Is there any value left in music?

Whether the rot set in with the arrival of iTunes, or the earlier availability of music through illegal file-sharing sites, isn’t clear, but it seems that a whole generation now has the belief that music is essentially a free commodity, rather than something for which one should pay.

Part of the problem is that the very forces held up to be the saviours of the music industry sometimes do themselves no favours, for example by treating music as nothing more than a promotional tool.

Andrew Everard makes some good points here, though I disagree that iTunes is to blame. Quiet the contrary; the iTunes Store is what got people to buy digital music. But the commodification of music, and its overabundance, have certainly made it seem that music has little or no value any more. But even more than that: most people just don’t care about music; it’s just wallpaper for them.

via Is there any value left in music? | WORDS AND MUSIC.

8 thoughts on “Is there any value left in music?

  1. “the commodification of music … have certainly made it seem that music has little or no value any more.”

    I think you fundamentally confuse “value” with “pricing power“, and this leads you down a bunch of wrong paths.

    The inability to compete with free has utterly destroyed the music industry’s pricing power.

    This has had major repercussions that extend far beyond the music industry’s bottom line. Much, much, much less is spent on A&R, development of new/growing bands, and promotion.

    Now, the music industry’s loss of pricing power, which directly led to the above degradation of the pipeline has, IMHO, reduced the quality and variety of new music, and its ability to connect with customers. Compare and contrast with the teevee industry, which has fully retained its pricing power, since the competition with free has been far less dire, and since they took lessons from the music industry. And this led to the fact that we are now in what is widely considered to be in the ‘golden age of teevee’.

    So, depending on our definitions, there may indeed be some less “value” in new music, due to the music industry’s collapse in their ability to produce new acts of value. But folks still seek out and listen to as much music as they used to, by all the metrics I’ve seen, and thus still value it. They just don’t pay for it. Air has no pricing power, but it still has value.

    “most people just don’t care about music; it’s just wallpaper for them.”

    Ugh. Just, ugh. This is just evidence-free nonsense, if you are comparing now to some previous era. Multitudinous anecdotes and metrics argue strongly against this. Not being willing to pay does not equal not caring.

    “I disagree that iTunes is to blame. Quiet the contrary; the iTunes Store is what got people to buy digital music.”

    While there is quite a bit of Big Bag of Wrong in this post, this more than anything else is just sheer and utter nonsense.

    The music industry ceased growth and plateaued around the time of Napster. But it was the introduction and monopoly of the iPod, and after Napster had been shut down, that started the music industry’s precipitous decline and their total loss of pricing power.

    Pretty much everyone in all the various content industries agree that Apple built the most valuable corporation on Earth simply by drinking the music industry’s milkshake, and they all took notes to keep it from happening to them. They all think Apple is almost solely responsible for destroying the music industry’s pricing power. That’s why film/teevee has been only willing to engage in very limited partnerships with Apple, for example, repeatedly rejecting various more encompassing engagement, despite Eddy Cue’s relentless efforts. Apple drinking the music industry’s milkshake is why the Apple TV is still a ‘hobby’.

    And were I in any of the content industries, I would have taken the exact same notes and drawn the exact same lessons. It’s relatively indisputable for reality-based folks familiar with the issues.

    Similarly, the major part of the tension underlying the various book publisher / Amazon disputes is the effort of the publishers to keep Amazon from drinking their milkshake. The publishers, correctly IMHO, see Amazon as on a crusade to destroy their pricing power. (And if Amazon succeeds in drinking the publishers’ milkshake, I think the same gradual loss of new book quality/diversity that hit music will quite obviously ensure.)

    • I’ll disagree with just two things you say. The music industry’s highest revenues were during the period when they managed to convince people to re-purchase their music collections. There was certainly a backlash after that, due to incessant re-packaging, but the iTunes Store certainly saved a few years for the music industry, slowing the post-CD decline.

      As for TV, it’s hard to compare. Since there are different “windows” for TV shows – first broadcast, reruns, syndication, DVD release, and then Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/etc. – it’s a much more complicated system. Music is released once and for all – with the exception of 20-years-later anniversary releases – and doesn’t have the same multi-faceted distribution network.

      Your point about books is valid, though. Books are changing from a two-stage lifespan (hardcover/paperback), to a single release. Major books still get hardcover releases, but as ebooks become more common, they difference in pricing between hardcovers and paperbacks seems less acceptable. I’d think that in a decade or so, the publishing paradigm (for popular fiction and non-fiction) will be quite different.

  2. “the commodification of music … have certainly made it seem that music has little or no value any more.”

