Is the music industry really suffering at the hands of social music?

The music industry has had to adapt countless times to advances in the way we’re able to interact with its product since downloading and sharing became the norm.  But even now you can’t help but get the sense that some don’t want to let go of archaic business models and embrace new possibilities.

Social media democratises everything, music included – they should get to grips with this concept!

A recent blog post by Eliot Van Buskirk over at Wired blog discusses the implications for the music industry as we make the switch to cloud listening. The jist of the argument is that music social networks like last fm, pandora and and iLike are taking huge amounts of revenue from iTunes and record labels but that, although they don’t pay out now, they will eventually fill the revenue hole made by the demise of CD’s (because the neatly segmented networks are an advertisers dream).

Let’s be fair, Apple deserves praise for legitimising and cashing in on the downloads scene, but how long is their stranglehold on digital distribution going to last?

Faced with a choice between increasingly comprehensive libraries of free, legal, streaming music and pay-per-download songs, consumers will start to choose the former – many already do.

In my view, the sooner music industry types stop trying to defend old practices and embrace new revenue models the better –  The guys at Apple need to get their thinking cap on, as spotify threatens to strip its iTunes service of much of its value by offering full albums that will stream instantly off the web.

No I don’t think cloud listening will ever replace music ownership, but what it means is that people are embracing different ways of interacting with music – some of which are  free!

This means labels and distributors need to think of new ways to make money out of music that don’t necessarily rinse the consumer directly.

The funny thing is, people go on about social music threatening the viability of the music industry, but that’s only if you count the music industry as the big labels and distributors. Everyone else seems to benefit:

  • There’s the consumers who can listen to free music, connect with others around it, and discover new artists with ease.
  • There’s the artists, who can make their music available through new mediums and make use of huge communities of music lovers.
  • Then there’s the majority of labels and marketers who happily trade a slice of their traditional revenue stream for the ability to promote their music in new and exciting ways.

Seems like a win-win situation for the majority concerned!


About Tom Craik

Senior Account Executive at Finn Communications, a PR and Word of Mouth agency based in Leeds. Baby face. Northern Monkey. Attention junkie. Space man. Fake tan. Dancefloor dreamer. Analyser. Deliberator. Wordsmith. Book worm. Head in clouds. Telecaster. Dance floor master. Closet rasta. Free love. Fresh jokes. Old gear. Naff beard. Existential. Influential. Left of centre. iPod. Math rock. Psych Folk. Dropping dubstep. Chicken Balti. Laos. Berlin. Bass bin. Circle pit. Guggenheim. Baltic. Cabernet. Globalised. Wired. No house. No car. Going places!
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2 Responses to Is the music industry really suffering at the hands of social music?

  1. Sam Parish says:

    I think social music benefits the bands and the users a huge amount! It gives them large exposure and also provides them with an audience they might otherwise not reach.

    The amazing this is that the labels don’t seem to be a huge fan of it but from my experience with music on youtube of late, the tools it offers (as i discuss in my latest blog) are an invaluable form of market research for free!!!

    All power to the online music soviets!!!

  2. I agree with Sam, I think social music has huge plus points for bands and artists who are starting out. More than anything I suppose it benefits the user, and i’m ok with that!
    Although….my roomate and I nearly had a panic attack the other day when our internet connection locked us out of Spotify for a few hours. DOOM!

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