Is the Music Industry Suffering Because There is Too Much Music?

Recent reports show that iTunes Store music sales have dropped around 13%. Overall album sales dropped 8% in 2013. Fewer people are buying music, and more are streaming it. Yet most people using streaming services aren’t paying for their music; only 28 million people worldwide were paying a subscription fee for their music in 2013. The rest are happy to put up with ads in between the hits to get music for nothing.

At the same time, rumors suggest that Apple is trying to get record labels to sign on for $5 monthly subscriptions. It’s true that, if the price were lower, more people might be willing pay to stream music; but are there enough people who care about music that much to be willing to pay anything at all?

Are There Enough Songs?

In 1991, Bob Dylan said:

"The world don’t need any more songs. […] They’ve got enough. They’ve got way too many. As a matter of fact, if nobody wrote any songs from this day on, the world ain’t gonna suffer for it. Nobody cares. There’s enough songs for people to listen to, if they want to listen to songs. For every man, woman and child on earth, they could be sent, probably, each of them, a hundred records, and never be repeated. There’s enough songs. Unless someone’s gonna come along with a pure heart and has something to say. That’s a different story. But as far as songwriting, any idiot could do it. If you see me do it, any idiot could do it.

Perhaps the problem isn’t about owning vs. streaming music, or piracy vs. paying; perhaps it’s simply that there’s too much music, and most people simply don’t care enough about music.

I’ve been a music fan since the 1970s. I had lots of albums back in the day, and spent a lot of time with friends, going to concerts, discovering new music, playing my finds for others, and going to used record stores to look for obscure bands. When I discovered classical music, I found a genre with a rich history, and thousands of works to discover, and have spent a few decades doing just that.

But I’m an exception. I don’t know many people (other than on internet forums and newsgroups) who care enough about music to do more than buy a couple of CDs a year (or, now, downloads). Most people simply want a soundtrack to their lives. They don’t care very much which songs they hear. Sure, they get pulled in by the latest hits, and may even buy some songs to listen to, for a while, on their mobile phones. But the half-life of a pop song is no more than a month or two, and those songs get forgotten as new earworms work their way up the pecking order.

I sent a draft of this article to my friend Doug Adams, who, I know, has similar musical discovery experience. He said something very fitting.

"Most people will never crave a new musical experience. They just want to hear songs that don’t suck while they work, drive, and do other activities. Music is just wallpaper. It brightens their day. Discovering new music is fine as long as it sounds like the stuff they already like. Radio, and streaming, survives on that premise.

He’s right: most people want music that’s familiar. That’s why genres such as smooth jazz exist: because the music isn’t demanding, and it all sounds alike. That’s why bands like Mumford & Sons exist: every one of their songs sounds the same.[1]

A Golden Age of Music

We’re living in a golden age of music. Back in the day, we didn’t have so many ways of listening to music. There was radio, and, well, other than your collection or that of your friends, there was nothing else. You chose between AM and FM. AM played nothing but the top 40 hits, and FM, at least for a while, played “album rock,” non-hit cuts from albums, and even entire sides or albums late at night.

Then came MTV; a bit later, the internet came, with digital music and the ability to store thousands of songs on a single device. Digital downloads – and piracy – meant that the amount of music we could access at any time increased by several orders of magnitude. Now, with streaming services, we can choose from tens of millions of tracks, picking the exact music we want to hear when we want to hear it.

Of course, that assumes that we know what music we want to hear. As we have more music available, a few clicks away,, people are spending less time building up collections and becoming familiar with music; they’re spending more time shuffling through pre-packaged playlists that are little better than what the radio offers. Sure, any subscriber to a streaming service can check out the latest Taylor Swift album, but also music by Miles Davis, John Cage, or some old Delta blues. But most people still go for the hits, and the streaming services promote that music, because they know it gets played a lot. It’s familiar; it’s not surprising.[2]

And music is more fragmented than ever. There are hundreds of genres and sub-genres of music; tens of thousands of artists. It’s harder and harder to find anything new. The iTunes Store currently has more than 43 million “songs;” if you assume an average of four minutes a song [3], it would take more than 7,853 years to listen to each of these songs once. As more and more music is released, there’s less of a chance of anyone discovering more than those few songs that float to the top.

As Dylan said, any idiot can write songs; now, any idiot can record them too, and that contributes to the glut. All an artist needs is a laptop and a microphone.

Maybe there is just too much music. Maybe the music industry needs to stop trying to peddle everything and get back to the way it worked a few decades ago, nurturing artists, helping them grow, and developing labels with unique character. I’m not naive; I know it’s too late, but as the music industry laments its decline, it’s time to consider that the reason might not be piracy or freeloading, but simply the fact that it’s too easy to hear music, and that most people simply don’t care about what they hear.


