On selling digital musicО продажах цифровой музыки

This is not a typical post. It’s not so much about music as about music industry. I’ve been working in the music biz for quite a while, and now more than ever work with digital music sales. This is trying to explain to myself what could be wrong with the ways things are. Of course, this is by no means a solution to all the problems in and with the music industry. It’s just a way for me to step back from the daily rut and take a longer look at the big playground.

* * *

The whole music industry today is still album-oriented. When you turn to online retailers, the buying habits are track-based. People pay for separate songs, often times they don’t even care what album its’ on. (And I know examples when they neither know nor care who the artist is.) But the music is still SOLD in album formats. You can (and do) buy single songs, but they’re in album context. Your most expected (but not really intuitive anymore) path is Artist -> Album -> Song. Where you essentially are interested in the song.

The only example – and a successful one – for songs is the ringbacktone market. But it’s not big in most countries, and is thus disregarded. That’s where songs are most prominent. It’s artist-song at the most, and often people buy whatever 30-second piece they like the SOUND OF most.

Seriously, today, I don’t care if a hit is by Gaga or Willow Smith anymore. If I like how it sounds, bring it on! The artists come and go way too quickly to become loved – of course, with the exception of long-term affections, but they will be treated differently and dearly. For “contemporary hit” listening, there’s definitely more cash flow in short-term, make-money-while-it’s-hot approach. And if retailers today offer at least something for those who want to buy, they aren’t very convenient to work with for those who sell.

Ours may be an exception, yet. The label I work for deals with hits, singles only. When you approach CDBaby, or any other bottleneck to the worldwide big retailers, it turns out that for each new artist you need a separate contract. For each song, a mock album. And that’s how it still goes.

How about getting rid of the middle-management of “albums” concept altogether? I know that with time, I listen to mixes more and more, to various online shows – that showcase the best in what a certain genre/sphere can offer today. Do I remember all the songs from the album? Hell no! That’s so not even 90s, that’s 80s baby! I wish I could, but there’s just so much REALLY GOOD music today, and more is coming, that to pay enough-to-memorize-all-the-bits attention to one album (or artist) would mean to kill 10 or 20 or 50 (who knows) other good ones. And believe me, I’m one of the not so many who listen to their music on repeat.

Spotify and other streaming services have been doing an amazing job here, providing the whole range – artist radio, by-album listening, playlists creation, co-creation and sharing. But when we talk about paying for content, there’s a gap I see in what the listener wants and what’s provided.

So, that’s my statement for today. The way we listen to music has changed. The way we buy (or steal, or download legally) music has changed. The way we sell music has to change as well.

* * *

P.S.

I posted a question on Quora yesterday about the common patterns with buying music in online stores. If you have something to say, I’d appreciate it.Это не обычный пост для RL. Он не о музыке, а о музыкальной индустрии. Я работаю в музыкальном бизнесе достаточно давно, а сейчас больше, чем когда-либо работаю с продажами цифровой музыки. Этот пост – попытка объяснить себе, что не так с настоящим положением вещей в продаже музыкального контента. Конечно, это никаким образом не претендует на решение проблем (всего того вороха, что неправильно в и с музыкальной индустрией). Это просто попытка отойти на шаг от повседневных занятий и посмотреть на “пространство борьбы”.

Пост на английском был написан изначально, решила, что переводить не нужно. Если потребуется, оставьте комментарий, переведу.

* * *

The whole music industry today is still album-oriented. When you turn to online retailers, the buying habits are track-based. People pay for separate songs, often times they don’t even care what album its’ on. (And I know examples when they neither know nor care who the artist is.) But the music is still SOLD in album formats. You can (and do) buy single songs, but they’re in album context. Your most expected (but not really intuitive anymore) path is Artist -> Album -> Song. Where you essentially are interested in the song.

The only example – and a successful one – for songs is the ringbacktone market. But it’s not big in most countries, and is thus disregarded. That’s where songs are most prominent. It’s artist-song at the most, and often people buy whatever 30-second piece they like the SOUND OF most.

Seriously, today, I don’t care if a hit is by Gaga or Willow Smith anymore. If I like how it sounds, bring it on! The artists come and go way too quickly to become loved – of course, with the exception of long-term affections, but they will be treated differently and dearly. For “contemporary hit” listening, there’s definitely more cash flow in short-term, make-money-while-it’s-hot approach. And if retailers today offer at least something for those who want to buy, they aren’t very convenient to work with for those who sell.

Ours may be an exception, yet. The label I work for deals with hits, singles only. When you approach CDBaby, or any other bottleneck to the worldwide big retailers, it turns out that for each new artist you need a separate contract. For each song, a mock album. And that’s how it still goes.

How about getting rid of the middle-management of “albums” concept altogether? I know that with time, I listen to mixes more and more, to various online shows – that showcase the best in what a certain genre/sphere can offer today. Do I remember all the songs from the album? Hell no! That’s so not even 90s, that’s 80s baby! I wish I could, but there’s just so much REALLY GOOD music today, and more is coming, that to pay enough-to-memorize-all-the-bits attention to one album (or artist) would mean to kill 10 or 20 or 50 (who knows) other good ones. And believe me, I’m one of the not so many who listen to their music on repeat.

Spotify and other streaming services have been doing an amazing job here, providing the whole range – artist radio, by-album listening, playlists creation, co-creation and sharing. But when we talk about paying for content, there’s a gap I see in what the listener wants and what’s provided.

So, that’s my statement for today. The way we listen to music has changed. The way we buy (or steal, or download legally) music has changed. The way we sell music has to change as well.

* * *

P.S.

На Quora я оставила вопрос о наиболее частых шаблонах поведения покупателей в онлайн-магазинах, если будет желание, выскажитесь.

  • Max

    Услышав интересную песню я скачиваю альбом, в надежде что он весь не плох. Если понравился альбом, я скачиваю дискографию артиста…

    Так проще потому что я не плачу за каждый трек (плохо конечно) и мне некогда/неудобно искать что послушать. Можно было бы использовать сервисы, которые учитывали бы предпочтения. Но в машине не идет учет что понравилось с радио или диска, на компьютере я музыку не слушаю, на сотовом плеер запускаю тоже редко и без постоянного соединения с интернетом.

    Как ориентироваться с такими устаревшими технологиями ? :) Интересно много ли таких как я ?

  • Татьяна Мулкиджанова

    @Max
    По тому, что Вы написали, ориентиры на песни. Интересная песня -> альбом -> дискография. Как находить новое? Для более-менее целенаправленной задачи “послушать новенькое” можно использовать Hype Machine, например. Но как правило о новинках узнаешь хаотически, без определенной программы. Радио, ТВ, линки онлайн… Для большинства из нас главная зацепка – песня.