Music: Supply & Demand

Karla and I were discussing the music industry and how it’s been affected by Apple Music, Spotify, and other similar services. The conversation started around an innocent box of CDs that Karla hangs on to for sentimental reasons despite the fact that she was almost every one of those songs available at the touch of a button online. There are formative albums, sentimental albums, gift albums, everyone else had it so I got also albums, et al. But all of these albums have one thing in common, they are owned. The endless supply of digital albums that we “add” to our libraries via digital music services isn’t quite the same.

Most would posit that an endless supply available on demand is a wonderful thing, and for the most part I would agree. Access and availability are great. The internet has fundamentally changed how the world functions. The cost of entry for exploring a new genre is minimal. You are now able to consume an entire album or artist’s music over a weekend, decide if you like it or not, and move from there. Add it to your library (i.e. purchase it) or forget about it (i.e. sell it to used CD purchaser).

The trouble with this is that music starts to become a commodity. The supply of music has gone way up given how easy it now is to produce it. It has leveled the playing field and made it easier to put your music out there whether you’re backed by a big label or not. SoundCloud, anyone? So, what happens to prices and value when supply goes up? Basic economics starts to take its deathly hold on the value of music and effectively decimates it for those that have access to this endless supply.

After reading an NPR article on active listening, I started to engage more actively instead of passively. I’ve been listening to a single artist over the course of a week instead of hours. I started to remember song titles, choruses, and verses again. While I’m not ready to part with the endless supply just yet, I want to be more proactive in giving a more valuable place in my life by treating it the way I did before these services existed. I want to look at the offerings available, “buy it”, then put it on repeat for at least a week to engage it and come to appreciate all the gems that the artist has hidden in it for my enjoyment. As a musician, I would want the same from the audience of my art as well.