  1. I crave new musical experiences. And this thought brought back a memory. It was July 27, 1977, just two weeks after the huge blackout in New York City. With some friends, I was hanging out by Cunningham Park in Queens. One guy had a boombox, and we tuned into WNEW, the wonderful radio station that played album rock. DJ Alison Steele was playing the new Grateful Dead album Terrapin Station. On side two, the title track, we heard the Grateful Dead with an orchestra; strings and flutes and oboes! (I just put it on as I was writing this, and I can, somewhere in my reptilian brain, recall that first feeling of surprise hearing that song.)  ↩
  2. I don’t currently subscribe to any streaming services, but if I did, I would definitely use it to discover unfamiliar music, new genres, like old blues, Indian classical music and classic country; all genres that have a small presence in my music library, but that I would like to know more about. I’d like to expand my knowledge of jazz, too; I have a lot of music by a few artists, and I’d like to learn more about the complex history of that genre.  ↩
  3. This is a guesstimate, but it balances a higher number of short songs with longer tracks, such as those found on classical recordings. But it doesn’t matter that much what estimated duration one uses; the resulting number is suitably ridiculous no matter how you slice it.  ↩

52 thoughts on “Is the Music Industry Suffering Because There is Too Much Music?

  1. I don’t think that the problem is too much music; or rather it is, but that’s just the underlying cause of the real problem: It’s really hard to find the good stuff. What we need is not less music, but some way to separate the wheat from the chaff. A good streaming algorithm could do this (why, for the love of Pete, can iTunes Radio not reach into my very carefully rated iTunes collection that’s already in iTunes Match and figure out what I like from that?), but there are other ways: A new label curating artists to create a particular niche or interesting stable, as you suggest (I don’t think it’s too late for that at all), could work, and I can think of other ways as well. Music is going through the “500 channels and nothing on” stage that TV went through until Netflix came along and fixed it. We need some sort of analog for Netflix for music. iTMS could be that, but isn’t, yet.

  2. I don’t think that the problem is too much music; or rather it is, but that’s just the underlying cause of the real problem: It’s really hard to find the good stuff. What we need is not less music, but some way to separate the wheat from the chaff. A good streaming algorithm could do this (why, for the love of Pete, can iTunes Radio not reach into my very carefully rated iTunes collection that’s already in iTunes Match and figure out what I like from that?), but there are other ways: A new label curating artists to create a particular niche or interesting stable, as you suggest (I don’t think it’s too late for that at all), could work, and I can think of other ways as well. Music is going through the “500 channels and nothing on” stage that TV went through until Netflix came along and fixed it. We need some sort of analog for Netflix for music. iTMS could be that, but isn’t, yet.

  3. Another note: I *love* Mumford and Sons. It doesn’t bother me at all that all their songs sound alike, because I can and do listen to other stuff. A band is kind of like a brand; I would be very confused if Hershey suddenly started selling, say, lunch meat, or comic books.

  4. Another note: I *love* Mumford and Sons. It doesn’t bother me at all that all their songs sound alike, because I can and do listen to other stuff. A band is kind of like a brand; I would be very confused if Hershey suddenly started selling, say, lunch meat, or comic books.

  5. Wasn’t it always teenagers that drove the big numbers for the music industry? Now teenagers might listen to some music when they aren’t watching Netflix or youTube, playing video games, or taking selfies and social networking. We were a captive audience for the music industry back in the day. Hell, if I could figure out how to play video games (and I’ve tried) I might not be listening to much music either.

    • “Wasn’t it always teenagers that drove the big numbers for the music industry? Now teenagers might listen to some music when they aren’t watching Netflix or youTube”

      Spot on about teenagers being the demo. But I think you still miss the point. Teenagers are listening to music on YouTube, for free. I’m pretty certain I recently read a study that said YouTube was the #1 source for teen music consumption.

      —–

      More broadly, I totally disagree with Kirk’s essential argument.

      The music industry is suffering because, for the past 15 years or so, its core demographic has been able to listen for free. And it’s damn hard to compete with free.

      If free somehow disappeared, which I don’t there is chance in hell it will, then I think teens would buy just as much music as they did in the olden days.

      • You’re right about the YouTube numbers. When I learned, a few years ago, how much YouTube was a go-to source for music, I was very surprised.

      • I don’t disagree with you about youTube but I don’t think I’m missing the point. When I would come home from Jr. High all those years ago my choices were to listen to music or watch Dark Shadows on TV. Teens’ lives are quite a bit different now. When I was a Sr. in High School I spent $1000 on my first stereo system and it was my most cherished possession for many years. Now it’s like, “what’s a stereo system?” Now music comes out of computers along with all that other entertaining stuff.

        I still buy a lot of music and believe that excellent new music is pretty easy to find. But now the music industry has so much more competition for our free time and attention. The industry can navel gaze or blame streaming and piracy but I suspect the bigger problem is that the world has moved on and the industry is simply less relevant. Not to me, of course. I still love it.

        • I’m not sure about that; I think people are listening to more music now than ever. I do, however, agree that disposable income has far more outlets than it did when I was young, and people are going to be spending money on their smart phones, Internet, video games, DVDs, etc.

  6. Wasn’t it always teenagers that drove the big numbers for the music industry? Now teenagers might listen to some music when they aren’t watching Netflix or youTube, playing video games, or taking selfies and social networking. We were a captive audience for the music industry back in the day. Hell, if I could figure out how to play video games (and I’ve tried) I might not be listening to much music either.

    • “Wasn’t it always teenagers that drove the big numbers for the music industry? Now teenagers might listen to some music when they aren’t watching Netflix or youTube”

      Spot on about teenagers being the demo. But I think you still miss the point. Teenagers are listening to music on YouTube, for free. I’m pretty certain I recently read a study that said YouTube was the #1 source for teen music consumption.

