The value of music

You will hear it everywhere, from all sorts of sources: people don’t buy music nowadays! And truth is, why would they? When you can stream music for free everywhere, right?

Still there are indications that there are some people still buying music, which gives some hope for its future.

First was a report from Bandcamp (an indie music store) that boast 73% revenues increased for 2017 - so surely some people have bought some music…

Another trend (and something I would myself call a fad, but one that is significant of a slight change in listeners’ habits), is the unlikely rise of vinyl records sales. Personally, I don’t believe at all that vinyl sounds better, because it’s a proven myth that has no scientific justification, but the fact that people are buying them again is significant to a certain attachment to an object, and what it represents… Albums in particular were once seen as treasures and something we enjoyed discovering, something we placed value in. 

Anyway, again this proves that some people are buying music and are finding value in it and in the artists who have made it.

So I believe that if artists stopped devaluating their own music by giving it for free and for streaming altogether, this would further incite people to buy their music. If artists started seeing value in their own music, others too would see it again as something of value. 

Now that’s a thought!

19 comments

  • Laughing With The Raindrops

    Laughing With The Raindrops London, UK

    Yeah I read the email from bandcamp with delight actually, and couldn't agree more with you about the fad. I totally believe that real music lovers (who like music before image and fashion) do buy music, be it in downloads or physical form (my 16 year-old LURVES CDs) and the physical product still has a future I believe. However, the figures could mean that Bandcamp has done well but it does not reflect a global picture. I find it amusing that some people buy vinyls thinking they get an authentic warm retro sound (I mean it was all recorded digitally lol, or are there studios that still use reel-to-reel recorders nowadays?)... I love my vinyl collection though.... sweet memories... Original issues of double albums and all that aw... Having said all that, your point about how artists approach the whole thing is key to it. The equation is so simple, we need a massive movement of artists withdrawing their files from spotify and the whole thing will just collapse.

    Yeah I read the email from bandcamp with delight actually, and couldn't agree more with you about the fad. I totally believe that real music lovers (who like music before image and fashion) do buy music, be it in downloads or physical form (my 16 year-old LURVES CDs) and the physical product still has a future I believe. However, the figures could mean that Bandcamp has done well but it does not reflect a global picture.
    I find it amusing that some people buy vinyls thinking they get an authentic warm retro sound (I mean it was all recorded digitally lol, or are there studios that still use reel-to-reel recorders nowadays?)... I love my vinyl collection though.... sweet memories... Original issues of double albums and all that aw...
    Having said all that, your point about how artists approach the whole thing is key to it. The equation is so simple, we need a massive movement of artists withdrawing their files from spotify and the whole thing will just collapse.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Thanks for visiting and your thoughts, V! I also think with you that there is a need for every artists to wake up and take a stand and stop being complacent and complicit in front of the massive devaluation of their work. This is not right and in the long run, totally unsustainable...

    Thanks for visiting and your thoughts, V! I also think with you that there is a need for every artists to wake up and take a stand and stop being complacent and complicit in front of the massive devaluation of their work. This is not right and in the long run, totally unsustainable...

  • Tracyseop

    Tracyseop Hidden corner of the universe filled with musiv

    While I’m glad sales in some parts are up, I enjoy Vinyl because it is a different listening experience. I’m less likely to be multitasking during listening. On the point about Spotify though, people are used to services like that, instead of withdrawing, what needs to happen is proper licensing agreements like Netflix has for tv and movies. That would give people what they want and pay artists properly. There’s nothing wrong with a streaming service it just needs the correct business model in place. And to add the ability to purchase from the artists. I use Spotify to discover more music to buy, it would be better to add a buy button on albums so I could do so without leaving the app. Or tier the subscription, x gets 10 hours listening at 2x per track, 20 gives more, if you buy it’s unlimited for that track/ album as long as the licensing was in place you all get paid, the listener get music, everyone is happy. Or if you have purchased you get a code to unlock that album to unlimited like Bandcamp does. There’s ways to make it work, it’s refraiming the conversation to get a better response.

