market the artist and to market the tour. And you just can’t rely on the record label as much as you used to because they’re smaller, they have fewer resources, and there are so many channels out there that you can take advantage of that you can do sometimes just as well as the record label could have done.

Recorded on: Jan 29, 2008