Ask any independent musician why the music industry has been taking a beating, and he is sure to give you an answer.

“Record labels are putting out too much crappy, disposable pop.” “The price of albums is too high.” “Illegal downloading.”

The traditional music industry tends to concentrate on the last reason as an explanation for falling sales. On July 10th, record label plaintiffs in Sony v. Tenenbaum filed an expert witness report that pointed to unauthorized file-sharing as the primary culprit for the industry’s woes.

Despite the expert testimony, several studies and analyists support alternative theories. Debating and studying these theories is certainly fun (or depressing, if you’re suffering the effects).

Today, however, we’re not going to look at “why” the traditional music industry has been in a decline, but rather “how” it happened to begin with.

The traditional music industry is made up of just four companies: four major record labels that together account for over 70% of global music sales. Drawing an analogy from agriculture, this global concentration of music sales in just four companies can be deemed a “monoculture.” Much like the fields upon fields of the same variety of crop in agricultural monoculture, the music industry has been geared toward selling the majority of its product from just a handful of blockbuster artists - with little musical variety between those artists.

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