During the recorded music industries heyday, there was this widespread idea, sort of like an unwritten law, that we (the fans of music) could purchase music and own it, the same way we purchased and owned the toaster and any other commodity.
Of course when it comes to music, that was never the case. What the music fans actually purchased was a non-transferable license to listen to the music under very specific and strict conditions. Nothing else was transferred to us with our expensive $30 purchase of a CD, other than the right to enjoy the music in private, over and over again.
So what do we have now. We have sales of music falling. Actually they have been falling for some time. The RIAA and the record labels are attributing this to piracy alone, linking the decline of sales with the increase of P2P file sharing usage.
So for the RIAA and the Record Labels, plus some misguided artists, it is simple, these two events correlate, so it implies that one is causing the other to move.
The thought that fans of music have changed the way they consume music doesn’t compute for the Majors and their association.
The arrival of iTunes and the chance to cherry pick what we want rather than complete albums is a pretty good indication that revenue streams would reduce. Instead of spending money on an expensive shiny piece of plastic for two songs, we could now just download those two songs.
The arrival of YouTube and streaming services have also put a dent into the traditional sales model. Of course, piracy does play its part, however with the increase in people attending concerts and festivals, one needs to ask the question, did piracy assist in this?
Watch the Iron Maiden doco, Flight 666. Nicko McBrian talks about not selling an album in Costa Rica, however they have sold out the local sports stadium. Twisted Sister haven’t released any new music, however in Europe they have a massive fan base that includes both old and young. Did piracy cause this?
The arrival of many platforms that allow DIY bands to release has caused a flood of new music to enter the music business. Competition is now at an all-time high.
What about the price of music? Normally if demand for a certain product drops, the prices for that product fall as well, to reflect the lower demand. It is simple economics. So what do the record labels do? They maintain the high prices so that they can maximise profits. So the recording industry is holding on to high price points and they blame piracy in the meantime for the decline in sales.
So if people are purchasing less music or illegally downloading content, how is this effecting the income of artists? Do artists still have an incentive to create music.
For starters, the majority of artists do not get into music to be millionaires. They get in to music because it satisfies a basic human need to be creative.
In relation to less incentive, this doesn’t seem to be the case. There is so much music hitting the market that no one has enough time to hear it all. In addition, if the artists is doing the live circuit, incomes in this arena are increasing. Some artists that don’t sell a lot sure get a lot of people into their shows.