When the Entire Music Industry Changed in October 2006

Tower Records in Brea...RIP
Tower Records in Brea...RIP

It's October 2016. Between the amazing albums, the innovative live tours, the groundbreaking new technology and the multitude of tragic deaths, 2016 is probably going to be remembered as an important year in music history. With the rise of the Streaming Wars and the passing of legends as just a few of the tremendous changing tides of the industry, it's hard to pinpoint exactly when the last time the music industry was on the receiving end of a radical shift really was. Oddly enough, it may have been not just a year, but a specific month that went almost completely unnoticed at the time but a decade later was the exact turning point during its 31 days.

October 2006 changed the entire music industry.

Quite a lot happened over the course of that one month span. Some of what occurred was big news. Some events would reveal themselves to be milestones in the years to come. While some might counter news happens every day, the music world from an industry and artistic standpoint in September 2006 was steering a very different course than the one November 2006 began gravitating towards, and this one month seems to have made all the difference. This is October 2006.

The Closing of CBGB’s
Probably the most romanticized major music story of October 2006, punk rock and outsider art mecca CBGB’s held its final show ever with Patti Smith and Flea on a mid-October Sunday evening. There, the banner came down and a New York icon was gone forever. While important NYC landmarks had closed before and many more seem to fade away with every passing year, CBGB’s was a particular loss whose ripples are still being felt. Having been there that night and seen generation of one-time and current Lower East Side dwellers reflect on their glory days, the closing of CBGB’s became the blueprint for losing major music venues and their aftermath. Originally slated to reopen in Las Vegas, owner Hilly Kristal died less than a year later, and the physical essence changed to a St. Marks Place CBGB’s clothing store that lasted roughly a year, and most recently a CBGB’s Newark Airport Restaurant. In the place of the original CBGB’s is now a John Varvatos clothing store which, surprisingly, does a pretty good maintaining some of CBGB’s original energy by encasing the club’s original walls in glass, preserving those final flyers forever.

Tower Records Announces its Closing
While many at the time were aware that the music industry was in a tailspin, nobody anticipated an actual music retail giant would be throwing in the towel until it happened. Tower Records was the first casualty of the post-physical music era. While the liquidation immediately preceding Christmas 2006 is probably more vividly remembered, the state of shock and uncertainty of that first announced ending sent shockwaves throughout the music world. With Tower Video being a very friendly retailers of several indie distributors as well, not to mention how much they did to help regional acts break national, Tower’s announced closing was the start of a very dark time for music lovers.

Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus Release Debut Albums
16-year-old Taylor Swift’s self-titled debut album began its 24-week reign on top of the Top Country Albums charts on October 24th, 2006. It stayed in the Billboard 200 for 275 weeks and went Quintuple Platinum. That very same day, Hannah Montana’s debut album hit store shelves and debuted at number one, outselling both new albums from John Legend and My Chemical Romance. Tremendous hits at the time, who could have imagine the modern pop icons would both have shared the same date for that first milestone.

Jin and MySpace Sell Directly to Fans
While former Ruff Ryders member Jin wasn’t quite at the apex of his popularity in October 2006, he did have the foresight to use exploding social media site MySpace to reach his fans directly with the, in retrospect, ahead-of-its-time rollout of his album I Promise. Exclusively sold through MySpace through pre-orders throughout October, Jin personalized each copy and mailed it out to fans, bypassing the traditional stores and digital outlets completely. While artists had previous used their own personal music groups and fan club to sell directly to listeners long before, Jin’s was the first to connect that element to modern social media as we know it.

Kevin Federline Flops
Finally, there’s a lot of individual chart entries that can be pointed to in October 2006 that show a significant shift. Along with being the month of the last album from The Who, you had “Weird” Al Yankovic having his first top 10 hit (in a year where there were more new #1 albums than any year prior) and probably the biggest sign you could no longer create a music superstar on a whim. Kevin Federline, the “Popozaoin’” K-Fed then-husband of Britney Spears had a debut album so ridiculed from before it was even announced that it turned into hype, and then a strange negative hype. In the year of Snakes on a Plane, it was a hotly anticipated flop. Everyone was talking about how nobody was talking about K-Fed’s Playing With Fire. Really, of all the surreal elements of 2006, this is the most peculiar to look back on, and if we were ironically looking down on irony and somehow through the looking glass of music mass media as we knew it. While it still debuted at 151 on the Billboard charts, it became the go-to name for an underperforming release for years to come. If only some brave soul was willing to revisit Playing With Fire…


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