      —–

      More broadly, I totally disagree with Kirk’s essential argument.

      The music industry is suffering because, for the past 15 years or so, its core demographic has been able to listen for free. And it’s damn hard to compete with free.

      If free somehow disappeared, which I don’t there is chance in hell it will, then I think teens would buy just as much music as they did in the olden days.

      • You’re right about the YouTube numbers. When I learned, a few years ago, how much YouTube was a go-to source for music, I was very surprised.

      • I don’t disagree with you about youTube but I don’t think I’m missing the point. When I would come home from Jr. High all those years ago my choices were to listen to music or watch Dark Shadows on TV. Teens’ lives are quite a bit different now. When I was a Sr. in High School I spent $1000 on my first stereo system and it was my most cherished possession for many years. Now it’s like, “what’s a stereo system?” Now music comes out of computers along with all that other entertaining stuff.

        I still buy a lot of music and believe that excellent new music is pretty easy to find. But now the music industry has so much more competition for our free time and attention. The industry can navel gaze or blame streaming and piracy but I suspect the bigger problem is that the world has moved on and the industry is simply less relevant. Not to me, of course. I still love it.

        • I’m not sure about that; I think people are listening to more music now than ever. I do, however, agree that disposable income has far more outlets than it did when I was young, and people are going to be spending money on their smart phones, Internet, video games, DVDs, etc.

  7. I don’t use iTunes except peripherally – I use the now discontinued (but alive and kicking) Squeezebox system. The only streaming service I use is Spotify. Mostly I use this to audition albums for purchase, either by download or as physical copy. The big problem I have had has been the whole music discovery – back in the 70s and early 80s, finding out about new music was via the inky music press and from one’s peer group. This sort of built a community and a sense of ownership of one’s taste. Nowadays it seems to me that just about all the music you might want is available at a mouse-click, and that influences one’s relationship with the music.

    I have a premium Spotify account (which means I can stream through the Squeezebox system and through the HiFi), and I have a very limited range of friends (one in fact) that I share music suggestions with. I also see the listening of last.fm friends. Maybe this is a bit luddite, but it feels a bit like a return to my youth.

    The Squeezebox system has a SmartMix plugin with uses an external music matching service to generate playlists from local files and external streaming services such as last.fm, Spotify, Qobuz and others. That’s quite an interesting way to find new music.

    As an aside, my music purchasing has maybe doubled since I took up with Spotify!

    • I’ve found exactly the same. Using streaming services have definately accelerated my music buying. I use streaming for discovery and try before I buy. This is especially useful with classical music where there can be big differences between recordings.

      I use Qobuz, which is CD quality; for the most part,has a good classical and new world library and Beats. Beats in particular has proved to be great for discovery. Streaming in CD quality is important to me so I hope Qobuz survives, but it doesn’t look too good. WiMP/Tidal is also offering CD quality but Qobuz has a focus on classical music that I doubt any other services will match.

      Like Kirk I think I’m an exception. I still buy music and amongst my peer group I’m the only person who will actually put an album on and listen to it, rather than it accompany anything else I might be doing.

  8. I don’t use iTunes except peripherally – I use the now discontinued (but alive and kicking) Squeezebox system. The only streaming service I use is Spotify. Mostly I use this to audition albums for purchase, either by download or as physical copy. The big problem I have had has been the whole music discovery – back in the 70s and early 80s, finding out about new music was via the inky music press and from one’s peer group. This sort of built a community and a sense of ownership of one’s taste. Nowadays it seems to me that just about all the music you might want is available at a mouse-click, and that influences one’s relationship with the music.

    I have a premium Spotify account (which means I can stream through the Squeezebox system and through the HiFi), and I have a very limited range of friends (one in fact) that I share music suggestions with. I also see the listening of last.fm friends. Maybe this is a bit luddite, but it feels a bit like a return to my youth.

    The Squeezebox system has a SmartMix plugin with uses an external music matching service to generate playlists from local files and external streaming services such as last.fm, Spotify, Qobuz and others. That’s quite an interesting way to find new music.

    As an aside, my music purchasing has maybe doubled since I took up with Spotify!

    • I’ve found exactly the same. Using streaming services have definately accelerated my music buying. I use streaming for discovery and try before I buy. This is especially useful with classical music where there can be big differences between recordings.

      I use Qobuz, which is CD quality; for the most part,has a good classical and new world library and Beats. Beats in particular has proved to be great for discovery. Streaming in CD quality is important to me so I hope Qobuz survives, but it doesn’t look too good. WiMP/Tidal is also offering CD quality but Qobuz has a focus on classical music that I doubt any other services will match.

      Like Kirk I think I’m an exception. I still buy music and amongst my peer group I’m the only person who will actually put an album on and listen to it, rather than it accompany anything else I might be doing.

  9. There might be too much music around, maybe. What’s desperately needed is more live music, more music education, more social events where people can play.

    It used to be that a piano or guitar in the house was not uncommon but was also a special thing, and others participated, singing usually. Most of this was more folkloric but there was some social performance at homes of classical or ragtime music I think in the early 20c. I’d like to see something like that come back. Of course, the kind of music one can play like this is limited to simpler more acoustic material. Sounds crazy, but I’d like to see this happen.

