Why Music Is Not A Product & Three Reasons Why That's A Good Thing

from the check-your-assumptions dept

Perhaps the biggest illusion in content-centric industries is the belief that the content itself is the main product. For the end-consumer, music is not a product or a service. End-consumers rarely pay for music. They put down money for copies of music, such as CDs, sheet music or music downloads. They put down money for tickets to live experiences. They put down money for subscriptions to music services. Those are all products, but music itself is not. Arguably, the only way to directly 'pay for music' is through commission or donation.

So what is music, or any other type of content? It's what adds value to the CD in the box. It's what makes 2 covers separated by a stack of paper worth buying from the book shop. It's what brings hundreds of people to one place for a shared experience. But it's not a product.

For people that have effectively programmed their minds to see their content as a product, this might be an uncomfortable revelation. Yet while uncomfortable, it can also be very empowering and here's why:
  • Digital-proof. For a long time the music industry 'got away' with believing that the content is what people buy. However as music went digital, an increasing amount of people were able to separate the content from the product; thus leading to an uncontrollable proliferation of the content through unauthorized networks. Understanding that music ≠ the product fully acknowledges the digital reality, which is the first step to finding viable alternatives for products.
  • Flexibility. Understanding that music is not the same thing as the product which creates the financial reward is a great way to rethink the products that are created surrounding your music. Music is neither a CD nor a download. It can add value to anything. Some people actually create content around physical things to make them more valuable and easier to sell (it's called Significant Objects).
  • Fan-centrism. Separating product and content means you no longer have to sell fans what you want them to buy. You can sell them what they want to buy and let the music add value. By understanding who your most avid fans are, you can provide them with something they'll be happy to spend money on. Example (oversimplification alert): got hipster fans? Sell subscriptions to exclusive content via an iPhone app. Got teenage girl fans? When doing a live show, give them a number to send a text message to for an x amount of money & give them exclusive backstage content from the show when they return home. You can do anything; just understand your audience by being connected with them and realize that it's not the content itself that's being sold.

This way, everybody wins. The fans win, because what they pay for is more relevant to them. The artists win, because not only do you have increased chances to monetize, but you will also create a stronger connection with your fans by giving (or selling) them what they want.

Some great, classic examples of artists & labels that 'get it' are:

In short, the value of the products you sell can be raised dramatically by attaching your content to it. Your content is valuable, but for end-consumers, it's not your product.

Filed Under: music, product


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2012 @ 11:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    No, but that wouldn't really be Trent would it? If you got him to compose music it would be his unique style that would help the scenes and setting of the game. If he did write " twee singer-songwriter " you tell him to go away and that you are ashamed of his work. On the other hand if the music was true to his style, your games music would be "Exclusive work by Reznor" and if you were smart you would have something in the physical copies of the game. Small token such as a piece of the paper he used to doodle on or write music on. You know things that are real physical goods. You could also throw in exclusive models from your game. The point would be to only use so many of a certain model.

    His music is not really a product, it is an expression of Him. The difference between it and facial expressions is that you can duplicate his music endlessly for distribution.

    If you are not doing something for the enjoyment of it and are instead doing it for the money, you are destined to fail. Fans REALLY only care about the experience. The unique experience.

    Music was a product but no more. Before you could listen to an artist you had to go to where they were performing and experience it. Then came the record, large but still on demand. Then you had tapes that were smaller and you take with you on the go. They suffered over time so the first play was the same as the last play. Then we moved up again to CD. Even smaller then a tape and held more. More durable. Then we figured out how to rip music into digital format. At that point, Music went back to being an experience and no longer a product for hocking.

    Also, you could make him a character, but unless you got him to do the voice acting, what would be the point? You might as well have a wax statue of him in the game. You are still thinking that X (that which is infinite) is a money maker. What you are failing to under stand is that it is E (that which is finite) is the way to make money. Sure you will have some people willing to buy X, and some willing to buy E. The difference is that E is an actual something that there is only so much of. Once you are out of it, it is gone, where as X will be here forever.

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