Should we measure the health of the music industry based on cassette sales? I am pretty sure everyone would agree that it wouldn’t give an accurate picture. So why are we still using the album as the key indicator? Yes album sales are declining but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
I reviewed the album sales data from the RIAA. It shows a fairly steady increase from the early 70’s until the beginning of the 21st Century and then a fairly steady decline back down to the original 1970’s level.
This is where most people end the discussion. Album sales are down. Digital albums don’t replace the loss in physical sales. The industry is screwed. Maybe it is those damn pirates. But let’s not stop here. I looked at the singles sales and I saw a massive increase.
And this is where it gets interesting. I combined both figures.
Music sales are actually increasing. There are now more financial transactions for music than ever before. And this is just sales. It doesn’t account for the increase from all the streaming services and other new revenue sources for recorded music.
The issue we now face is one of “unbundling”. When given the choice between buying the whole album or a single track it appears most customers would rather just purchase the track. We can’t change this. We merely need to respond to this. We need to shape our business to meet the consumer.
In my eyes this demonstrates that the music industries marketing and promotion works but the basic product offering does not. You can’t make enough money from a single to support the current cost structures in the industry. It’s time to get a little more creative with what we offer our customers.
Have we focused too much on piracy? Should we have turned our attention towards our paying customers instead of chasing people who don’t? Why are we still offering the same product to every customer?
Think of other industries. They have a range of products and services to meet all of their customers’ desires. And they have a basic recognition that all customers are not the same. Does the travel industry only offer the cheapest flights and hotel rooms to customers? No. They have a range of products from first class plane tickets down to cheapest bus ticket. Five star hotels to youth hostels. Luckily there are already a lot of companies that have recognized this gaping hole in the music industry. I can’t tell you how many new companies, services, apps, and products I have seen over the past few years, all developed to take and advantage of these opportunities. The music industry is soaring.
One final thing, did you notice that turn around started in 2004? When did iTunes launch?