Let’s assume, music is not a product for a start. What I want to draw your attention to is, that music – besides it’s inherent nature as an art form – is a form of communication.
Music communicates text and meta information from the artist to the listener.
At the same time it does communicate a multitude of messages within the audience as well as between the ones who would never listen to this specific music. plus between all respective parties Now what does that mean?
Being fan to a specific genre is more but distinction or sheer liking, it can describe individual personalities as well as subjective and common concepts of the world very precisely.
Imagine the straight edge skate punk guy, being vegan/vegetarian, no republican for sure, even the sneakers he wears do fit an ensemble everyone can easily envision. Some concepts might be a little less consistent, but still everyone gets the gist of what the respective followers / fans are about.
What I want to imply is, that music always was used to define oneself as part of a community. Music is the common denominator in a set of highly complex attributes of a big picture I share with others.
If you can agree I’d like to break down this whole thing to music being the key to a social network. It was when an elite agreed about the value of a certain composer and such knowledge redefined this elite, it is when kids know for sure that band a is it, and band b sucks, although both can be products of the same company.
Today the recording industry is facing a dramatic drop in revenues, always asserting that their consumers used to pay for music and now steal music via online and mobile channels.
Here comes my thesis: No they don’t! They never paid for music and do not steal music now. Not from their perspective.
Summarizing the little detour we just did, you agreed consumers did pay for a good that granted access to a social peer group. They paid for access to a social network. You see where this will take us, right?
Today consumers do not pay for music any more but rip it online/mobile. At the same time they spend an even higher share of their monthly budget to mobile and online providers, device manufacturers and service providers. They still do pay. They pay for access, access to their core element of self description which is music. The only difference is, they hand over their money to someone else providing access to music nowadays.
From the consumers perspective this means, they still want to be part of a peer group, they still utilize music for doing so, they still pay for getting access to music and thus access to the community desired. Maybe this is one reason for the broad lack of conscious of guilt by consumers that download illegally.
If you can choose between a party offering you music, and a party offering you music, plus tools to access music easily, plus commodity by doing so everywhere, plus extra distinction via desirable devices, plus tools to communicate about the music with a peer group, plus the whole peer group itself – well what would you choose?
Yes, you are right, it’s not the same, but it still is quite cool, isn’t it?
All this doesn’t help the label or artist to get their money, but it might open a new perspective if it comes to judging on consumers?