In my essay “Digital Subscriptions: The Unending Consumption of Music in the Digital Era,” I explore the way the recording industry changed our consumption habits and increased profits exponentially. What we can’t lose is that the average consumer used to buy about $40 worth of recorded music per year, but with subscriptions, they are paying $120 per year. Think about $870,000,000/month in music consumption on Spotify alone (another $530,000,000 on Apple Music). In the essay, I analyze this further.
Here is the abstract:
When Apple purchased Beats Music in 2014, it signified a major moment in the transformation of the recorded music commodity. This is the second time in the digital era that Apple has catalyzed a transformation of the recorded commodity after first disrupting the recording industry by creating the iTunes store. Now, the recording industry is changing from a business model dependent on the sale of commodities to a model based on subscriptions and streaming. I call this model unending consumption because it traps music listeners in a cycle where they must continually subscribe to have access to music. By giving subscribers unlimited access to music in exchange for $10 per month, the recording industry aims to increase the amount that the average consumer spends per year on music by 200%.
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There is a lot at stake with the development of digital music and the ability to download it over the internet. One of the biggest confusions occurs when the Recording Industry Association of America discusses file-sharing as something that will end recorded music as we know it. If you listen to the RIAA, you are liable to believe that there will no longer be recorded music if file-sharers keep “pirating” music, but this is not close to the truth. Yes, major record labels could lose their dominance in the market place, but does that mean that music is dead? The RIAA has been claiming that the disintermediation provided by the internet will lead to the decline and ultimately the failure of the recording industry. The decline of the recording industry, however, is not the end of music. While the recording industry cannot exist without music, music can exist without the recording industry (even the music industry can exist without the recording industry). Continue reading →