Unsubstantiated Claim: iTunes Success Makes It Harder To Discover New Music
from the say-what-now dept
Michael Manning points us to a writeup of a new study by Harvard professor Anita Elberse (who has long been a critic of things like “the long tail” concept) concerning the “iTunes effect” on music sales. Most of the article focuses on the fact that (gasp!) given the opportunity to just buy the songs people like, rather than an entire album, many will do just that. Shocking. But the writeup seems to suggest that this is the fault of iTunes, rather than the fault of the recording industry for putting out album after album where only a couple of songs are worth buying. There’s no cosmic law that says people need to buy albums, and to blame iTunes for it, rather than the industry for not creating products worth buying seems incredibly backwards.
Of course, it then gets even more ridiculous:
Not all of that lost revenue was profit. That album revenue was partly subsidizing the discovery and publishing of new music, which in turn created new buyers of music, tour tickets, posters, t-shirts, and so on. That revenue in turn helped develop that artist’s next venture, and discover yet other artists. Significantly decreased revenues breaks the cycle that helps find new talent that will generate more revenue.
And yet, as we’ve seen more new music is being made today than ever before in history, so it’s not like this is really harming the production of new music. And this totally ignores how the internet has totally changed the economics of discovering, publishing and distributing new music — such that you don’t need to rely on the major record labels to seek out new music for you. And, even if you do rely on major labels to “discover” the next big thing, new technologies have made that much cheaper for the industry as well. They now have the internet to help them find bands and judge their buzz and sound even without having first found them at a club as was often done in the past. To ignore all of those other impacts seems highly questionable, and puts a cloud over the research as a whole. Besides, just thinking about it logically makes it ridiculous to think that iTunes has somehow limited new music discovery. For many, many, many people, it seems likely that it has increased new music discovery, and done so by taking the record labels somewhat (not entirely) out of that loop.