Friday, January 21, 2011

Music wants to be closer to free

People want access to the world's music for a song, but the music business isn't playing along.

Nielsen just released its report on 2010 music sales, and it looks pretty dismal for the industry that is still counting on people to pay for an intangible good that gets easier and easier to find, stream, and download online for free.

According to Nielsen, music sales in 2010 were down 9.5 per cent, album sales were down 12.7 per cent, physical album sales were down 19 per cent, and digital sales were up a lame one per cent over 2009.

I could see this coming some time ago, when my graphic design students - early adopters all - scoffed at the very idea of my CD collection and penchant for seeing films - get this - in a "theatre," for "money."

Music- and entertainment-lovers around the world have become a lot like a Winnipeggers at a garage sale: they want immediate access to quality, choice, and variety for the lowest-possible cost. Cheapskates!

This speaks to a prediction made by Mike Walsh in his excellent book, Futuretainment (he gives no time frame, other than to say, "the years ahead"):
"The world's entire library of recorded music is available for free on any device; music business models rely on a combination of advertising, merchandising, and events."
Seems like the writing is on the wall to me too. I still love records, CDs, and iTunes (and its ability to easily download songs for 99 cents), but then Grooveshark comes along and makes me feel like a chump for being willing to pay even that.

Futuretainment is right, I think: the future of music (and maybe all entertainment) is providing branded launch pads to access to all of the music across all of the media "in a cloud," propped up by the three-legged stool of advertising ("branded platforms"), merch ("official" concert bootlegs, autographs, T-shirts, etc.), and old-fashioned concerts.

The great promise of the Internet is the ability to really know your audience, track what they do, get their feedback, and have meaningful dialogue: dialogue that often leads to "goodwill," "brand awareness," and "purchase behavior."

Just imagine the marketing data you could collect for a relative pittance. And then imagine the concert and merch sales that will follow.

If you build it, music industry, they will come.

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