    And music education. Please, please beef this up.

  10. There might be too much music around, maybe. What’s desperately needed is more live music, more music education, more social events where people can play.

    It used to be that a piano or guitar in the house was not uncommon but was also a special thing, and others participated, singing usually. Most of this was more folkloric but there was some social performance at homes of classical or ragtime music I think in the early 20c. I’d like to see something like that come back. Of course, the kind of music one can play like this is limited to simpler more acoustic material. Sounds crazy, but I’d like to see this happen.

    And music education. Please, please beef this up.

  11. I used to subscribe to MOG, then it went away. I determined I only used it to listen to new releases and occasionally listen to an artist I was interested in. I determined that I could listen to most of the new album releases every week for free. I signed up for a free Spotify subscription. You think iTunes radio playlists are bad. Spotify’s appear even worse. It basically allows me to check out artists to see if I like them. I do have to agree that there is way too much music out there, luckily I can disregard quite a bit of it because I am not much interested in the genre. I spend $100 or so each month on new music. My wife is not really happy with my growing collection of CDs. I buy mainly used CDs and a few new ones that I like. I usually find them for less than downloads would cost. I used to listen to the radio, but as soon as I bought my first iPod that ended. I like listening to what I want to, not what someone else wants me to.

  12. I used to subscribe to MOG, then it went away. I determined I only used it to listen to new releases and occasionally listen to an artist I was interested in. I determined that I could listen to most of the new album releases every week for free. I signed up for a free Spotify subscription. You think iTunes radio playlists are bad. Spotify’s appear even worse. It basically allows me to check out artists to see if I like them. I do have to agree that there is way too much music out there, luckily I can disregard quite a bit of it because I am not much interested in the genre. I spend $100 or so each month on new music. My wife is not really happy with my growing collection of CDs. I buy mainly used CDs and a few new ones that I like. I usually find them for less than downloads would cost. I used to listen to the radio, but as soon as I bought my first iPod that ended. I like listening to what I want to, not what someone else wants me to.

  13. Is it a case of ‘Too Much Music’ or enough music. I’m in my late thirties and most of my friends don’t buy or stream music anymore. When we talk about it the universal refrain is I’ve got enough music. By the time people reach their mid thirties they know what they like and have what they want.

    Most of my friends like me grew up with cassettes, CD’s, illegal downloads while at University and then iTunes when we got jobs. It’s possible we might be the last generation that actually bought music in any volume.

    BTW Taylor Swift’s 1989 is not available on any streaming services.

    • Thanks for pointing out that the Taylor Swift album is not available for streaming. It’s not something I would’ve known. 🙂

      • I’ve not consciously heard her so I don’t know if I’d like her or not, but I was interested because I have some concerns music streaming services might go the way of TV services.

        I have been using Netflix. I live in Switzerland but the catalog is so small it’s laughable. Being British I use the UK version via a VPN. The problem is the rate at which programmes come and go. I’m seriously considering cancelling my subscription.

        Until relatively recently music streaming services have been fairly comprehensive and I’m sure it’s contributed to their popularity. I really hope they don’t go the way of online TV subscription where something is here today but gone tomorrow.

  14. Is it a case of ‘Too Much Music’ or enough music. I’m in my late thirties and most of my friends don’t buy or stream music anymore. When we talk about it the universal refrain is I’ve got enough music. By the time people reach their mid thirties they know what they like and have what they want.

    Most of my friends like me grew up with cassettes, CD’s, illegal downloads while at University and then iTunes when we got jobs. It’s possible we might be the last generation that actually bought music in any volume.

    BTW Taylor Swift’s 1989 is not available on any streaming services.

    • Thanks for pointing out that the Taylor Swift album is not available for streaming. It’s not something I would’ve known. 🙂

      • I’ve not consciously heard her so I don’t know if I’d like her or not, but I was interested because I have some concerns music streaming services might go the way of TV services.

        I have been using Netflix. I live in Switzerland but the catalog is so small it’s laughable. Being British I use the UK version via a VPN. The problem is the rate at which programmes come and go. I’m seriously considering cancelling my subscription.

        Until relatively recently music streaming services have been fairly comprehensive and I’m sure it’s contributed to their popularity. I really hope they don’t go the way of online TV subscription where something is here today but gone tomorrow.

  15. The problem is the lack of talent of most of the artists that are releasing albums these days. The releases are so poor that no one is interested in purchasing them. Most of my music purchases are of artists from the ’60’s and ’70’s. And will probably be that way for the forsaeeable future.

    • I’m not sure the qualitative criticism is the best thing; I’m sure there’s plenty of music out in that jungle. A lot of people say that, but I’m sure if you look you can still find good music.

  16. The problem is the lack of talent of most of the artists that are releasing albums these days. The releases are so poor that no one is interested in purchasing them. Most of my music purchases are of artists from the ’60’s and ’70’s. And will probably be that way for the forsaeeable future.

    • I’m not sure the qualitative criticism is the best thing; I’m sure there’s plenty of music out in that jungle. A lot of people say that, but I’m sure if you look you can still find good music.

  17. Don’t think you can ever have too much music! But the problem is that streaming services encourage flitting from track to track in a kind of ‘you have five seconds to make an impression’ way, rather than whatever passes for ‘serious’ listening these days.

