The music industry’s problems in perspective

Posted by on Aug 1, 2009 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments


Great infographics work from the NYT

Like the man says, maybe this marks the end of that really selfish buy-to-own model ("it's mine, all mine") as opposed to pay-for-access?

After all, music as a selfish thing – something we buy and consume on our own – is more than slightly wierd, isn't it? 

What the industry needs is more ways to make money from folk's ability to interact with each other around music….


  1. Andrew
    August 2, 2009

    “What the industry needs is more ways to make money from folk’s ability to interact with each other around music….”
    You’ve entirely missed it.
    There are two players in “the music industry” – There are the actual musicians/artists/bands out there doing the work, and there are the corporations who specialize in selling plastic discs (or magnetic tapes, or whatever the medium of the day may be). Anyone from the corporation side would see and entirely agree with the graphs as you’ve designed them above, they lack a currently viable model of massive sales.
    But – if you actually asked anyone from the musician/artist/band camp how they actually made money, income from selling plastic discs or magnetic tapes would not come close to income from actually playing shows, on a nightly basis, in front of a live audience of actual people.
    I can remember going to shows with my friends, and it wasn’t “interaction” per. se. the way it is so often defined in terms of the internet. It was actual interaction: meeting up, spending the evening paying for and watching bands perform, and buying merchandise off an actual band member at the back of the club at the end of the night.
    The music industry has a viable model to make money from folk’s ability to interact with each other around music, and it has nothing to do with companies that sell plastic discs.

  2. Mark Earls
    August 2, 2009

    Thanks, Andrew, but that is my point precisely (see link)
    I’ve blogged about this a number of times, just wanted to draw reader’s attention to what’s going on from the limited perspective of the (recorded) music industry – the labels etc – and what they need to do about it (which is looking beyond the sale of a recorded music item). Key to this, I’m suggesting – as you do – that it’s what people really do with the music and more importantly with each other around the music (live or otherwise) that matters.
    Hope that clarifies

  3. tim
    August 2, 2009

    I’m sure you are not but it does seem to me that you are both taking the archbishop’s line: “real” relationships at a music gig are better than the “mine mine, mine” approach to own cd’s/friends on facebook.

  4. hugh de winton
    August 3, 2009

    Very interesting
    I think we need to redefine what is meant by the record industry / music industry. Amount spent on entertainment through music has ultimately gone up as has the time spent interacting with others via music and the amount and breadth of music being consumed.
    Record sales have gone down as have incomes of those bands who aren’t able to sell out decent sized venues and capitalise on distributing free content.
    If looked at as a bigger picture including all music entertainment I’d argue that the model is working and consumer benefit has never been higher.

  5. Michael Dezso
    August 3, 2009

    For the musician side, Wired magazine, years ago, proposed what they called the “Tiger Woods” model. Tiger Woods makes his money, not on tournament purses (though some there too), but on the other things: endorsements, commercials, appearance fees. He as they put it, “gives the golf away for free” and makes money on the rest. So musicians, they argued, are in a model where they make less and less on the actual sales of the songs, but more on the appearances, t-shirt sales, appearance at festivals and interviews, etc.
    Andrew, this is what you’re suggesting has always been true, except for a handful of artists at the absolute top (MJ, Prince, etc.). Perhaps it’s not true of even the mega-stars. For music companies, this (perhaps) lowers the cost of signing artists and lowers their risk of a flop. They still do what they do best, market, but at a diminishing rate.
    The real miss on the part of music companies has to do with hardware. Not being iPod cost Sony billions. Money for music as a song has dropped dramatically ($1s for .$.10s), but money spent on music in the form of devices has sharply risen.
    But technology can create opportunities for them as well. Some company makes live discs of shows you just saw. So you buy a ticket, concessions, etc. and the re-up to get the disc of that performance. I can’t remember the last time I bought a CD from a store, but I have bought several of those live cds because, like my pictures, it’s a part of my life, not just some amalgam of the band’s live performances.

  6. Business Genome
    August 4, 2009

    Thanks for posting this article. As sad as it is to see the demise of the music industry, it’s important to find a lesson in all of this, especially so that the same mistakes are not made again. Amazon lost the battle in online music to iTunes, but they did not make the same mistake again and is now in the front seat of the e-book/Kindle phenomenon. In this age of competition it’s important not to get too comfortable with past successes. The next big thing may be just around the corner and you want to be ready for it.