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Scarcity vs Abundance

2015 October 30
by Mike Vial

The biggest debate in the music industry has gotten boring: Which streaming platform will win the most consumers. Spotify, Apple Music, a Google/Youtube redesign…

You can read Paul Resnikoff’s Digital Music News blog for anti-streaming arguments (usually addressing payouts); and you can read Bob Lefsetz for the pro-streaming arguments (often addressing cutting off piracy; data analysis).

Either way, “What’s music’s value?” is a difficult question to unpack because the music industry was built on scarcity, and scarcity has ended.

Whether it was vinyl or CD, the business was built on people hearing songs on the radio (or a TV broadcast) and going out to buy a physical product to listen to the song. As an artist, you had to be picked by a label to get a chance. Plus, vinyl would deteriorate after use.  The more you like it, the more likely you will have to buy it again! A perfect system! (And yes, our CDs are deteriorating, too.)

However, scarcity is over. Music is abundant.

Anyone can write, record, publish a song. There is a cost to recording, but that cost is a fraction of what it used to be 10, 15, 20 years ago. And most music is published online at the push of a button!

While debating fair payout rates and copyrights from streaming companies is important, for most of us, it might be more useful to focus a different question: How can artists use the aspects of abundance to their advantage?

I’m still pondering answers. Today, I’m only proposing the question.






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