  18. Don’t think you can ever have too much music! But the problem is that streaming services encourage flitting from track to track in a kind of ‘you have five seconds to make an impression’ way, rather than whatever passes for ‘serious’ listening these days.

  19. If I had a streaming subscription, I would also use it to discover new music, and yes that makes you, me and anyone thinking like us an exception because most people are looking for familiarity in the music they are listening too, it is a psychological trait of human beings that, I believe, has been researched (I must find the references now!).
    There is too much music in the sense that no human being would be able to listen to that amount of music in their life, but is it the purpose of online music retailers and music labels to sort through that music for us? I am so happy to see, thanks to the digital distribution of music, many albums that have never seen the light on CDs, or we’re taken out of labels’ catalogues for decades now being available. One could say the same about books, films, video games…as an audience, we have to make choices, because we don’t have the time to listen to all that. I’m in a particular category because I’m a music scholar and I consider important to be aware of new music. Well, it is humanly impossible, which is a very big problem because it makes music history impossible.
    I’m seriously considering getting a subscription to qobuz uk, because I’m French and I like them but also because £200 would be close, maybe even under what I spend annually on CDs and downloads, and for that price I would be able to keep up with most of the new albums that are coming out and reissues, except that if I don’t have the time for one month or two to listen to anything, I would think that I just threw £40 by the window. That would be different if I had spend 40 quids on CDs or downloads that I can listen to anytime. That is a big change in attitude for me and I guess for a lot of people.
    I think the reason why iTunes is loosing on music downloads has less to do with the amount of music and the little value that music has for most people, than with the lack of added value that iTunes has at the moment. Streaming is one thing, one big thing, and probably what bites the most into iTunes revenues, but the more traditional and recent competition has grown too. First the old cd, it is now often cheaper to buy a cd and rip it into iTunes than to buy the same music in the iTunes Store. Especially if you’re not in a hurry. Then there are many other online retailers offering real cd quality downloads: bandcamp, qobuz, hdtracks. You can also download directly from labels such as: 2L, Bis, Harmonia Mundi, Naim, Linn. Others have clubs like B&W. And now one can stream in 16b/44.1KHz with Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer soon.
    I’ve stopped buying music in iTunes since qobuz started, because I didn’t see the point in paying more or the same for inferior quality (whether you can hear it is another question). I’ve always been attached to the object, the LP, the cd, going dematerialised was a big thing. I did it because I moved overseas and couldn’t accumulate as many CDs as I could before, also because I couldn’t move my collection with me (until the iPod Classic came around). Now I’m back in Europe and as a consumer iTunes doesn’t bring any added value to the product, I found better elsewhere, and certainly a lot of people have. I think next year the downfall in downloads will be greater, maybe 25%, and I don’t think that buying beats will change anything because people have their habit elsewhere, unless they can do it for less money.
    One last problem for Apple is the lack of attraction of their iPod range. The iPods used to drive people into iTunes and Apple ecosystem, now their iPod line-up is pathetic and I for the first time in 10 years, I mean when my classic dies so maybe 15 years, will be looking into the competition, such a Sony who is coming back with some really good products.
    Sorry for the novel, and keep going Kirk, I love reading your posts, even the anti-audiophile ones ; )

    Pierre

    • Pierre,

      It’s a valid way of thinking. However, before I left France, I subscribed to Qobuz for a few months. What I found was that there was a lot of music, but certain labels’ music wasn’t there at all (Hyperion), and others only allowed certain albums to be streamed (Harmonia Mundi). It turned out that a lot of the new releases I was interested in weren’t available for streaming (there were other labels, but I don’t remember).

      On Spotify, for example, you often find tracks that aren’t available within albums. I looked at that here:

      http://www.kirkville.com/how-many-spotify-tracks-are-unavailable/

      So, for me, it’s really down to all or nothing: if everything is available to stream, then I’d be interested.

      • Yes, that is one of the big problems with streaming, and even sometimes with downloading. For example, speaking of Hyperion, the catalogue of this label is completely out on Qobuz, they must be renegotiating the rights, or maybe it has something to do with Abeille musique closing down, as they were the distributors of Hyperion in France. The availability of label’s catalogues is not a given, although most of them are constantly available, it happens that some albums are going away, sometimes for a long time. Another thing that irritates me on Qobuz is the avalanche of reissues of albums that have fallen into the public domain in Europe. I mean how many editions of Kind of Blue do we need? I wish they could clean up all that mess a bit.

