Join 3,417 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The rise of the pensionable pop fan.
October 8, 2010 2:23 PM   Subscribe

What is working for the music industry and why the top buyers of pop music albums are now those over 60.
posted by rongorongo (33 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
In unrelated news: Lipitor Outsold the Entire US Recording Industry In 2009
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 2:34 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


So far this year Americans have bought 841m digital tracks, mostly from Apple’s iTunes, according to Nielsen Soundscan—down from 847m at this point last year.
OH MY GOD SALES ARE DOWN LESS THAN A TENTH OF A PERCENT! DAMN YOU DOWNLOADERS! DAAAAAMN YOUUUUUU!
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:37 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's all about marketing, Clive Davis, see?
If fans buy the shirt then they get the mp3
Music was a product now it is a service
Major record labels why are you trying to hurt us?
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:38 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


So far this year Americans have bought 841m digital tracks, mostly from Apple’s iTunes, according to Nielsen Soundscan—down from 847m at this point last year.

Yeah, especially in the case of iTunes I think this has more to do with the unsustainability of exponential growth in the sale of durable goods.
posted by jedicus at 2:40 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think Constellation Records (also on SoundCloud) has the right idea. They're streaming every album they've ever released (just click on any of the individual releases).

It's amazing how, in general, the best labels also seem to be the least concerned about intellectual property. I remember Jeremy DeVine (the owner of Temporary Residence Limited) talking about how he didn't care if albums leaked, or people pirated his releases, because he was not only confident in the quality of his product, but confident in people's willingness to pay for a quality product. I wish the rest of the entertainment industry would pay attention.
posted by eioua at 3:00 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


We can't imagine the music business of the future because we can't imagine the music of the future. What we have now exploded out the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964 -- all of it: the huge concerts, record store chains, modern recording technology, the whole strange notion that four young men (a lead guitar player, rhythm guitar player, bass player and drummer) standing on a stage, somehow constitutes entertainment, the massive popularity of "songs". This big bang expanded and expanded and swallowed many other music streams, for almost 50 years. It could decay pretty rapidly once the boomers die and their children get old. And good riddance! It's hung around way too long. Why should there have to be "songs" and "groups" and "concerts"? Why don't you people think of something else?
posted by Faze at 3:09 PM on October 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


Yeah, especially in the case of iTunes I think this has more to do with the unsustainability of exponential growth in the sale of durable goods.

I believe you're mistaken; all firms are guaranteed exponential growth forever.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:11 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why should there have to be "songs" and "groups" and "concerts"?

Yeah, the idea of discrete pieces of music created by individuals and sometimes performed live for an audience is totally an artifact of the late twentieth century.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:12 PM on October 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the idea of discrete pieces of music created by individuals...

Except for Phish and the Dead. In-discrete indeed.
posted by GuyZero at 3:15 PM on October 8, 2010


Yeah, the idea of discrete pieces of music created by individuals and sometimes performed live for an audience is totally an artifact of the late twentieth century.

On the scale it's currently practiced, and as a major proportion of leisure entertainment spending, it kind of is. Obvious songs and concerts go back a long way. But we now have the technological infrastructure to allow something else altogether to arise. What will it be? No one knows.
posted by Faze at 3:20 PM on October 8, 2010


Why should there have to be "songs" and "groups" and "concerts"? Why don't you people think of something else?

"This is brilliant satire," I thought to myself. "Or maybe it's an excellent troll. Or a deep and troubled outburst of some sort of existentialism."

Just please don't tell me you're serious.
posted by reductiondesign at 3:22 PM on October 8, 2010


It's wonderful how they mentioned soaring ticket prices without telling even one particle of the TicketMaster/LiveNation takeover story. And by wonderful, I mean, suspicious. The only reason they give is the savviness of the Rolling Stones. It's all Mick's fault!
posted by emjaybee at 3:32 PM on October 8, 2010


I saw a picture of Lady GaGa. Is this where I comment that the new leg of tour is charging $195 for what are, effectively, "lower level" seats in an arena setting?

$1 9 5.

That is before TM. I love me some GaGa, but what kind of fuckery is that?
posted by cavalier at 3:37 PM on October 8, 2010


Why should there have to be "songs" and "groups" and "concerts"? Why don't you people think of something else?

Just wait until you all read my next manifesto artist's statement!
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:37 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never paid more than $40 for a concert ticket, but I typically avoid big coliseum/stadium shows and the bands that need to perform in venues that large.
posted by emelenjr at 3:56 PM on October 8, 2010


Anyone who's willing to pay $195 for bad seats at a Lady Gaga concert deserves, no, NEEDS a tax increase.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:29 PM on October 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


We owe you nothing / you have no control
posted by joe lisboa at 4:35 PM on October 8, 2010


It could decay pretty rapidly once the boomers die and their children get old. And good riddance! It's hung around way too long. Why should there have to be "songs" and "groups" and "concerts"?

