The Value of Music

The Value of Music

Before the MP3 file was developed in 1998, labels and artists set the cost of songs themselves as they sold CD’s, records, sheet music, etc. All of these songs and albums could only be heard if they were purchased, and then could be repackaged when new physical forms of music were invented. This made it easier to develop a growing business plan and control the price of songs, since they were considered merchandise. A year after the MP3 was released, unauthorized digital distribution became extremely popular. Sites like Napster, Grokster, and similar sites started sharing music for free. The amount of music sales dropped by almost fifty percent in the next decade. People had unlimited access to songs that they didn’t need to purchase. This started the streaming revolution.

Society has gotten so used to playing music and barely paying for it, or not paying at all. Now many are unsure about songs and what they’re worth. Especially since newer, authorized streaming sites are now starting to charge people a monthly fee for their services. This raises questions such as: 1) what is a song’s value in 2019? And 2), are streaming sites hurting the music industry?

I believe the music industry shouldn’t be focusing on the price value of streamed songs. It should be focusing on how to create a stronger and steady revenue from merchandise, tours, and concerts. As technology advances and the marketplace fluctuates, sticking with the same old ideas and business models could be destructive to a company or label. I hope for new and possibly improved ideas that could create a more effective, and untapped atmosphere for the music industry, instead of hurting it.

Should We Charge For Music?

Another viewpoint is that not charging for streamed songs could be beneficial to the artist. This especially applies to artists who need to build a larger fanbase. If they don’t charge for their music , listeners could access the songs faster. This would help artists to grow in popularity.  Chance the Rapper supports this idea, “I never wanted to sell my music,” Chance the Rapper stated, “because I thought putting a price on it put a limit on it and inhibited me from making a connection”. Chance the Rapper had offers from three major labels, but turned them down. He realized that “if you put effort into something and you execute properly, you don’t necessarily have to go through the traditional ways”.

On the flipside, many artists like Adele and Taylor Swift demand that people pay for their music. It’s why they’ve taken their music off of Spotify and Apple Music. This is understandable since some artists already have lots of exposure and larger fan bases. These artists know that their music is in high demand, thus making it worth more. They can negotiate because they will still be making enough money. On the other hand, many artists who are not as popular or brand-based may find it easier to market themselves by putting their music out for free. Exposure might be the most valuable thing for them.

Creative Commons License

For example, singer and rapper Kellee Maize stated that one of the ten main reasons why she succeeded in the music industry is because she put a creative commons license on her music. This license made sure that no matter how her fans used her music, she would get credit for it. Therefore it made sense for her to release music for free through streaming services. She also felt good about having music available for people who couldn’t afford to actually purchase it. She also explained, “you aren’t completely giving your music away for free. There will still be fans who want to buy it to support you.”

There’s a grey area when you must ask, “At what point does an artist have enough exposure that it outweighs the amount of money that they need to be successful?” It depends. People see success in multiple ways. I see it as having enough revenue that you can support yourself as a musician. Any way you look at it, the value of music will always be a topic for debate.

Written by Mackenzie Rea