  20. If I had a streaming subscription, I would also use it to discover new music, and yes that makes you, me and anyone thinking like us an exception because most people are looking for familiarity in the music they are listening too, it is a psychological trait of human beings that, I believe, has been researched (I must find the references now!).
    There is too much music in the sense that no human being would be able to listen to that amount of music in their life, but is it the purpose of online music retailers and music labels to sort through that music for us? I am so happy to see, thanks to the digital distribution of music, many albums that have never seen the light on CDs, or we’re taken out of labels’ catalogues for decades now being available. One could say the same about books, films, video games…as an audience, we have to make choices, because we don’t have the time to listen to all that. I’m in a particular category because I’m a music scholar and I consider important to be aware of new music. Well, it is humanly impossible, which is a very big problem because it makes music history impossible.
    I’m seriously considering getting a subscription to qobuz uk, because I’m French and I like them but also because £200 would be close, maybe even under what I spend annually on CDs and downloads, and for that price I would be able to keep up with most of the new albums that are coming out and reissues, except that if I don’t have the time for one month or two to listen to anything, I would think that I just threw £40 by the window. That would be different if I had spend 40 quids on CDs or downloads that I can listen to anytime. That is a big change in attitude for me and I guess for a lot of people.
    I think the reason why iTunes is loosing on music downloads has less to do with the amount of music and the little value that music has for most people, than with the lack of added value that iTunes has at the moment. Streaming is one thing, one big thing, and probably what bites the most into iTunes revenues, but the more traditional and recent competition has grown too. First the old cd, it is now often cheaper to buy a cd and rip it into iTunes than to buy the same music in the iTunes Store. Especially if you’re not in a hurry. Then there are many other online retailers offering real cd quality downloads: bandcamp, qobuz, hdtracks. You can also download directly from labels such as: 2L, Bis, Harmonia Mundi, Naim, Linn. Others have clubs like B&W. And now one can stream in 16b/44.1KHz with Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer soon.
    I’ve stopped buying music in iTunes since qobuz started, because I didn’t see the point in paying more or the same for inferior quality (whether you can hear it is another question). I’ve always been attached to the object, the LP, the cd, going dematerialised was a big thing. I did it because I moved overseas and couldn’t accumulate as many CDs as I could before, also because I couldn’t move my collection with me (until the iPod Classic came around). Now I’m back in Europe and as a consumer iTunes doesn’t bring any added value to the product, I found better elsewhere, and certainly a lot of people have. I think next year the downfall in downloads will be greater, maybe 25%, and I don’t think that buying beats will change anything because people have their habit elsewhere, unless they can do it for less money.
    One last problem for Apple is the lack of attraction of their iPod range. The iPods used to drive people into iTunes and Apple ecosystem, now their iPod line-up is pathetic and I for the first time in 10 years, I mean when my classic dies so maybe 15 years, will be looking into the competition, such a Sony who is coming back with some really good products.
    Sorry for the novel, and keep going Kirk, I love reading your posts, even the anti-audiophile ones ; )

    Pierre

    • Pierre,

      It’s a valid way of thinking. However, before I left France, I subscribed to Qobuz for a few months. What I found was that there was a lot of music, but certain labels’ music wasn’t there at all (Hyperion), and others only allowed certain albums to be streamed (Harmonia Mundi). It turned out that a lot of the new releases I was interested in weren’t available for streaming (there were other labels, but I don’t remember).

      On Spotify, for example, you often find tracks that aren’t available within albums. I looked at that here:

      http://www.kirkville.com/how-many-spotify-tracks-are-unavailable/

      So, for me, it’s really down to all or nothing: if everything is available to stream, then I’d be interested.

      • Yes, that is one of the big problems with streaming, and even sometimes with downloading. For example, speaking of Hyperion, the catalogue of this label is completely out on Qobuz, they must be renegotiating the rights, or maybe it has something to do with Abeille musique closing down, as they were the distributors of Hyperion in France. The availability of label’s catalogues is not a given, although most of them are constantly available, it happens that some albums are going away, sometimes for a long time. Another thing that irritates me on Qobuz is the avalanche of reissues of albums that have fallen into the public domain in Europe. I mean how many editions of Kind of Blue do we need? I wish they could clean up all that mess a bit.

  21. I wonder how the music from this time will be remembered if remembered at all. Music today has no soul. It’s meaningless, overproduced, over sexualized nonsense created with the soul purpose of making money. It’s music for people with short attention spans and undeveloped ears. Creating a popular hit today is actually a science. Thats why it all sounds so similar. Producers have worked out a money spinning formula and it works everytime. 90% of people don’t go looking for music. They are fed it by what the radio/the internet tells them to like.

    The only problem is how memorable are these songs? what do they mean? Thats why I find the music from the past (before the internet destroyed the music business) more interesting. I am a jazz musician. Every time I listen to John Coltrane or Charlie Parker, or even Bob Dylan or BB King (rip!) I hear something new in their music – it reaches me emotionally and I remember it. You can hear these musicians have a soul, have honed their craft, dedicated their lives to it and would still do it if they didn’t get any recognition or money.

    I enjoying listening to music that has an interesting melody, a story. Today people are satisfied with “IM DOWN WITH WHATEVER, IM DOWN WITH WHATEVER, IM DOWN WITH WHATEVER” *in 4/4 thump time* *girl crawls around in her g-string*

    I appreciate everyone has different tastes but man, the state of the music being pumped out for the public to listen to is depressing. Maybe I am getting old (I’m 27…)

