October 2, 2013 at 6:04 pm

People Consume 10x More Music Than Sports, So Why Does Sports Make 6x the Cash?

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People spend way more time listening to music than watching sports.

And yet sports programming generates six times more money than the recorded music industry.

What’s up with that?

Such was the question posted at an SF Music Tech panel called “Music, Tech & Money” (.pdf), according to a tipster, who believes it was moderator Hany Nada, a partner at GGV Capital, who said:

“People spend 4 hours per week watching sports and 40 listening to music. But the music industry is one sixth the size of the sports industry. Why?”

It’s a good question. I wasn’t at this latest SF Music Tech, but my theory has long been that it’s because sports was never really disrupted by on-demand media (DVR, online services) the way almost all other forms of audio and video have been.

Sports doesn’t want to be timeshifted, because then you have to turn off your phone and disengage from the world (otherwise someone will likely ruin the game by divulging the score) unless you have access to something like this. And it doesn’t want to be downloaded, traded, streamed later, or archived, for the same reason.

Sports is pretty much the last thing that people need to watch in real time. On-demand access improves almost all audio and video except for sports (and the evening news, for older demographics), so the old systems are still in place there. They know the ads will get seen. And if anything, the second screen just offers more opportunity to make money. In terms of live attendance, there’s a different allure, too, with the regional pride and competition aspects. Maybe American Idol etc. are on the right track with the latter.

Basically, the issue is that Sports and Music are completely different animals. Still, it might be fun to try to draw up a list of possible lessons from the sports industry to the music industry, along the lines of our lessons from the podcast renaissance:

People Like Competition

Sports, in America anyway, are about winning or losing. This is one reason we don’t like to watch soccer. American Idol understands this, as do music competition sites like OurStage, but maybe there’s room for a bit more formalized competition in music. (Yes, all of social networking is already a competition for bands seeking Likes and Follows, but that’s not a formal, viewable-in-real-time competition.)

Regional Segmentation

Sports has lots of fans because each town has its own team, and each team has its own style, even though the players come from everywhere these days. Maybe music needs more local scenes. People in Seattle really like, lived grunge, from what I understand. These days, it seems like, for the casual music fan, music is not only everywhere, it’s from everywhere.

Undivided Attention

Yes, music is everywhere we go, on every ad we hear, and on every television show. On top of that, many of us listen to it as much as we can, while we’re doing everything from driving to working to jogging to, um, expressing our love for one another. Elevators, waiting rooms, hallways, offices, restaurants, videogames, etc. — this is how we end up hearing 40 hours of music per week. We sometimes consume music sometimes without noticing we’re doing it.

On the other hand, watching a game that includes your favorite team is a practically religious experience for many people. They can’t not watch.

The lesson for the music industry: It could help to cultivate undivided attention, whatever that means. It’s not going to happen all the time, because again, music and sports are different. But it could happen sometimes, whether through advanced formats, interactive experiences, live streaming of shows, and whatever else people can think of to make people focus on what they’re listening to.

Harness The Second Screen

For sports broadcasters, smartphones and tablets aren’t competition — they’re just another place where they can send fans advanced statistics. Audio fingerprinting is even capable of syncing the stuff on the small screen with the stuff on the big screen. Perhaps there are ways to sync music apps with the music that’s playing (both Dan Deacon and Musixmatch have done interesting things along these lines — expect more on those soon).

  • Anonymous

    Because all the tech thieves / “geniuses” haven’t figured out how to hack into the satellite transmissions of the company’s that paid for those rights……………..

  • Dr Jedi

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  • js

    I’ll tell ya why. because the quality of music that people are expected to pay for is extremely low. It’s a low value proposition. sports is not.

  • Brock Peters

    Yes, but. The main reason is that supply is limited and the value of the product (a game) to the fan goes down immediately after the game is over. So if the rights holders can manage to control maintain limited distribution, establish their audience numbers, build investor pools (the investment is in the advertising around the game), and strictly enforce their rights over the IP (which is most valuable when immediately consumed) against infringement, they can ensure revenue streams. You don’t see the NFL teams expanding to a league of 500 teams. That would dilute the value. Music executives have permitted the dilution of value. But sports programming is not really comparable to music.

  • elburco

    People listen 40hrs of music per week? Nearly 6hrs a day? Id qiestion where you get your figures from.