Big Business Sounds

Mozart: Still got it after all these years… ?

Mozart has topped the CD sales chart for the year, according to qz.

The music business as we know it is dead. It’s fitting that the final nail in its coffin would be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—the 18th-century composer, long-dead himself—who this month became 2016’s top artist by CD sales.

Mozart owes the win to a boxed set of his music that was released Oct. 28 in celebration of the 225th anniversary of his death and went on to sell 1.25 million CDs in just five weeks. (Drake’s Views took twice that time to edge past 1 million sales, by comparison.) The compilation “is the fruit of years of scholarship, planning, and curation,” according to Universal Music Group.

It’s very different from when I was a kid. Or is it? These days I buy albums occasionally on vinyl because I like the feel of it, and it gives me the warm comfies that I’m directly supporting an artist (for what it’s worth). I also subscribe to Spotify, and listen to most of my music through that. I do it because it’s easy, and you get access to more music. 

Back when I was a lad (tell us a story, grandad!), the only way to get music was to go to a record shop or listen to what was filtered through the radio DJ. And in Ireland in the 80’s and early 90’s, there was precious few stations broadcasting. The official RTE 2FM station was in competition with itself and the poor reception of BBC Radio 1 on the AM band (complete with the whee-whurr-whucks, beeps and crackles that long range AM reception was prone to. Sometimes it was hard to know if it was part of the song or not. Especially when listening to early dance and ambient). Domestic competition was limited to the illegal pirate stations like Radio Caroline and Radio Sunshine, as far as I remember. When Atlantic252 (long wave*) launched, it was a real alternative, even if the playlist infamously consisted of the same 25 tracks on repeat.

Anyway, avenues to discover music were limited. Maybe it was different if you lived in a town or city, but out in the country I had precious few ways of discovering new bands and new sounds. Heavy metal, punk, classical, all were unknown countries to me, glimpsed fleetingly through the popular press. It’s only with the advent of the internet and recommendation engines like and Spotify, plus blogs and wiki’s that the opportunity to actually explore the music world has been possible. I’ve listened to bands I’d never have discovered back in the day. In fact, I know I’d never have discovered them because I didn’t – I’m now listening to bands that I didn’t get to listen to properly at the time – Pixies, Motörhead, Girlschool, Kate Bush, Arvo Pärt

Is the music industry dead? Not from where I’m standing. As a listener I’ve never had it so good. Maybe the industry is dead, but the music world isn’t. 
*[Aside: you could also pick up the station in your fridge, on your phone, from your computer speaker and so on in the locality. Which was hilarious at first, and then incredibly annoying. A lot of devices were replaced as a result.]