From 'Thingness' to Access

Continued from: Battle Lines Drawn


They begin to focus on access.  And access had been really difficult for a while.  You could download a song from one service and it would not play on devices from another company.  Or you could download a song that had DRM (Digital Rights Management) which would limit the number of devices it could play on. I was a big messy system, where fans found they might have to purchase a song more than once, while their friends were getting them illegally from Napster and torrents.

When DRM was removed legal access to digital files got easier.  In addition to illegal file access, Apple, Amazon and others made it very easy to buy, download and store music files.  People over time would amass large collection of music. These collections would be somewhat disconnected from artwork liner note and even from the packaging as an album.  The audio quality had gotten to the point where is it was just good enough to enjoy, but was really lacking in quality compared to analog or uncompressed digital files.

But then there were streaming services ranging from the likes of Pandora which were like personalized radio station and of course the on-demand streaming music services like Spotify.  While Spotify does pay a small amount for each play of a song, that pennies don't add-up as quickly as the dollars obtained from selling album. While there have been many great albums, there have been so many with just one or two good songs.  When it comes down to people just playing what they want when they want it and the have access to millions of songs, consumption patterns were bound to change.  Regardless of what people were listening to, the revenue was just not adding-up for some artists. It may be the newness of the platform or it may just be that when you meter access to music from subscription services it may turn-out to have a lower payout than the download of physical good version of music.

This may change over time as these services grow-up. But what's not likely to change is the consumption patterns of people used to on-demand access for free or a low subscription price.

For better or worse the concept of selling ownership of music is going away. People want access, rather than ownership. The world has already largely moved away from physical goods when it comes to music consumption. Now it's moving away from ownership.  If I have access to the music on every device, then why do I need to own it? While collectors and fans will likely continue to want to own, most consumers will happily give-up ownership for access.

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