I recently read an article where record label heads discussed the percentage of download codes that were actually redeemed by people who bought some of that modern vinyl that has no cachet with me. As of two years ago, the percentage of downloads that were redeemed by customers who had bought a vinyl record hovered in the very low two digits. The label heads were wondering out loud about how much longer any of them would be taking the costly effort to provide digital footage files of analog vinyl as a courtesy to their customers, who [let it be said] are paying through the nose for this vinyl. By my reckoning, at least. The files need to be hosted somewhere in a cloud server and that doesn’t come free.
This article, which was two years old, stated that no one was interested in downloads any more. The [poor] vinyl pressing is basically sold as costly visual memorabilia to a clientele that might have a Crosley player to their name. Ten years ago they could have bought one of the 40 million copies of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” clogging up the dollar bins few, remaining record stores for no more than $5.00. Nothing available in those numbers is even remotely to be considered rare. Now that 180 g 2xLP 2011 re-issue of an album that was by no means rare is selling for nearly $50. They don’t want a download. Everyone is just streaming their music now for a low, low monthly bill. And this was from two years ago! The landscape today has moved so far down that precipice that I worry that music I have been reluctant to buy because it was download only will soon be extinct to purchase in the wild. How much longer will Amazon or Apple be willing to sell a download that’s a big effort to maintain online? Bandcamp [the preferred Monastic DL platform] I’m not too worried about, but it’s got me paranoid about being able to buy things which don’t fit in the indie Bandcamp business model.
While a seeming majority of casual music consumers are content to pay a monthly fee to listen to anything they are able to hear from a conglomerate that controls their music, if you are reading this page, you are probably not a “casual consumer of music.” The closest thing I came to streaming was the year in 2006 when my wife got me a ad-free year’s subscription to Pandora. Ad-free listening was a must as I stopped listening to advertising by 1980. Life is too short to ever hear/see an ad. Remember that little bon mot on your deathbed. It was a year when I listened to my station, seeded with one artist [Gina X Performance] that pointed the way to a few artists I did not know about but grew to like and buy. That was the upside.
The downside? I had to be sitting at my computer to hear the music. I was doing a lot of freelance at that time, so it gave me some reason to sit at the computer for hours at a time. But normally, when I am having computer time for relaxation, I am digitizing vinyl and denoising it, ruling out streaming Pandora at the same time. So you can see where that was not too viable for me. Most of my focused listening time was in the car. Once more ruling out streaming of any kind. Oh but what about the fill-in-the-blank app on your smartphone? Well, I don’t plan on having a smartphone ever. I don’t like phones and have little need of them. I really don’t like smartphone bills. [caveat: in the rural area where I live one has to drive “down the mountain” to get a common carrier signal] Unless Congress passes a mandatory smartphone bill with punishment of jail time looming for malcontents like me, it’s just never going to happen.
Back when I began collecting records, I was used to buying music that was on the fringes of the marketplace. The bands that I loved were rarely selling any serious numbers in the horrible US marketplace of the early 80s, but no matter if you liked Heaven 17 or Fleetwood Mac, we all basically consumed the music in much the same way. LP vs cassette was as far as any technological rift went. Today, the landscape is far more fractured, in keeping with the breakdown of mass popular culture into smaller pockets of microculture that allow for a tightly focused advertising dollar to be spent reaching exactly the correct demographic of ears and eyeballs. In 1980 the choices were LP or Cassette? Mass Market or Fringe? 38 year later and it’s a case of Streaming? Download? CD? LP? And lately, even Cassette? All but the biggest artists of all time [a.k.a Classic Rock] are the Mass Market and almost everything else is the Fringe. Like society itself, the middle ground is being hollowed out as it collapses, leaving only the very big, who take the vast majority of the pie, and the very small.
Next: …Capital Doesn’t Just Evaporate, Does It?