If you thought music sales were dipping, you’ll be interested to know that digital sales helped break the revenue record last year! Is physical music dead, and is streaming really helping the industry? Jeet Dalvi & Khevna Pandit talk about the drastic shift in listening habits
Ah, music. We’ve all got our favourites, whether it’s the Beatles and Madonna or Michael Jackson and John Legend. But, we’ve also heard the hue and cry about how physical albums don’t sell any more, hurting artist revenue. Since we found out that digital revenue now accounts for 45% of record label earnings, we wondered — does anyone buy albums anymore? Is streaming really so terrible? We spoke to a few people to gauge the shifting tides.
Subscription streaming – a boon or bane?
Global music sales rose 3.2% last year as digital music revenue surpassed the revenue from all physical music formats for the first time — or at least that’s what industry analysis by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Switzerland, suggests.
“Value Gap” was a term coined by artists and labels soon after music videos were first streamed for free over the internet to computer screens around the world. The phenomenon of live streaming received a huge positive response from the public, but artists and producers were impacted negatively in terms of recovering the money they invested in making these music videos. The online market for music-related content managed to generate `1,200 crore from 68 million internet users who paid for online streaming subscriptions, according to the reports by IFPI. Subscription to online streaming platforms such as Spotify, Rhapsody, Internet Radio and YouTube generated 34% of sales revenue.
We asked a few music lovers whether they would pay for music, how downloading matched up to the experience of a physical copy and whether anyone still visits music stores.
Music is a market
“I have been buying music since I was 13-years-old. I’ve always bought physical copies even though they are expensive. I still buy music because I believe in supporting artists and I prefer buying music of indie artists. It’s their job and their source of income. I would absolutely buy music if there were more stores. It’s sad that people don’t support and buy music, and instead choose to download it illegally. Thankfully, iTunes has opened a great market for music; you can buy a song for just `12 or `15.”
– Rajvi Parekh, Biology student, Malad
Convenience is bliss
“I prefer downloading. It’s been ages since I bought music. I don’t buy it because it is much more convenient to access it online. Also, laziness gets the better of me. However, I do like the feel of a music store. Going to the store, buying CDs, the excitement of getting home and listening to it immediately — it’s something that I miss. I would go to a music store if it were nearby. I think people have stopped buying music because of the various applications available online. Instead of spending money on a CD, people would rather put that money toward mobile data and download more than the 10 or 12 songs that come on a CD album.”
– Ketki Bhavsar, Associate Creative Head, Kandivali
Double click for music
“I don’t buy music anymore. The easy access to music on the internet through YouTube and other apps such as Saavn are the main reasons for that. I used to visit a lot of music stores to buy CDs back in the day. Now, I would probably buy music online, mostly because it’s more convenient.”
– Pratik Patil, Student, Andheri
Keep up with the trends
“I buy music on my phone and my computer mostly in mp3 format. I don’t visit stores anymore because I don’t have a CD or LP player anymore, although I still have a large collection of music from my Napster days. I think if music stores could be integrated with the indie scene and support music in our city/country, they could do a lot better. Everybody’s tastes are different. How would music stores keep all that music in one place and what format would they disseminate them in? That would be the real question.”
– Stuart DaCosta, Music producer, Colaba
“It is easier to buy music from online portals because people can listen to the previews before deciding to buy. I still buy music when I come across a compelling track and in my opinion, if music sales drop, it’s because music is available on the internet for free. This has made listeners get into the habit of getting it without paying for it. If the prices were more affordable, maybe sales would increase, although I don’t think it would make a huge difference. Music stores have an essential role as a place to discover new music. They helped us discover new music not just by browsing, but also by socialising with other people in the store. The element of discovering tracks from people around you is no longer an option, which hinders the discovery of new artists through recommendations. If physical stores still exist, I would love to visit them. They remind me of when I used to go to Planet M just to hear the latest music and find and talk to like-minded fans!”
– Ashutosh Verma, Computer engineer-turned-management/digital marketing professional and also a progressive Trance DJ, Vashi
Stick to your theme
“I do not buy any music. I have only purchased about 20 CDs in my life, which were easily available for free. The reason I bought them was to support the artist, but that was a while ago. I think that selling songs or CDs isn’t a revenue generator for artists anymore, as labels and publishing houses have taken a merchandising route. Music stores need to have an aesthetic atmosphere and preferably stick to a certain theme. That would make them attractive to a specific group of people, to whom they can then cater more effectively. It would also help if there were more music stores in the city. Whenever I visit the rarer, large stores in the city, I end up picking a few CDs. Stores should also start selling music or artist related products apart from CDs.”
– Kshitij Tarkas, Student, Juhu