When will the music industry truly understand its consumer?

3 03 2009

The IFPI in its 2009 report on the music industry indicated that 95% of all downloads in 2008 were still through illegal channels. It is therefore not surprising that Apple continues to struggle with getting its new iPod buyers to consume music through iTunes. But is this really a reasonable expectation I ask? Just imagine having to fill an iPod that holds 30,000 songs with music through iTunes. It would cost you almost $30,000! Now this is by no means acceptable – which brings us back to the decade long debate between the ideals of possessive individualism Vs- social utilitarianism in the music business. 

The ‘downloader’ culture today is very different from what it was a decade ago. Consumers are looking for possible solutions that arrive at a balance between allowing music to be shared and protecting its rights to distribution. If Apple thinks that by removing DRM on its songs and implementing a variable pricing model, it has finally cracked the code, I am sorry to say that Apple is WRONG!

Apparently, we are now expected to take solace in the fact that instead of having to spend $30,000 to fill our iPods, we can now do so for just $28,999!

But the problem is not just with Apple. The root of the problem inherently lies in the inability of record labels to truly understand their consumers. It’s high time the big four (in the music industry) start understanding consumer subculture and the role music plays in the creation of social bonds. Without an understanding of why their consumers continue to behave the way they do (illegally sharing music), record labels will have to continue taking shots in the dark and those of us who are actively seeking a solution to this problem will have to continue being guinea pigs. 

Additional reading on the subject matter:

1.     Markus Giesler (2008). Conflict and Compromise: Drama in Marketplace Evolution. JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH , 15.

2.     Ian Condry (2004). Cultures of music piracy: An ethnographic comparison of the US and Japan. INTERNATIONAL journal of CULTURAL studies.




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