Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Evolution of the Music Commodity

When I launched my business recently, I believed I was at the forefront of music and technology. As an author and composer, I had moved to all-digital recordings of my music. As a publisher, I was convinced that physical CDs were outdated, and I was attempting to convince my clients of that. Yet, they still wanted that tangible CD in their hands – proof that they had actually achieved something.

Consumers, on the other hand, are very different. Very few of them care about the physical CD. They would rather download and enjoy the music immediately than order a CD online and wait for it to arrive or have to go to the store and buy it. Understanding this, the band Of Montreal took a unique step in moving the focus away from the CD and toward another tangible item: merchandise.  In order to purchase the band’s album Skeletal Lamping, the customer purchased a piece of apparel, which came with a link to download the music. (Morris, 2011).

In addition to the lack of interest in a physical CD, the audio music itself has become much less of a commodity with the public. It has very little value. If you want it, there are plenty of tools available to simply pick up your mobile device and steal it, or in the best-case scenario for artists, use a free app to listen to it and reward the artist / publisher with a whopping one-tenth of a penny per listen.

Recently, the enormously popular band U2 made a free copy of its digitally downloadable album Songs of Innocence available to all 500 million Apple iTunes users. For many of those users, the album was downloaded to their devices automatically without their consent. U2 was forced to apologize to many users who are not fans, and who value the storage space on their phone more than U2 music. (Clover, 2014).

With the advent of Napster, and follow up file transfer enabler, Bit Torrent, music continues to digress in value.  While Bit Torrent is technically a legal platform, it is often used for illegal file sharing. (Love, 2012). Moreover, this continued emphasis on illegal file sharing of copyrighted music causes the music files to be viewed as something to be amassed, hoarded, and traded. The following graph depicts the radical decrease in sales revenue due in part to piracy, and it also shows that, for those who are still willing to pay for their music, digital distribution began outpacing the purchase of physical CDs in 2012:

Copyright © 2012, Statista


Clover, J. (2014). U2’s Bono Apologizes For Automatic ‘Songs of Innocence’ Album Download. Retrieved from:

Love, D. (2012). Everything You Need To Know About Bit Torrent, The Legal (And Illegal) Way To Download Anything You Want. Retrieved from:

Morris, J. W. (2011). Sounds In The Cloud: Cloud Computing And The Digital Music Commodity. Retrieved from:


Richter, F. (2012). Streaming Boom Can’t Offset Decline in Physical Music Sales. Retrieved from:

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