    While I’m glad sales in some parts are up, I enjoy Vinyl because it is a different listening experience. I’m less likely to be multitasking during listening. On the point about Spotify
    though, people are used to services like that, instead of withdrawing, what needs to happen is proper licensing agreements like Netflix has for tv and movies. That would give people what they want and pay artists properly. There’s nothing wrong with a streaming service it just needs the correct business model in place. And to add the ability to purchase from the artists. I use Spotify to discover more music to buy, it would be better to add a buy button on albums so I could do so without leaving the app. Or tier the subscription, x gets 10 hours listening at 2x per track, 20 gives more, if you buy it’s unlimited for that track/ album as long as the licensing was in place you all get paid, the listener get music, everyone is happy. Or if you have purchased you get a code to unlock that album to unlimited like Bandcamp does. There’s ways to make it work, it’s refraiming the conversation to get a better response.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey Tracey, good on you to visit and comment! :) I agree about the experience of vinyl, but I disagree when people say it sounds better. That's plain BS. Now about streaming in general, how do you propose to make these platforms to change their ways? The way I see it, they are not going to ask for more money or add buy after x listen, when they are all trying to reach a monopoly by eating out the others? Just now Spotify has announced 3 months free premium (meaning free to download too!) for new subscribers, to try and boost their numbers in advance of their IPO. The way I see it, the only leverage we have is our music. And our actions, and making more and more people abandon their platform or threaten to do so. No middle ground on this, I don't think we cannot afford it.

    Hey Tracey, good on you to visit and comment! smile
    I agree about the experience of vinyl, but I disagree when people say it sounds better. That's plain BS.

    Now about streaming in general, how do you propose to make these platforms to change their ways?
    The way I see it, they are not going to ask for more money or add buy after x listen, when they are all trying to reach a monopoly by eating out the others? Just now Spotify has announced 3 months free premium (meaning free to download too!) for new subscribers, to try and boost their numbers in advance of their IPO.

    The way I see it, the only leverage we have is our music. And our actions, and making more and more people abandon their platform or threaten to do so. No middle ground on this, I don't think we cannot afford it.

  • Jon

    Jon Sweden

    This is good news indeed.

    This is good news indeed.

  • Tracyseop

    Tracyseop Hidden corner of the universe filled with music

    Completely agreed, vinyl may not sound better, it’s the listening experience not the sound per say. Vinyl has large artwork, it comes in fun colors, it’s fun to get. Who cares if it doesn’t sound better? It’s buying music. How to make platforms change their ways? Get the listeners to ask for different features or start a petition. Running away from it doesn’t do anything. Musicians in large numbers aren’t going to abandon it as that’s where the most listeners are. All it does is mean less people are listening to those that aren’t on there. Unfortunately streaming isn’t going away in its current form, the only hope is to change it. Until people turn away from the major players or enough ask for something different, you’re just complaining to the ether. I used to clamor about how bad streaming is, and it doesn’t do anything. Reframe the argument, more people listen, things start to change. They added songwriting credits after a huge campaign to do so, so why would you think you could not get a petition going to change other features? Who Cares if their doing 3 months free premium? HBO does a month free to get new subscriptions, it’s standard to offer something to get people. If the tv providers can figure out a way to pay people and do subscriptions so can the music streamers. It’s not rocket science, it’s getting them to listen, and you can if you get enough to sign that they care. Most people don’t know musicians don’t get paid well. The average person doesn’t know because they think it’s like Netflix. You have to tell them it’s not and how to change it. Just telling people to remove their music doesn’t change it, because the listener isn’t being educated to the problem, they just get reinforced to listen to the major labels artists that are available.

    Completely agreed, vinyl may not sound better, it’s the listening experience not the sound per say. Vinyl has large artwork, it comes in fun colors, it’s fun to get. Who cares if it doesn’t sound better? It’s buying music. How to make platforms change their ways? Get the listeners to ask for different features or start a petition. Running away from it doesn’t do anything. Musicians in large numbers aren’t going to abandon it as that’s where the most listeners are. All it does is mean less people are listening to those that aren’t on there. Unfortunately streaming isn’t going away in its current form, the only hope is to change it. Until people turn away from the major players or enough ask for something different, you’re just complaining to the ether. I used to clamor about how bad streaming is, and it doesn’t do anything. Reframe the argument, more people listen, things start to change. They added songwriting credits after a huge campaign to do so, so why would you think you could not get a petition going to change other features? Who Cares if their doing 3 months free premium? HBO does a month free to get new subscriptions, it’s standard to offer something to get people. If the tv providers can figure out a way to pay people and do subscriptions so can the music streamers. It’s not rocket science, it’s getting them to listen, and you can if you get enough to sign that they care. Most people don’t know musicians don’t get paid well. The average person doesn’t know because they think it’s like Netflix. You have to tell them it’s not and how to change it. Just telling people to remove their music doesn’t change it, because the listener isn’t being educated to the problem, they just get reinforced to listen to the major labels artists that are available.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Thanks Jon for visiting, it's good news indeed! ;)

