The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry released its annual global recorded music revenue report this week. Unlike the previous report, this one saw a decline in overall recorded music revenue by 3.9 percent, to $15 billion — mostly due to shrinking revenues in Japan that we totally saw coming.
Over a billion of that was due to the growth of on-demand music subscription services such as Deezer, Google Play All Access, Muve, Rdio, Rhapsody, and Spotify. Some people still mistakenly believe these services to be “cannibalizing” digital and physical sales, which is silly, because that is exactly what they are supposed to do. If artists, labels, publishers, and songwriters were paid every time someone played a song on a computer or smartphone, the recorded music industry would be bigger than ever.
One reason more people don’t pay for music subscriptions, according to Recode’s calculations, is that most people want to pay $45 to $65 per year for recorded music, and these subscriptions typically cost twice that, at $10 per month, the price of four bus rides or two lattes.
What about people in the other direction — more serious music people who would gladly pay more for an even better, more complete on-demand music service? Economists have a word for what these people are currently enjoying: consumer surplus. It means these people would pay more, but there’s nothing offered to them, so they get a better deal than necessary, from the businesses’ point of view. From their point of view, they are getting part of something for free — but they’re also missing out on what a more expensive option could offer.
The idea that underserved demand might exist for a super-premium music subscription surfaced during a conversation I had during SXSW last week. Granted, a music festival is where one might expect to find such people, but in my quick and dirty poll, 100 percent of the people in that conversation were willing to pony up $20-$25 per month for a super-premium music service.
What is a super-premium music service, anyway?
It’s a purely theoretical construct in my head, for now anyway, but one advantage could lie in its catalog. Some artists and labels like to “window” their releases, offering them, say, first as an NPR exclusive, then on CD, vinyl, and MP3, and only then to the on-demand music services. Others, such as the Beatles and Thom Yorke, prefer to keep their music off of the subscription services completely. I assume many of these artists would be open to offering their music to an on-demand service for serious music people willing to pay more, at least in terms of windowing to super-premium, and then to premium.
Increased sound quality (lossless or better when possible), the ability to cache more than the 3,333 songs currently allowed by the labels on a mobile device, the ability to telegraph to all of your Facebook and Twitter friends that you are awesome because you pay more for music (via the word “super-premium user” appearing when you share or scrobble what you’re listening to), early-released singles, guest DJs, rare and live releases, merch deals, exclusive, high-quality content (photos, blog posts, personal notes, etc.) from participating artists, and anything else worthy of serious music fans could be a part of a super-premium music service.
Now that we’ve explained the concept, let’s find out how many of you would pay $20-$25 per month for something like this (Update: It looks like PollDaddy no longer displays the results of polls, so we will update the results manually below the poll):
So far, 54 percent say yes and 46 percent say no.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/xomiele