    • Gosh 27! You are really past your prime ; p … I’m 42. I understand what you say, being a jazz musician and scholar, however saying that today’s music has no soul is a big generalisation. There are loads of people doing really good music at the moment, but we have to make a big effort to find them as the amount of music produced everyday is unprecedented. You also have to compare music that is comparable, it is not really fair to put back to back Charlie Parker and 2013 top 40. Parker is part of the music pantheon, it was revolutionary at the time, and I agree, you can still learn from it today. But don’t forget that bebop, when it was popular (even now, done by uninspired musicians) could be as formulaic as is today top 40. I wish we could play jazz and touch as many people as Beyoncé, but that’s not the case, and that wasn’t for Parker either. Try to look up for the 1950’s top 40 equivalent, I’m sure you would be surprised.
      Certainly, if the goal is making money that has big impact on the music one’s doing, pleasing the masses implies a degree of compromise. I’m probably naïve, but I still think that even the most successful pop/r&B artist is sincere in his/her music making regardless of how much money they’re making. The music of Fiona Apple and Alicia Keys, for example, is to me, very soulful, as is he music of less known musicians such as Pyeng Threadgill, Bryce Rohde, Mike Nock, Sophie Auster, Liza Lim, Toshio Hosokawa…
      I’m trying to remember what I was listening to in 2013…probably the last Fiona Apple, I also discovered Bat for Lashes, listened to Bernie McGann last output, Gorillaz, Anima Aeterna’s renditions of Poulenc’s piano Concerto and Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique…
      I think it is because a lot of today’s popular music has become so formulaic that people are turning more and more to streaming, so that they don’t have to buy the novelties, can rediscover the past and many current musicians that they would not listen to otherwise.

  22. I wonder how the music from this time will be remembered if remembered at all. Music today has no soul. It’s meaningless, overproduced, over sexualized nonsense created with the soul purpose of making money. It’s music for people with short attention spans and undeveloped ears. Creating a popular hit today is actually a science. Thats why it all sounds so similar. Producers have worked out a money spinning formula and it works everytime. 90% of people don’t go looking for music. They are fed it by what the radio/the internet tells them to like.

    The only problem is how memorable are these songs? what do they mean? Thats why I find the music from the past (before the internet destroyed the music business) more interesting. I am a jazz musician. Every time I listen to John Coltrane or Charlie Parker, or even Bob Dylan or BB King (rip!) I hear something new in their music – it reaches me emotionally and I remember it. You can hear these musicians have a soul, have honed their craft, dedicated their lives to it and would still do it if they didn’t get any recognition or money.

    I enjoying listening to music that has an interesting melody, a story. Today people are satisfied with “IM DOWN WITH WHATEVER, IM DOWN WITH WHATEVER, IM DOWN WITH WHATEVER” *in 4/4 thump time* *girl crawls around in her g-string*

    I appreciate everyone has different tastes but man, the state of the music being pumped out for the public to listen to is depressing. Maybe I am getting old (I’m 27…)

    • Gosh 27! You are really past your prime ; p … I’m 42. I understand what you say, being a jazz musician and scholar, however saying that today’s music has no soul is a big generalisation. There are loads of people doing really good music at the moment, but we have to make a big effort to find them as the amount of music produced everyday is unprecedented. You also have to compare music that is comparable, it is not really fair to put back to back Charlie Parker and 2013 top 40. Parker is part of the music pantheon, it was revolutionary at the time, and I agree, you can still learn from it today. But don’t forget that bebop, when it was popular (even now, done by uninspired musicians) could be as formulaic as is today top 40. I wish we could play jazz and touch as many people as Beyoncé, but that’s not the case, and that wasn’t for Parker either. Try to look up for the 1950’s top 40 equivalent, I’m sure you would be surprised.
      Certainly, if the goal is making money that has big impact on the music one’s doing, pleasing the masses implies a degree of compromise. I’m probably naïve, but I still think that even the most successful pop/r&B artist is sincere in his/her music making regardless of how much money they’re making. The music of Fiona Apple and Alicia Keys, for example, is to me, very soulful, as is he music of less known musicians such as Pyeng Threadgill, Bryce Rohde, Mike Nock, Sophie Auster, Liza Lim, Toshio Hosokawa…
      I’m trying to remember what I was listening to in 2013…probably the last Fiona Apple, I also discovered Bat for Lashes, listened to Bernie McGann last output, Gorillaz, Anima Aeterna’s renditions of Poulenc’s piano Concerto and Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique…
      I think it is because a lot of today’s popular music has become so formulaic that people are turning more and more to streaming, so that they don’t have to buy the novelties, can rediscover the past and many current musicians that they would not listen to otherwise.

  23. I’m very much in the underground of music. I spend half my waking life, Listening, mixing, searching for even thinking about DNB and have done for 15 years. My journey has taken me through hundreds of websites, forums, record stores (both digital and analogue), and i’ve amassed thousands upon thousands of tunes both digital and on vinyl/cd (currently i’m hoarding about 2000 vinyl releases spanning 25 years). And yet I find myself in todays world becoming less and less interested in whats going on in the now, and find myself far too often diggin deeper and deeper into the real unknown of the past. WHY? DNB is probably at its finest period for near a decade in terms of production, diversity and availability, the problem for me is as you say, there is simply TOO MUCH MUSIC.

    5 years back, I wouldn’t have any quarms listening to just about every release I could stream to see what i wanted to buy. This was obviously a great way to find new artists, and though 90% of it I wouldn’t be interested in, I didn;t mind the hunt – If anything I thrived on it. Nowdays with 20/30 releases coming out daily, many across different sites due to exclusivity deals and such, the search has become frankly a chore. If i’m honest I probably find myself actually listening to about 10% of what comes out nowdays simply so I can make headway on the overall search. Ive ended up buying tunes that on reflection I dont even like simply cos after an hour or searching through chaff, its easy to lose your educated ear as to whats ACTUALLY good!

