[Editorial] People Don’t Buy Music Anymore, But Are The Artists Really Losing?

We all know physical music formats are dying fast and there is some study to remind you of this every week or so, but did you know that digital downloads have the writing on the wall as well? When was the last time you paid for a music download? Well, if you’re between the ages of 16 and 19 it has probably been a while. A study conducted by GlobalWebIndex found that only 21% of teenagers in the given age range had paid for a download within the past month. What do they do now? Well obviously the word of the month is STREAM. The same study found that 60% had streamed music within the same time frame. Between Spotify, Soundcloud, Beatport, Google Music, TIDAL (just kidding) and others, there are numerous streaming options both paid and unpaid.

The idea of paying for a single track download is just silly in today’s times. Why might this be? High volume physical storage like iPod Classics (and the like) are gone. Nowadays, most people are listening to music on devices with 16 or maybe 32GB of storage. There are larger options if you’re willing to shell out the money, but most aren’t. Beyond that, your phone operating system takes up half of that space and your pictures probably take up the rest, so you’re left with very little for music downloads. If you’re a dance music fan, you know that most tracks are about 9-14MB, so it wouldn’t take too many tracks to fill a measly 16GB device. This doesn’t even include discussions of the “new hotness” that is FLAC or lossless files that TIDAL is boasting about. These files are at least 20MB or more per song, but those audiophiles aren’t paying for music anyway they know about these things called torrents. If you download festival live sets, you’re looking at 80-120MB per set. This is why we have to stream music these days.

As beneficial as streaming can be, you might be into such obscure styles of music that have no representation on the major sites. How does this impact small indie artists who gained exposure through iTunes? Well, many of those artists offer up tracks for free download in exchange for SoundCloud follows using sites like ToneDen/EDMT. These artists gain organic following through SoundCloud reposts and make their way onto bigger artists’ labels. They have a slightly tougher time doing it financially, but they are being forced to tweak the ways they gain exposure through events.

Obviously, the music industry is running around with its head cut off over all of this, but they have been getting that money from you one way or another. Just take a look at the price of a festival ticket today compared to 2012 (the last year before digital downloads began to decline). You might be paying less for music today, but you are paying probably 2x or 3x as much on events. In 2012, Identity Festival boasted a lineup consisting of Arty, Madeon, Porter Robinson, Wolfgang Gartner and Eric Prydz for $20 first tier to $60 final tier. Today, your average festival ticket breaks down to at least $80 per day. That being said, don’t feel too bad for the music industry… unless you’re sneaking into music festivals. Take advantage of this shifting paradigm and explore new music on all the streaming platforms and pick your favorite. This writer prefers SoundCloud, Google Music, and Beatport, but enjoys laughing about TIDAL on occasion.

Data Source: Digital Music News

Image Source: Brockelbank Photography