The music industry has been declared dead. CD sales experienced the steepest plunge in recent memory, according to the RIAA, with a double-digit decline of 12.8%. Artist management now view CD sales as supplementary to the core business of concerts and merchandising, much like dishing out single servings to passers by at Costco.
When you look at the data, it’s interesting to see that digital downloading from iTunes and others represents a very small percentage — less than 10% — of total revenue. The numbers from RIAA point out that in 2006, the reporting members racked up $9.6 billion in CD sales versus $878 million in downloads. Mobile downloads, from ringtunes to full downloads, are almost as large in revenue as music dowloads to iPods, at $774 million.
A rational person might conclude that CDs, while down double digits and facing the hippest of hip alternatives in the iPod, still represent the mainstream of music mindshare by virtue of their 9:1 advantage in tonnage. Fluff versus substance. Case closed.
However, let’s take our label glasses off for a moment and look at it from a consumer’s point of view. (We’re marketers, after all, and this is something we’re supposed to do at times, right?)
If we put ourselves into the average day in the life of a music consumer, how many music interactions did we all have in 2006? Well, 642 million CDs were bought. Compare this figure to 625 million digital downloads and 315 million mobile downloads and the balance shifts to the other side, with a ratio of 1:1.5 or so. We’re experiencing more music downloads on average.
Sure, we can argue about how many downloads happen at the same time just as we can discuss how many CDs an average person buys on Amazon (or even how many are bought used, which won’t show up here), or even the number of non-RIAA shipments are taking place. All true. Let’s focus on what we know for now and keep our eyes open for more data as it comes.
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> How your consumer sees things is probably more important to you than how your peers in industry see them. You can usually count on them not readily acknowledging this, too. So use it to your advantage.
> Experience has more emotional impact than shipments, which means it will mean more to your brand.
> Any time you’re handed a sheet full of numbers, don’t stop at the summary. Do your own analysis and dig out what’s relevant to you, not the intern who put it together.
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What’s interesting in all of this is that music isn’t dead at all. The labels may be in dire straits but people — consumers, you know, the ones beyond the footlights — have re-discovered music in a semi-renaissance over the past few years through new ways to connect or re-connect with music. And venerable CDs are far from dead. They do, as we’ve seen above, represent the lion’s share of the market share in total revenue and oddly, it seems that most heavy iTunes consumers sample online and buy in physical form.
But you don’t need me to tell you that how we get our hands on all this music has been going though changes.