Music for the masses

Listening and watching music yesterday evening in my ‘media cave’, I started again thinking about the value of ‘content’ and the current distribution models of music. According to some sources, already 95 % of CD sales in China are pirated, and the online distribution (legal and not-so) continues to grow in popularity (see references as http://cyberextazy.wordpress.com/tag/research-statistics/ http://www.bpi.co.uk/pdf/BPI_UK_Commercial_Music_Piracy.pdf http://www.riaa.com/news/marketingdata/facts.asp etc.). Looking at the ubiquity of mp3 players, the problems people are having with various copy “protected” legal disks and the hassle-free, cross-device use that is associated with non-protected digital music, it is easy to foresee that the strongly protective DRM road is problematic. If, on the other hand, a CD or a media file is more like an advertisement for the artist in the future, than the actual product people are willing to pay for, where the income is going to come from? Clicking through my collection with the Vista Media Centre, one alternative quickly became obvious: the added value of lyrics, high-resolution album cover art, additional media such as music videos and photo slideshows are surely something that would provide rich experiences for those who really become interested in the artist, after listening the music. There are multiple physical services and products that provide additional value to digital music, such as concerts and large-format printed materials, high-quality archive copies in well-produced DVD/Blueray formats that would still provide revenue for the industry and the artists, even if the business models are definitely going to undergo a transition.

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland.

4 thoughts on “Music for the masses”

  1. If you browse the web, it’s easier to find blog entries written by artists who struggle with similar topics than here. It’s very refreshing to see that there are non-professional music listeners and customers who think some music-related products would give added value to the music itself.

    I think digital music has unlimited possibilities for promotion and more free it is, the more it usually spreads. This kind of promotion doesn’t need major labels or bad artist deals – in the best case it will be taken care of by the fans and supporters – some successful bands from MySpace as an example.

    In some years we will see (I hope) printed materials, DVDs and other rich, hi-quality content produced by supporters and fans with the permission of the artist. In order this to happen, the borders of copyright laws must bend, artists should became less dependent on major labels and among labels organizations like RIAA and Teosto should start to believe that music videos on YouTube are good promotion and source of income, not a copyright infringement.

  2. I agree with you, Juska. However, it is difficult to change the existing business practices, so I suppose the real transition to “music [also: games, other content] as service” model will take some time. But we are already on that road and there is no going back. Hopefully there will be more diversity and more interesting options for everyone waiting where we are heading.

  3. Interesting reflection for our constant changing world.However, when I had wonder on this topic I put myself from another angle. From those individuals who make more use of the “pirated products”. I wonder if those buyers really have the money to buy the original CD? In most of the cases, these individuals do not have the resources to really buy the collection of 5 CD of their favorite artist at 9 Euros each Imagine those countries where maybe the monthly income is not even 50 euros. Then, if that is the case are those artist really loosing a market that they do not really have? On the other hand, when the people, even with no economical resources are fans of someone, for sure they will do their best to go to a life concert or try to get original things from the artist. Real fans want original items all over the world.

    I am not on the pirated favor, however I know there is a black market needed as soon as the economical differences between members of the society are so wide.

    On the other hand, as you accurate said, there will be developed other economical mechanism in order to keep this on track and moving. Economical models from my perspective are always under transition, actually everything keeps on moving constantly all the time, in all the areas because is part of life.

    One of my personal questions in all what relates art and culture is what do we want for these “products and services” to head to? to have them accessible to everybody? make huge profits out of them? which will be their primary goal? Do we have people educated enough to appreciate art? I am really interested to see where the actual “art of the streets” at least in latinamerica will head at. This forms of expression (either graphical or musical) are fascinating, but the artist will have to survive in some way. Let’s see how they will do it.

  4. “If, on the other hand, a CD or a media file is more like an advertisement for the artist in the future, than the actual product people are willing to pay for, where the income is going to come from?”

    I don’t believe it’s necessary that music won’t be paid for in the future too. This is supported also by the studies that have shown people who share music online also spend more money on buying music that the average music fan. So sharing can’t be shown to be hurting sales (except on the record labels’ “data”), and there seems to be at least correlation, if not causality, between sharing and buying music. (See for example the BBC news item, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4718249.stm).

    What I’m more concerned about is that the cd as a music medium is nearing the end of its life cycle, because the lower-quality downloads might be taking over. I hope that this is still years from happening, or at least that there will be other high-quality alternatives to downloading low-bitrate files that only sound good if you play them on lousy devices like an average computer or an mp3 player.

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