    Thanks Jon for visiting, it's good news indeed! wink

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Trying to address your various points, Tracey, thanks for the thoughts. I agree about the vinyl as an object. I said so. It's a cool object. I don't agree that running away from streaming doesn't change anything.. If a lot of artists start fleeing the platform this can do things. If people stop linking to it, it can do things. If we keep telling out fans to avoid the platforms it can do things. You talk about petition. Petition for what? To get them to pay a fair price for our work when the real fair price is the one you get from downloads? 3 months free means free months where user can DOWNLOAD your music for free. 99% of the music listened on streaming platforms already comes from 10% of the music there (the ones pushed by big labels). So it's not that unsigned music is really listened on these platforms anyway. Getting out of it will not make a change in how many people will hear your music if you submit to radios and put it on your own site and link to fair platforms. The people who listen to unsigned music right now on streaming mostly do so from links that the unsigned artists push. Push other links and the fans will follow them. Getting out of it means more people will be faced with a choice to pay and download it. They wouldn't need to do that if they can listen to it for free all day long. So in the end streaming is hurting unsigned artists sales. Eliminate streaming and I'm pretty sure you will see better sales. That's just common sense.

    Trying to address your various points, Tracey, thanks for the thoughts.

    I agree about the vinyl as an object. I said so. It's a cool object.

    I don't agree that running away from streaming doesn't change anything.. If a lot of artists start fleeing the platform this can do things. If people stop linking to it, it can do things. If we keep telling out fans to avoid the platforms it can do things.

    You talk about petition. Petition for what? To get them to pay a fair price for our work when the real fair price is the one you get from downloads?

    3 months free means free months where user can DOWNLOAD your music for free.

    99% of the music listened on streaming platforms already comes from 10% of the music there (the ones pushed by big labels). So it's not that unsigned music is really listened on these platforms anyway.

    Getting out of it will not make a change in how many people will hear your music if you submit to radios and put it on your own site and link to fair platforms. The people who listen to unsigned music right now on streaming mostly do so from links that the unsigned artists push. Push other links and the fans will follow them.

    Getting out of it means more people will be faced with a choice to pay and download it.
    They wouldn't need to do that if they can listen to it for free all day long. So in the end streaming is hurting unsigned artists sales. Eliminate streaming and I'm pretty sure you will see better sales. That's just common sense.

  • CBQ

    CBQ UK

    Enjoyed your article. As regards streaming, on Bandcamp it's possible for artists to limit the number of free streams, meaning if someone likes a track enough to want to hear it more than three or four times, they have to invest into it. Spotify/Deezer - it's renting - the listeners own nothing - not even the files... Of course, artists need to create music that people actually want to listen to more than three or four times... For the vast majority of artists, that is not one single soul on the planet...

    Enjoyed your article. As regards streaming, on Bandcamp it's possible for artists to limit the number of free streams, meaning if someone likes a track enough to want to hear it more than three or four times, they have to invest into it.

    Spotify/Deezer - it's renting - the listeners own nothing - not even the files...

    Of course, artists need to create music that people actually want to listen to more than three or four times...

    For the vast majority of artists, that is not one single soul on the planet...

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey CBQ! Thanks for visiting and posting your thoughts, it's appreciated! On Bandcamp, the default is 3 plays but you can configure it yourself. Could be 1 or 10 plays or whatever number you deem acceptable. I'm not too familiar with Deezer on a user POV, but on Spotify, subscribers have the option to save/store the files on their device for offline listening, which in effect is downloading. And if an artist doesn't have anyone who want to listen to their songs, it will not make a difference anyway that it is on streaming platform or not, I would think?

    Hey CBQ! Thanks for visiting and posting your thoughts, it's appreciated!

    On Bandcamp, the default is 3 plays but you can configure it yourself. Could be 1 or 10 plays or whatever number you deem acceptable.

    I'm not too familiar with Deezer on a user POV, but on Spotify, subscribers have the option to save/store the files on their device for offline listening, which in effect is downloading.

    And if an artist doesn't have anyone who want to listen to their songs, it will not make a difference anyway that it is on streaming platform or not, I would think?

