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Scenario Planning Recording Artists

Case Study

Fans of listening to music are demanding that music is available for free (Herstand, 2014). This trend has being growing over the past 10 years. The opening attack came during the mid-2000s. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in response to peer-to-peer music exchanges such as Napster, sued users of the service. Music industry experts reported this trend as an attempt on the RIAA’s part of suing their own customers. Although the lawsuit stopped Napster from having any popularity and driving them out of business, this created on atmosphere of the music industry against the music listeners.

The outcomes of the lawsuit, and changes in listening habits, have resulted in streaming services that provide free music content. Additionally, the rise and eventual dominance of iTunes (n.d.) offers music at a reduced price have facilitated a precept of commercial music as a free service. Padnora and Spotify have premium services offering music at a low monthly payment (Herstand, 2014), but most of the music can be streamed for free with added commercials. Musicians, music writers, and support staffs find a new business paradigm. How do they create music for free, and still provide a living for themselves? Large production budgets as well as multi-gold and platinum selling albums are all but gone.

Planning and Forces

Artists, recording studios, and record labels all have to plan for the new future in commercial music. Recorded music sales can no longer supply the revenue needed to support the wages of the artists and support staff that produces the music. Planning must include technology, social, and economic forces. Each force can dramatically change in the matter of a few years. Typically artists are either self-funded, or on a very small budget to prove themselves quickly as well as find a revenue source.

Currently live music can provide an income. Live music attendance determine the size of revenue, but it is also dependent on technology to solidify the fans to attend concerts and other performances. Social media is essential to the plan. Artists must constantly foster a group of fans willing to attend and financially support performances. Additionally, merchandising becomes important and using current online payment options are constantly improving and changing. Point of service payments have recently allowed conveniences as well as overhead reduction.

Artists and support must maintain a close watch on trending attitudes towards pricing within the live performance and merchandising. Popular and established performers justify large ticket sales and high merchandise pricing, but start-ups must anticipate economic forces associated with perceived value.

The diagram illustrates the process for scenario planning. The driving forces of social in the form of social media, and new technologies such as point of sale systems, help artist reduce costs, as well as increase the audience. After the influence of social and technology, the popularity of the artist, and the overhead of playing in a live performance effect the overall income of the artist.


If artists and support groups allow for the model to guide the future plans artists will be able to accurately predict future growth and revenue. Typically future planning should be charted to show overall trends in income, but if the scenario planning is adhered to, most artists will be able to avoid pitfalls of over reaching as well as predicting when the business is not going to thrive. Unlike other business it is almost impossible to predict popularity. Social trending can rapidly change and the artist can easily ignore the plan and unwisely trust trending as a fact of the future.

Social Impact

Social impact is key to understanding the planing. In music social trends, tastes in music, and something as important as a viral video can all effect the plan and success. Social trends need to be accounted for, and part of the plan, as shown in the illustration. Music is social in nature and part of the uniqueness of the business. Without an accounting of society and it’s impact on music the scenario will be difficult to plan




Herstand, A. (2014, September 8). Fans Aren’t Going To Pay For Music Anymore. And That’s Ok. – Digital Music News.

ITunes. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from

Wade, W., & Wagner, N. (2012). Scenario planning a field guide to the future. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.

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