The music industry appears to be undergoing a metamorphosis. High street retailers like HMV are going under as music sales move from physical to digital, online streaming sites such as Spotify and Rdio are getting an increasingly large market share as convenience eclipses tradition.
Artists no longer require the traditional means of music distribution in order to monetise their work, as labels are being subverted by the Internet. In addition to that, advancing technology and computer programs mean that you no longer have to spend thousands to record an album - you can do it from your bedroom instead.
The latest sign of the times came this week from the United States, as Macklemore became the first artist since Lisa Loeb in 1994 to top the US charts despite being an unsigned artist. The song, 'Thrift Shop', has shifted more than 1 million units online since its release, proving that there are alternatives to having a major label spending big bucks to promote you. He has already released one mixtape, three EPs and two albums without any support from a major label.
The last time something like this happened (save for a charity single for Haiti in 2010 by Michael Jackson, among others) was Lisa Loeb's 1994 hit 'Stay', which was popularised by the movie 'Reality Bites'. The song's association with the Wynona Rider movie can be attributed to a large degree of its success.
Macklemore's 'Thrift Shop', however, had no such backing instead relying on word-of-mouth, social media and harnessing of the blogosphere to make its mark.
Does this count as a high-water mark for the music industry's relationship with non-traditional means of distribution and promotion? This could well be the case. In a world where major music institutions are under severe financial pressure , you can bet that the labels are worried about this. The online and technological resources available to artists is only going to improve with time, so it's up to the record labels and publishers to re-evaluate their standing in the music process and make the necessary changes.
If they're smart things will change for the better but if they miss a beat on this one, the music landscape could be forever changed.
The times, it would appear that they are a-changin'.