  • Tracyseop

    Tracyseop Corner of the universe filled with music

    Actually I was thinking petition Bandcamp to include playlists or such so that listeners like me that buy a lot, could discover more and easily purchase as we listen. The only benefit I’ve had as a listener from Spotify is playing indie artists playlists to discover more. And I like to buy so have no need to download from their app, I’d prefer to buy from the artist or Bandcamp. I think there’s ways to get either other players involved to rival the streaming by offering best of both worlds or if enough get on board to force change through legislative means or business means. It’s not business savvy to hurt your company by not being able to have the music people want so better to get some medium labels on board to push the envelope too. It’s also hard to get people’s attention. I spend loads of time listening to indie music but I can’t find hardly anyone I work with or live by that knows what Bandcamp is. So more needs to be done on that front too. People go to what they know, usually what media tells them, that’s why I suggested change to existing business as it’s hard to get the masses to move and ultimately that’s who we need to win over that major labels music isn’t that grand. So we agree just differently in implementing. We’ll get there.

    Actually I was thinking petition Bandcamp to include playlists or such so that listeners like me that buy a lot, could discover more and easily purchase as we listen. The only benefit I’ve had as a listener from Spotify is playing indie artists playlists to discover more. And I like to buy so have no need to download from their app, I’d prefer to buy from the artist or Bandcamp. I think there’s ways to get either other players involved to rival the streaming by offering best of both worlds or if enough get on board to force change through legislative means or business means. It’s not business savvy to hurt your company by not being able to have the music people want so better to get some medium labels on board to push the envelope too. It’s also hard to get people’s attention. I spend loads of time listening to indie music but I can’t find hardly anyone I work with or live by that knows what Bandcamp is. So more needs to be done on that front too. People go to what they know, usually what media tells them, that’s why I suggested change to existing business as it’s hard to get the masses to move and ultimately that’s who we need to win over that major labels music isn’t that grand. So we agree just differently in implementing. We’ll get there.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    I believe that Bandcamp could implement some kind of "fair streaming" where people would be able to discover music, but in a way like radios, and within a time limit where you would be forced to buy if you liked the song. And yes, indie labels could and should be involved in propagating great music via fair platform instead of pushing Spotify links. I'm not saying I have all the answers, I'm just pretty sure that trying to change the system from within while pushing the streaming moguls is not the way to go, and it's not doing any good to the indie artists that's for sure. So we need to find other ways, and organize and educate and keep kicking our feet in revolt against a situation that is unbearable.

    I believe that Bandcamp could implement some kind of "fair streaming" where people would be able to discover music, but in a way like radios, and within a time limit where you would be forced to buy if you liked the song.
    And yes, indie labels could and should be involved in propagating great music via fair platform instead of pushing Spotify links.
    I'm not saying I have all the answers, I'm just pretty sure that trying to change the system from within while pushing the streaming moguls is not the way to go, and it's not doing any good to the indie artists that's for sure.
    So we need to find other ways, and organize and educate and keep kicking our feet in revolt against a situation that is unbearable.

  • Dez

    Dez Scotland

    The reason albums were considered treasures was because it was a physical thing, the music, the art work, the ritual of turning the record, the fact that the limitations of the medium ensured the artist only put out their best work as more than 9 or 10 songs caused serious drops in sound quality. Where as now artists want you to pay for an MP3 with little or no artwork and release albums with 18 tracks that are 33% filler, as there is no reason to only release the best ones. An old album was a package of art it wasn't just the music that people loved. In using non physical mediums for releasing we have better distribution opportunities but what is being distributed has been diminished.

    The reason albums were considered treasures was because it was a physical thing, the music, the art work, the ritual of turning the record, the fact that the limitations of the medium ensured the artist only put out their best work as more than 9 or 10 songs caused serious drops in sound quality. Where as now artists want you to pay for an MP3 with little or no artwork and release albums with 18 tracks that are 33% filler, as there is no reason to only release the best ones. An old album was a package of art it wasn't just the music that people loved. In using non physical mediums for releasing we have better distribution opportunities but what is being distributed has been diminished.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Hey Dez! Thanks for the visit and your comment! That some artists release anything and that there can be a drop in quality because of that is the fault of the artists. If they don't release quality product, then they are to blame. Again if they don't put value in their music, why would anyone else do? Personally, I only release mastered tracks that have been carefully produced, recorded, mixed and mastered over a long period, I release albums with quality artwork and work hard on every detail, including the play order, which should flow and create a meaningful listening experience. I know a lot of other artists who do that too... Their work is valuable, their talent undeniable, and saying their output is not worth the money is simply a lie.

    Hey Dez! Thanks for the visit and your comment!
    That some artists release anything and that there can be a drop in quality because of that is the fault of the artists. If they don't release quality product, then they are to blame.
    Again if they don't put value in their music, why would anyone else do?

