Music streaming’s effect on purchasing
By Jocelyn Codner
As a young teen, there was nothing more important to me than my unnecessarily large CD collection. Even after iTunes came out, I still used a portable CD player for a long time. I strongly protested my dad’s notion of getting me an iPod for Christmas. I didn’t like the idea of not having my CDs with me—of not being able to touch them, look at the album art or read the lyrics obsessively.
It took me a while, but soon I was in love with my iPod and the iTunes store. I only bought physical albums by those artists really important to me. Then I began using sites like Napster and LimeWire to download entire albums at no charge whatsoever. Forget about the sentimentality of holding an album in your hands when you can experience all types of music totally free!
We all know what happened next—illegal downloading got big and the music industry began to protest. And while they did their best to fight it, there really is no getting around the fact that the attitudes around music consumption and ownership are changing, and the industry needs to change with it.
David Kusek, Vice President at Berklee College of Music, posted in his blog, “Future of Music,” that the industry should treat the consumption of music through the Internet much like utilities (i.e. electric and water). A small monthly fee for unlimited access to music streaming and downloading would rake in the dough the music industry is missing out on with this shift in consumer outlets to the Internet. Kusek admitted that this would be a “radical and complex undertaking,” but isn’t that the kind of change technology is seeing in general?
“It’s time for the main players in the music business today, namely the large record publishers, to cooperate with the inventors and jointly create a future for music where the money really flows and the global market for music can grow from $32 billion to as much as $100 billion,” posted Kusek.
In this culture of new media and broadband Internet, the idea of owning music has almost completely disappeared, and the streaming of music and sharing of digital files has now become the norm. It has completely wiped out any desire to clutter your room and drain your bank account by purchasing actual CDs or vinyl. The iPod and other mp3 players made it unnecessary to have CDs for portable use, and music streaming, set up to combat illegal downloading, has made the possession of mp3 files almost obsolete.
Kusek’s plan would bring a sense of ownership back to streaming, which could ground consumers in their emotional connection to artists and albums like purchasing CDs and vinyl once did.
Gary Heller, CBS Radio’s Vice President of Research and Audience Measurement, said that while streaming eliminates the need to actually purchase music, it actually inspires dedicated music listeners to go buy mp3s of what they like.
As long as there is exposure to an artist’s music, a relationship between them and the listener is created, and the listener is more likely to purchase the artist’s album.
“The more important music is in people’s lives, the better,” said Heller concerning the desire to buy music.
Glenn Peoples of Billboard.biz wrote in his article, “Analysis: Streaming’s Impact On Download Sales,” that some streaming fails to promote the actual purchasing of the digital files and simply replaces it.
“Some cannibalization is natural, but the displacement of high value behavior for a lower value one is problematic,” wrote Peoples.
He mentioned that on-demand music sites have been expected to generate more of an increase in digital downloads, but it’s actually been the non-interactive sites that spur a spike in purchasing.
Non-interactive music streaming will give the listener a taste of something they may really like, leaving it up to them to obtain more of the same material, where as on-demand streaming allows listeners to pick and choose exactly what they want to hear. There’s no need for them to seek out the rest of the album.
Today, most of an artist’s profits come from concerts and merchandise rather than album sales. Recorded music has become the marketing tool for live shows, when it used to be the other way around. So in the industry’s eyes, it’s not so important if consumers actually own mp3s—as long as they go to the shows and buy T-shirts.
What Heller was telling me, and what I believe myself, is that true love for music conquers all. The music industry is experiencing a huge shift right now in how it operates, but those of us who can’t go a moment without our tunes take pride in claiming ownership of them, no matter what the form.
Jocelyn Codner is a senior cinema and photography major who brags about her iTunes all the time. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.