Wut? I'm an old man, but as far as I'm concerned, that whole 'songs/groups' thing was dead by the end of the 80's

Presumably, it made a comeback and I missed it because I don't keep up with youth trends as much as I once did?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:14 PM on October 8, 2010


he was not only confident in the quality of his product, but confident in people's willingness to pay for a quality product

This is exactly it.

What the music industry fails to understand is that people want to own good music and they don't at all mind paying for it. I work in a record store and the question I get asked most every working day is, "What are you playing?" followed by "How much is it?" and "How come I've never heard of it?"

You know that scene in High Fidelity where Cusack says, "I will now sell 5 copies of the Beta Band's three EPs?" That's a daily occurrence in my workday.

People browse around my shop and I put on Nina Nastasia, Roll the Dice, Grouper, Howlin' Wolf, Jamey Johnson, The National, Gil Scott-Heron, Stars of the Lid, Bill Callahan, Candi Staton, Betty Davis, Bobby Bland, Wim Mertens, Grinderman, Marissa Nadler, Concern, Celer, Spencer Wiggins, Abner Jay, Robert Gordon, Moondog, The Budos Band, Raymond Scott, Best Coast, Getatchew Mekuria, James Hunter, Susumu Yokota, Frankie Lymon, Songs: Ohia, Bonnie Billy, Paavoharju, Jacaszek, James Carr, Richard Skelton, Scout Niblett, The Tallest Man on Earth, Svarte Greiner, Ben Frost, Julia Kent, Rachels, Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Animal Hospital, Ilyas Ahmed, Arthur Alexander, Selda, Circle, Octopus Project, Tim Hecker, Barn Owl, David Vandervelde, James Blackshaw, Kropotkins, Clogs, The Star Room Boys, Psychic Paramount, The Knife, Wild Beasts, music put out by some of the great labels working today (like Sublime Frequencies, Type, Touch, Numero Group, Digitalis Industries, Root Strata), and on and on...

They almost always result in a sale. And, in the grand scheme of things, all of these artists, and the others that get spun in my store, are little-known, unknown, or forgotten. I'm not suggesting that every person will like all those bands (though I do), but one can easily gauge the crowd and play something that will sell. I don't think I've ever dropped the needle on Junior Wells' Snatch it Back and Hold It, for instance, and not had half the store look up in wonder. At just the right volume, that track and others of a similar quality can change the life of anyone open minded and looking for good, unfamiliar music.

I usually answer the question, "How come I've never heard of it?" with, "Do you listen to the radio?" When the customer says "Yes"--that's their answer. The music industry as a whole doesn't want to put interesting, challenging music out there. It's too hard for them to market given the current state of radio (and the industry is partially responsible for that, as well). But people do want to buy new (even if it's old) music. All that matters is it resonate and be new to them.

If someone's willing to do a little bit of work--which can be as small an investment as spending time browsing in their local independently owned record shop--they can easily find a whole new world quality music, whether they like folk, blues, rock, classical, ambient, electronic... whatever.

Spending hundreds of dollars to see flash-in-the-pan musicians or artists way past their best before date is insanity to me. I have a customer who just paid $1200 for Roger Waters tickets. And that was NOT from scalpers. $1200 would buy the entire catalogs of some of the more interesting record labels' catalogs and provide a lifetime of entertainment.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 5:16 PM on October 8, 2010 [48 favorites]


Christ on a pogo stick - the fucking Economist!
posted by nj_subgenius at 5:20 PM on October 8, 2010


I love it when serious British people say "reckon." It's possibly my favorite thing about reading the Economist.
posted by not that girl at 6:29 PM on October 8, 2010


That's a great comment, YSStOG.

I feel compelled to note that some of the music you mention, to label it "challenging" (not that you personally do) makes me facepalm.

I mean, The Knife, okay. You can't play that on a dinner party with the norms.

But Nina Nastasia is just a great singer-songwriter, not much farther afield IMO from the likes of say a David Gray whose record graced the coffee tables of much of middle-class Britain ten years ago. (I like both, by the way.)

Tallest Man On Earth? Latter-day Dylan, and much fewer rough edges that could potentially discourage a casual listener. Should play well with the Mumford & Sons set.