    Personally, I only release mastered tracks that have been carefully produced, recorded, mixed and mastered over a long period, I release albums with quality artwork and work hard on every detail, including the play order, which should flow and create a meaningful listening experience.

    I know a lot of other artists who do that too...
    Their work is valuable, their talent undeniable, and saying their output is not worth the money is simply a lie.

  • Dez

    Dez Scotland

    My point isn't that their (our) music is worthless - if you release music on vinyl, CD or tape and people are buying something they can hold in their hands people should and will pay - but selling a file is a different thing it's not the music that's worthless it's the medium.

    My point isn't that their (our) music is worthless - if you release music on vinyl, CD or tape and people are buying something they can hold in their hands people should and will pay - but selling a file is a different thing it's not the music that's worthless it's the medium.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    I don't get your point. That it should be less expensive is one thing, because you're only selling the music and not the medium with it, but what difference does the medium do to the music itself? What difference in terms of the time and effort it took to produce that music? Isn't the music itself what makes these bits of plastic and paper into something worthwhile? Why would it be different when it's a file? The music is the same! And even if I were to buy your argument, wouldn't it be safe to say that it's yet another point for saying that streaming devalues the music?

    I don't get your point. That it should be less expensive is one thing, because you're only selling the music and not the medium with it, but what difference does the medium do to the music itself? What difference in terms of the time and effort it took to produce that music? Isn't the music itself what makes these bits of plastic and paper into something worthwhile? Why would it be different when it's a file? The music is the same!
    And even if I were to buy your argument, wouldn't it be safe to say that it's yet another point for saying that streaming devalues the music?

  • Dez

    Dez Scotland

    Streaming is the modern equivalent of radio, except that radio stations had to pay (reasonably) fairly to play songs. Where as streaming sites are profiteering on a major scale. My point is people were never just paying for the music, but now we expect them to. I don't use streaming sites and when I do buy music it's on a physical format as like I said virtually owning a recording isn't the same. Also people were never paying for the time and effort that went into making an album... or Guns and Roses - Chinese democracy would be more 1825 times more expensive than Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath.

    Streaming is the modern equivalent of radio, except that radio stations had to pay (reasonably) fairly to play songs. Where as streaming sites are profiteering on a major scale.

    My point is people were never just paying for the music, but now we expect them to. I don't use streaming sites and when I do buy music it's on a physical format as like I said virtually owning a recording isn't the same. Also people were never paying for the time and effort that went into making an album... or Guns and Roses - Chinese democracy would be more 1825 times more expensive than Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath.

  • Ghostly Beard

    Ghostly Beard

    Streaming is absolutely NOT equivalent to radio. Radio will play all sorts of songs and if you want to hear and own it, you'll have to buy it. Not so with streaming where you can stream the same song at will, and even download it with a $9/month subscription. And of course, I'm not saying that you should pay proportionally to time and effort, but you should at least pay a standard price for the effort. And when you say that people never paid "just" for the music, it sounds like you've been putting more value into the plastic and cardboard than in the music itself.... To each its own, but I'm not sure that's the case for everyone. Music has much more value than the packaging that holds it and saying that because it's a file, it has no value is something I can't agree with.

    Streaming is absolutely NOT equivalent to radio. Radio will play all sorts of songs and if you want to hear and own it, you'll have to buy it. Not so with streaming where you can stream the same song at will, and even download it with a $9/month subscription.

    And of course, I'm not saying that you should pay proportionally to time and effort, but you should at least pay a standard price for the effort.

    And when you say that people never paid "just" for the music, it sounds like you've been putting more value into the plastic and cardboard than in the music itself.... To each its own, but I'm not sure that's the case for everyone.
    Music has much more value than the packaging that holds it and saying that because it's a file, it has no value is something I can't agree with.

  • Dez

    Dez Scotland

    I'm not saying the music is worthless. I'm saying that in the past you got a whole package, nice art work, some interesting reading in the liner notes, the ritual of going and buying your favorite music, turning the album at half time... an album instead of separate tracks. The mp3 has turned all music into the songs you used to tape from the radio as opposed to the songs you loved and wanted to own.

    I'm not saying the music is worthless. I'm saying that in the past you got a whole package, nice art work, some interesting reading in the liner notes, the ritual of going and buying your favorite music, turning the album at half time... an album instead of separate tracks. The mp3 has turned all music into the songs you used to tape from the radio as opposed to the songs you loved and wanted to own.

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