It's grown commonplace to wax philosophic about the everchanging landscape in the music industry and try to gauge the effects of the downturn of the economy, the disinclination of music fans to pay for the music they enjoy so dearly and how this will affect Kanye West. Most likely, February of 2009 will be remembered for the clusterfucks surrounding the sale of tickets to the Phish reunion shows and Bruce Springsteen's summer tour. Live Nation's inability to handle the influx of traffic to their site angered hundreds of thousands and Ticketmaster's complicity in referring ticket buyers to their online don't-call-it-scalping site attracted the attention of the New Jersey Attorney General.
The whole Live Nation debacle was almost immediately followed by the announcement that the former Clear Channel entity will merge with Ticketmaster into a gigantic potential anti-trust violation. Pearl Jam fans will be quick to point out that this isn't the first time Congress has been asked to look into the monopoly issue with Ticketmaster and this time they seem to be taking the matter a bit more seriously than in the mid-Nineties. It's going to take many months before the merger and its debatable whether it will benefit, harm or have no effect on the ticket buying public. With disposable income becoming a scarce commodity, this is an issue that will surely garner a lot of attention.
Getting less attention is the first Eminem lawsuit in years that doesn't involve his wife. Slim Shady's dispute with his label, Universal Music Group, over the royalties owed from digital sales, most significantly iTunes. If the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger has peaked the interest of music fans, the Eminem/Universal suit has musician's held rapt. The issue that will go the jury concerns whether the record label's deals with online services constitute a distribution agreement or a licensing agreement. If the agreement is considered a distribution deal, as the Universal contends, nothing changes; if considered a licensing deal, Eminem is entitled to substantial additional royalties, potentially a 50/50 split. If Eminem wins, we may be looking at a whole new world.
The Eminem case looms larger in light of the fact that record stores seem to be closing on a daily basis. On the heels of Virgin's closing of their megastore in Times Square, they have announced that they will be locking the doors of their Union Square store in New York City as well as their superstore in San Francisco. Unless you are looking for the new U2 or Springsteen album, the digital marketplace may soon be your only source for acquiring your music.