This was a very, very bad week for album sales in the US. In fact, it was a bleak time for most of the major territories for two reasons: (a) all the labels seem to be holding back most of their major releases for the fourth quarter, resulting in a dearth of big-name records so far this year; and (b) the rise of music streaming services.
While there will always be a case for possessing music–CDs, vinyl, digital files–the idea of just being able to access any music whenever you want it for an all-you-can-eat fee is pretty sexy. And as more people buy smartphones and get used to using their data plans, it only makes sense to stream more and buy less.
Think about that for a second. For a monthly fee (or no fee at all, depending on the service), you can access 25 million songs or more whenever you want. Yes, that means you’re only “renting” songs, but so what? If you’re really attached to a song/album/artist, buy the music and it’s yours forever. But for everything else, why buy a single CD for 10 bucks when you can have the universe of music for the same price?
As a hardcore consumer of music, I still buy plenty of product–and I always will. I can’t fathom a time when I won’t want to collect music in its various physical forms. But for stuff I just want to test drive, it’s all about the streaming.
We are not going to see music sales tick up appreciably ever again because music streams are cannibalizing the old way of consuming music. It’s a giant technological and behavioral shift that we just have to get used to. And if you haven’t tried streaming yet, do it. You’ll never want to do without it again.
If you’re still unconvinced, read this report from The Guardian and follow that up with this explanation of why Apple bought Beats. (We could also include Google’s recent acquisition of Songza and YouTube’s plans to launch a streaming music service.)