Music's biggest night showcases success, but there's still a need for transparency
© Getty Images

Tonight is the big night.

Viewers from across the country, and indeed in other parts of the world, are preparing to tune in and watch the 58th Annual Grammy Awards show.

Over the years, much has changed within the music industry. Artists have experimented with new styles of music, there's been greater convergence between once-competing genres and the sound quality of the music, itself, has been greatly enhanced.

Another significant change is the format by which music is both delivered and enjoyed.

Long gone are the days of traditional record stores and the era of compact discs. Consumers are increasingly turning to online music stores or streaming services to legally purchase or access the music of their favorite recording artist or musical group. Talk about a revolution.

The dramatic change in music consumption habits hasn't just benefited the listening public. It's also benefited artists and the music industry, as a whole.

Thanks to online platforms, up-and-coming artists now have the ability to bypass traditional gatekeepers on their path to stardom. Just ask Justin Bieber or The Weeknd, who each can attest to the career-enhancing opportunities provided by legitimate online platforms.

Beyond increased promotional value, online music services have also created new revenue streams for the music industry. According to the recording industry, in the first half of 2015 alone, revenues from music streaming services grew by more than 23 percent from the previous year to surpass $1 billion for the first time in history. If you combine those figures with the revenues generated from music download sales, the total financial contributions provided by digital music services exceeded $2.3 billion.

The positive impact of digital music doesn't end there.

Digital music services are also responsible for the rapid growth in SoundExchange, a not-for-profit that collects royalties on behalf of record labels and recording artists. In 2009, SoundExchange reported revenues of $204 million. A mere five years later, that number had nearly quadrupled to $788 million. Given these numbers, it's hard to deny that digital music isn't making an indelible contribution to the overall industry.

All of this progress begs the question: "How can we make 2017 and the years that follow better for tomorrow's musicians?" The full answer is rather complex, but there appears to be at least one policy-oriented solution that seems to be gaining momentum. It centers on transparency.

Greater transparency would alleviate many of the music industry's difficulties associated with its longstanding "black box" problem and ensure that musicians receive a greater percentage of the billions of licensing fees that online music services pay into the system annually. Increased transparency would also make it easier for legitimate music services to offer a larger selection of licensed music to their online users — thereby exponentially expanding the pool of potential royalties that could be paid to musicians for use of their creative works.

Bob Dylan may have said it best in his 1964 hit song: "The times, they are a-changin'," but hopefully the symbiotic relationship that exists between musicians, consumers and online music services will remain the same.

Barnes is general counsel for the Digital Media Association.