    I think you fundamentally confuse “value” with “pricing power“, and this leads you down a bunch of wrong paths.

    The inability to compete with free has utterly destroyed the music industry’s pricing power.

    This has had major repercussions that extend far beyond the music industry’s bottom line. Much, much, much less is spent on A&R, development of new/growing bands, and promotion.

    Now, the music industry’s loss of pricing power, which directly led to the above degradation of the pipeline has, IMHO, reduced the quality and variety of new music, and its ability to connect with customers. Compare and contrast with the teevee industry, which has fully retained its pricing power, since the competition with free has been far less dire, and since they took lessons from the music industry. And this led to the fact that we are now in what is widely considered to be in the ‘golden age of teevee’.

    So, depending on our definitions, there may indeed be some less “value” in new music, due to the music industry’s collapse in their ability to produce new acts of value. But folks still seek out and listen to as much music as they used to, by all the metrics I’ve seen, and thus still value it. They just don’t pay for it. Air has no pricing power, but it still has value.

    “most people just don’t care about music; it’s just wallpaper for them.”

    Ugh. Just, ugh. This is just evidence-free nonsense, if you are comparing now to some previous era. Multitudinous anecdotes and metrics argue strongly against this. Not being willing to pay does not equal not caring.

    “I disagree that iTunes is to blame. Quiet the contrary; the iTunes Store is what got people to buy digital music.”

    While there is quite a bit of Big Bag of Wrong in this post, this more than anything else is just sheer and utter nonsense.

    The music industry ceased growth and plateaued around the time of Napster. But it was the introduction and monopoly of the iPod, and after Napster had been shut down, that started the music industry’s precipitous decline and their total loss of pricing power.

    Pretty much everyone in all the various content industries agree that Apple built the most valuable corporation on Earth simply by drinking the music industry’s milkshake, and they all took notes to keep it from happening to them. They all think Apple is almost solely responsible for destroying the music industry’s pricing power. That’s why film/teevee has been only willing to engage in very limited partnerships with Apple, for example, repeatedly rejecting various more encompassing engagement, despite Eddy Cue’s relentless efforts. Apple drinking the music industry’s milkshake is why the Apple TV is still a ‘hobby’.

    And were I in any of the content industries, I would have taken the exact same notes and drawn the exact same lessons. It’s relatively indisputable for reality-based folks familiar with the issues.

    Similarly, the major part of the tension underlying the various book publisher / Amazon disputes is the effort of the publishers to keep Amazon from drinking their milkshake. The publishers, correctly IMHO, see Amazon as on a crusade to destroy their pricing power. (And if Amazon succeeds in drinking the publishers’ milkshake, I think the same gradual loss of new book quality/diversity that hit music will quite obviously ensure.)

    • I’ll disagree with just two things you say. The music industry’s highest revenues were during the period when they managed to convince people to re-purchase their music collections. There was certainly a backlash after that, due to incessant re-packaging, but the iTunes Store certainly saved a few years for the music industry, slowing the post-CD decline.

      As for TV, it’s hard to compare. Since there are different “windows” for TV shows – first broadcast, reruns, syndication, DVD release, and then Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/etc. – it’s a much more complicated system. Music is released once and for all – with the exception of 20-years-later anniversary releases – and doesn’t have the same multi-faceted distribution network.

      Your point about books is valid, though. Books are changing from a two-stage lifespan (hardcover/paperback), to a single release. Major books still get hardcover releases, but as ebooks become more common, they difference in pricing between hardcovers and paperbacks seems less acceptable. I’d think that in a decade or so, the publishing paradigm (for popular fiction and non-fiction) will be quite different.

  3. Music has tremendous value for me. I spend $150 or more on CDs. I’m afraid that it is becoming devalued and I place the blame mainly on the labels.

  4. Music has tremendous value for me. I spend $150 or more on CDs. I’m afraid that it is becoming devalued and I place the blame mainly on the labels.

  5. I tend to agree with Kirk. I remember Kanye West’s first album. There was the “hip-hop” violinist, Miri Ben-Ari, on it who came out with her debut album. I like her on West’s album and really like the lead track off her album. When I went to buy her debut, it had a $20 list price. No deal, and I lost interest in her. (Nope, I didn’t even bother attempting to find it for “free.”)

  6. I tend to agree with Kirk. I remember Kanye West’s first album. There was the “hip-hop” violinist, Miri Ben-Ari, on it who came out with her debut album. I like her on West’s album and really like the lead track off her album. When I went to buy her debut, it had a $20 list price. No deal, and I lost interest in her. (Nope, I didn’t even bother attempting to find it for “free.”)

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