Modern Music Consumption

I’ve been thinking about music distribution and consumption alot lately. Being a lifelong music consumer and a music producer for the last 10 years (and then spending some time in FM radio before that), I’ve been in various roles in this industry.

When I read articles covering the front lines of piracy, copyright infringement, royalty disputes, streaming rates, etc. I always try to compare their examples back to my own daily reality.

For instance, I believe that a music consumer faces more choices now than ever before. Before the late 90’s the choice in America was which mall to drive to, park, and run into a record store to find?(or more than likely not find) the release you were seeking. But it was the mall and this was before the internet, so you usually found something else to do (like sculpt your mullet in the mirrored glass of the hot girl store).

Today this process doesn’t involve maps or mullets. The power to search servers literally planet-wide for a song (which is now just a “file” like any other) then decide to pay or not is the critical decision not faced by prior consumers.

Imagine if the store next to the record store in the mall had more new releases, a more in-depth back catalog, more information on the artists (approved and unapproved), and NO cash register? See, in this store everything is free, brought to you by someone who gets paid for every person that looks into the store!

I think this will be part 1 of a series, because I realize I have more research and number crunching ahead to get to my summary. But I propose to walk you through the choices a 2011 music consumer makes (me), and how that choice affects artists with product for sale (also me!).

Just like on the personal side, no two artists agree completely on this issue so I’ll try to refrain from passing judgement. I’m just trying to educate you (and myself in the process) and show the lay of the land here in the united skates of america 1.5 years before the apocalypse.

OK to get this started, here’s a summary of my music consumption over the past 6 weeks. I,

  • borrowed 3 vinyl LP’s from a friend (new Menomena, new Sparklehorse/Danger Mouse, old Violent Femmes)
  • received 1 burned CD as a gift (new Social Distortion)
  • purchased 5 singles from iTunes (various 60’s/70’s singles)
  • purchased 1 full LP from iTunes (Motorhead’s Ace of Spades)
  • attended 2 local indie-rock shows (been busy lately, not going out much)
  • tune into streaming radio from Jango Radio daily
  • tune into streaming radio from Last.fm and Reverbnation occasionally
  • tune into terrestrial streaming radio from RadioTime occasionally
  • play my iTunes collection on shuffle in the car and in headphones
  • made a mix CD of artists from my studio for other artists from my studio
  • made a mix CD of post-Beatles songs from my record collection and gave to 3 friends as a gift
  • pulled up about 10 songs on Youtube for review or instant gratification
  • watched 2 concert DVD’s streamed on Netflix (The Meters & Moogfest 06)
  • play old purchased CD’s in the bedroom to fall asleep to occasionally
  • play my favorite iTunes tracks through the studio monitors when not in a session
  • hear snippets of modern artists in every other commercial I try to avoid
This list will be our starting point (our dataset) and in the next post we are going to start classifying those transactions under the contexts of artist payment and artist promotion. We might even gets some charts finally!
Ultimately, this is an exercise in understanding how the industry works in the current environment, and how regular people react to it. ?Stay tuned for more.