So the sad question then is, why do these people have to enter your shop before they have a chance to discover this wonderful, not at all difficult to listen to music?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:12 PM on October 8, 2010


...I reckon?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:13 PM on October 8, 2010


I didn't mean to suggest it was challenging to listen to. I should have worded it better but I guess I meant that it challenges you to listen, to pay attention. Most of the music I like and sell doesn't function well as background music. It demands your attention and usually gets it. That is not the kind of music that labels consider easy to sell or radio feels is worth playing. My argument is that they're both wrong because people do want that kind of music, they generally just do not know that it's available. I don't think that that's a silly thing to say--I hear it every single day from people, whether they're asking, "How come I've never heard of it?" or "What kind of music is this?" or saying, "I've never heard anything like it."

I have a friend who was a huge "radio rock" fan in the 80s--Genesis, U2, REM, Pink Floyd, yadda yadda yadda. Though it may seem silly or naive, he often tells the story of how he was very angry when he found out there was amazing music out there that didn't get played on the radio. He had always assumed that the records he saw in the stores that he'd never heard of simply were not good enough for radio. His logic was that it was, he thought, radio's job to play the best music available in order to bring in the most listeners and spread the word about great music. That all changed the first time he heard New Day Rising at university in 1988. He's never looked back and has been a demon for new (to him) music ever since. I think the vast majority of people who listen to radio are exactly where he was before spinning that Husker Du record at 18.

A couple years ago my shop was mentioned in an article in one of the large daily Toronto newspapers ("an oasis for the serious music devotee"). We're pretty small and really can't afford to advertise and we don't really get a lot of press as the press in Toronto doesn't really have many good music writers left. The day that article came out the store was *packed*--like, boxing-day-sale-can't-move-too-many-people-fire-hazard packed. We were playing what we always play: music we love. I have never seen so many dumbfounded people in one place in my entire life. Sure, there were some who wanted to run screaming (and at least one who actually did), but it was just a beautiful sight to behold.

So yeah, I think there is plenty of desire for good music. The trick is getting it to peoples' ears so that they can at least consider whether they really like what they've been listening to because it's good or because it was "all" that was available--and, to me, music is a necessity in life for all humans. If all that's available is pablum, we'll spoon it up and get used to it pretty fast.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:45 PM on October 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Which shop is that, YSStOG, if I may ask?
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:50 PM on October 8, 2010


I memailed you, The Card Cheat.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:56 PM on October 8, 2010


the entertainment industry is doing pretty well - the music industry is struggling
posted by pyramid termite at 8:41 PM on October 8, 2010


(It makes me so terribly sad to see the mighty R.E.M. of the '80s lumped in with Genesis and Pink Floyd. Wha??)
posted by mykescipark at 11:09 PM on October 8, 2010


YSStOG... I've heard a decent number of those on KCRW in LA. I mean, I already knew it was a remarkable radio station, but it's nice to have that backed up.

Like everything else in the universe, it's available streaming on the internets. Can't recommend it enough.

*queue the kcrw hate, which always shows up. and never fails to baffle me*
posted by flaterik at 2:31 AM on October 9, 2010


One of the things I love about the internet and our spiffy new comp-U-technology is the way in which it has empowered the individual and small groups of people to exercise their creativity and get distribution to those who care without having to run the gauntlet of major film studios, book publishers, record labels, and so on. I've seen the future of music and it's some kid in his bedroom with a copy of Garageband, iMovie, and a video camera and he's posting stuff to YouTube, then making his own website, then putting tracks and whole albums on the iTunes store, then playing clubs and stuff before adoring fans. A whole new ecosystem is growing up and it's freaking awesome.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:47 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


eioua, I'd say that Jeremy DeVine is on to something, considering I was one of the guys who bought Temporary Residence's 7 LP Eluvium box sets and owns entirety of The Books' catalog on vinyl. I never even realized they were on the same label. Looks like it's time to check out their full roster.
posted by Klieserber at 10:27 PM on October 9, 2010


Klieserber, I have that Eluvium set. It's lovely. Did you buy it direct from TR? If not, you should contact them about the library card that comes with it--if you send it in, the artist can add your name as the last one on the list. They did this automatically if purchased from them.

And only one of The Books albums (the last) is on TR. The rest are on Tomlab.

If you're looking for other TR releases to investigate, I'd recommend The Drift's Noumena (all their catalog is great but that's my fave that's in print), anything by Explosions in the Sky, and some of Mono's releases. I linked Kammerflimmer above and one of their releases is on TR.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:47 AM on October 10, 2010


Yep, I bought the set straight from the label. And now that you mention I definitely should have known that the The Books LPs were from Tomlab. I can't speak too highly for that label. Those are some of the flimsiest sleeves I own. I am happy to see that The Way Out will likely get a packaging upgrade v. the rest of them. And thanks for the recs, I'll check them out.
posted by Klieserber at 9:24 AM on October 10, 2010


« Older The Art Of Film Title Design Throughout Cinema His...  |  "Star Trek: First Contact gave... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments