Tag Archives: value of music

Is Music “Worthless” Feedback…

Because I was recieving a lot of negative feedback on my last post, where I said that I believed that music is now “worthless”, I decided to ask Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine and author of The Long Tail if what he thought of my hypothesis.  His reply:

Although your point is generally right, you made a rhetorical error by equating “value” and “price”. Just because something has no price doesn’t mean it has no value. Indeed, in the non-monetary economies of attention and reputation, it may be valued very highly. In short, your mistake was using “worthless” too loosely–to quote The Princess Bride, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” 😉

This is a common error, and I address it one chapter in the book.

Chris Anderson’s next book, out this summer, is called FREE  and is about the economics of Free.  It is my most eagerly anticipated book of the year.   Thanks so much to Chris for responding and so quickly (in ten minutes!).  

Check out the comments by Jermey Meyes and David Rose on the previous post for some interesting critisism of the post.


What Is The Value Of Music, Pt 3 – Christopher Lars Carlson

Part 3 in our series of the value of music is by Christopher Lars Carlson.  Chris is a student at the Berklee School of Music, where he is also president of the Music Business Club.  He manages Tom Howie and can be found on twitter and on his music business blog, A Musician’s Journey, which is filled with great ideas.  The question I asked him was:

What do you think the value of music is?  Is it the $17.99/album that the major labels charged for so long?  Is it the $9.99/album that itunes charges?  Is it the $0.00 that it costs to get music from Pirate Bay?  Is it something else?

This is what Chris said – 


d) None Of The Above

Every release needs a goal. Is the goal to gain awareness? then give it away for free. Do you need to make enough money to fund a tour? Then determine what that amount is and estimate how many sales you think you can make. Divide and decide your price point.

It’s my personal belief that there should be options a la NIN (Nine Inch Nails): free, cheap, regular, expensive, insanely expensive.

Depending on where an artist is in their career, only some of these price points will make sense, but the point is that by the next release, they are at a different point in their career and a new strategy will be needed.

To more directly answer your question: I think the value of music is dependent on the relationship between the fan and artist. An UBER fan is going to pay $275 for a release (NIN deluxe box set) but that same person is going to download an album for free from an artist they don’t have a relationship with.

The next guest post will be by Shawn M Smith, formerly of TVT Records and currently the man behind Radio Exile.

What Is The Value Of Music, Pt. 2: Bud Caddell

Part 2 of our series on the value of music is by Bud Caddell.  Bud is a strategist at Undercurrent, blogs at WhatConsumesMe, is a popular fellow on twitter, and is an all around brilliant guy when it comes to the digital world.  We’re thrilled to have his guest post.

The Value of Music

Has music suffered from inflation?

In the 50ʼs, a postage stamp was three cents. Today itʼs fourty-two. In the 50ʼs, a gallon of gasoline was around twenty cents and you could buy a tricked out Ford for two grand. The price of a 10” record, offering around three minutes of playback, was $2.85. A 12” record, up to eight minutes of playback, was $4.85 (source: http://www.fiftiesweb.com/ pop/prices-1950.htm). Adjusted for inflation, $4.85 in 1955 is worth $38.34 today (source). But I can buy a single song right now from iTunes for 99 cents.

Sure, youʼre not pressing that vinyl and youʼre not shipping it out to stores, but everything today, especially producing and promoting music, a band, a single, an album, is astronomically more expensive today than it was then. So why is a single so much cheaper today?

Hereʼs another question, whatʼs the top album in the country right now? Do you know? Without looking, I donʼt know either.

The industry loves to blame the digital format and piracy for the erosion of their business. And as long as they do, theyʼll continue to go the way of the dinosaur – and good riddance. Simply put, music is less culturally relevant today than it was in the 1950ʼs. Bob Dylan wonʼt be reincarnated. That popularity with that cultural message doesnʼt happen anymore. Why? Well, for one, the industry today doesnʼt think like John Hammond did. They arenʼt looking for Dylans. Moreover, todayʼs mainstream is an emaciated corpse of its former self. Our interests and musical genres themselves have splintered. The industry saw demand slipping so they raised the cost of the concert ticket. They hope to sell the song for nothing so youʼll hear the band and want to pay the $50 to see them live. They practically asked for their own irrelevance.

I apologize for the obligatory Radiohead reference, but they sold eight million dollars worth of box sets for In Rainbows. Who cares what percentage of people paid nothing for the album. The promotion and the material were remarkable. They were relevant. And they were entirely fan focused.

Before the Beatles, popular artists didnʼt expect to amass a fortune by playing music. They played to earn one fan at a time. The industry still promotes to a mainstream theyʼve drastically miscalculated. They spend large amounts of money to accrue fans that donʼt exist. And they actively commoditize their own products. As an artist, if you let the industry set your price, youʼre going to fail.

Pricing is relative. I wouldnʼt spend one indian nickel on whoever wins this season of American Idol. But I have my wallet wide open for the next tune by the Fleet Foxes. And my price point isnʼt set at 99 cents either, no matter how much industry people tell us that it is. Give me something worth paying more for and Iʼll eagerly do it.