    Now as a DJ all this endless searching for tunes comes with the territory. and thats alot of what i’ve always loved about it, finding the obscure and treasuring it, yet even tho there is SO much more obscure available these days, the speed in which its coming out simply stiffles any joy in the search. I now kind of limit myself to artists, labels etc that I am already familiar with and trust, This is an advantage I have other any NEW DJs((can’t imagine how hard it must be to start as a DJ nowadays)). But that is such a shame, since I know it affects the dynamic of what i’ve always prided myself on being ie someone who strives to seek out the best from the most hidden corners.

    On a more positive note, there are now more places appearing online, that cater for the new age of digital music in a more forward thinking fashion. Bandcamp and soundcloud are two examples of sites dedicated to bringing music to you in a new way from the dated Itunes/juno/beatport etc way of simply displaying everything new in one long endless list. Through bandcamp you experience music on more of a journey, ie a starting point you determine, followed by suggestive media from people with similar interests to that of which you viewing. Youtube is perhaps the innovator of this style of suggestive playlists, but its good to see sites like bandcamp utilise the formular for a buyers platform.
    -However I still find myself trawling through the endless lists on itunes/Juno/beatport simply cos I cannot let go of the reality that I might miss something I simply can’t make do without! That’s addiction, and an outdated -once there gone there gone- approach to music that spawned from a decade in the vinyl era. I need to adapt fully to the future of music, or simply throw in the towel!

  24. I’m very much in the underground of music. I spend half my waking life, Listening, mixing, searching for even thinking about DNB and have done for 15 years. My journey has taken me through hundreds of websites, forums, record stores (both digital and analogue), and i’ve amassed thousands upon thousands of tunes both digital and on vinyl/cd (currently i’m hoarding about 2000 vinyl releases spanning 25 years). And yet I find myself in todays world becoming less and less interested in whats going on in the now, and find myself far too often diggin deeper and deeper into the real unknown of the past. WHY? DNB is probably at its finest period for near a decade in terms of production, diversity and availability, the problem for me is as you say, there is simply TOO MUCH MUSIC.

    5 years back, I wouldn’t have any quarms listening to just about every release I could stream to see what i wanted to buy. This was obviously a great way to find new artists, and though 90% of it I wouldn’t be interested in, I didn;t mind the hunt – If anything I thrived on it. Nowdays with 20/30 releases coming out daily, many across different sites due to exclusivity deals and such, the search has become frankly a chore. If i’m honest I probably find myself actually listening to about 10% of what comes out nowdays simply so I can make headway on the overall search. Ive ended up buying tunes that on reflection I dont even like simply cos after an hour or searching through chaff, its easy to lose your educated ear as to whats ACTUALLY good!

    Now as a DJ all this endless searching for tunes comes with the territory. and thats alot of what i’ve always loved about it, finding the obscure and treasuring it, yet even tho there is SO much more obscure available these days, the speed in which its coming out simply stiffles any joy in the search. I now kind of limit myself to artists, labels etc that I am already familiar with and trust, This is an advantage I have other any NEW DJs((can’t imagine how hard it must be to start as a DJ nowadays)). But that is such a shame, since I know it affects the dynamic of what i’ve always prided myself on being ie someone who strives to seek out the best from the most hidden corners.

    On a more positive note, there are now more places appearing online, that cater for the new age of digital music in a more forward thinking fashion. Bandcamp and soundcloud are two examples of sites dedicated to bringing music to you in a new way from the dated Itunes/juno/beatport etc way of simply displaying everything new in one long endless list. Through bandcamp you experience music on more of a journey, ie a starting point you determine, followed by suggestive media from people with similar interests to that of which you viewing. Youtube is perhaps the innovator of this style of suggestive playlists, but its good to see sites like bandcamp utilise the formular for a buyers platform.
    -However I still find myself trawling through the endless lists on itunes/Juno/beatport simply cos I cannot let go of the reality that I might miss something I simply can’t make do without! That’s addiction, and an outdated -once there gone there gone- approach to music that spawned from a decade in the vinyl era. I need to adapt fully to the future of music, or simply throw in the towel!

  25. Piracy and streaming contribute to the problem, by devaluing recorded music, which means labels cut non-profitable experimental artists, discourage creative innovation, and become very conservative in general, only keeping artists who are sure-fire predictable hit-makers, who themselves are restrained from developing or evolving.

    Other factors:
    – music industry/business being run too much as business and less as art (artist-owned labels and artist-run radio etc. could help)
    – decline/disappearance of music education in schoold
    – our ADD culture
    – competition from other media (video games, etc.)

  26. Piracy and streaming contribute to the problem, by devaluing recorded music, which means labels cut non-profitable experimental artists, discourage creative innovation, and become very conservative in general, only keeping artists who are sure-fire predictable hit-makers, who themselves are restrained from developing or evolving.

    Other factors:
    – music industry/business being run too much as business and less as art (artist-owned labels and artist-run radio etc. could help)
    – decline/disappearance of music education in schoold
    – our ADD culture
    – competition from other media (video games, etc.)

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