Once upon a time, everyone presumed that content was king.
Recently though, I’ve been wondering about that… content is only king if you have some way of extracting value from it…
Let’s think about the music industry. Of course, it’s been a while since I posted anything on the massive changes the music industry is having thrust upon it unwillingly. I guess I thought I’d leave it alone for a bit…
Anyway, I was maintaining my previous stance on buying CDs… being in a band with lots of musician friends, I liked to think that people still valued music, that it was still worth something to people.
But a few things of late have made me see that the actual value of music has plummeted so far that… well, I don’t know how much longer we’ll see anyone making money out of recorded music. And if that happens, I guess we’ll wave goodbye to record labels too…
So what’s tipped me over the edge?
Well, the first thing is that the CDs that occupy the corner of our living room, all five hundred or so, aren’t really worth anything any more…
Helen decided she was going to divest herself of some of her CDs. I (being the hoarding, collecting type) would never countenance such a thing, but their Helen’s CDs, and she decided that since she never listened to them any more their stay in the Willshire household had come to an end.
So she went onto Music Magpie, a site that offers to buy your old CDs if you are done with them. Their offer for Helen’s 15 CDs? £5.76.
Yes, less than two pints of beer. A Charlatans album, apparently, is worth about 30p.
So the music that we own already is of value to us, but not really anyone else it seems.
It seems kind of foolhardy to keep adding to this pile in the corner, especially given the other routes opening up where you can legally get music…
Which brings me to the second thing that’s changed my world lately; the Spotify iPhone app.
Spotify as a computer-based application didn’t really do anything for me; it’s not really where I listen to much music, and so played around for a while before I got bored.
The iPhone app is a completely different kettle of fish; it allows you to download and cache up to 3,333 songs onto your iPhone, and take them with you wherever you go, for as long as you like.
It costs £9.99 a month. So roughly the same as an album. I’ve only had it for 3 weeks, yet I’ve downloaded around 20 albums, listened to them, and then stopped listening to the ones I didn’t like that much (once upon a time, I’d have been stuck with a purchase…).
It’s basically like having a library card for a record shop, and you can borrow things for as long as you like.
All very well, you may think, that sorts the commuting music… but what about when you listen to music at home?
Well, a package from Amazon arrived today that sorts that… a new Sony mini hi-fi system with an iPhone docking station on top…
(yes, perhaps with a child on the way it’s not the time to be buying gadgets, but it was only £120 which we paid for by selling an old amp and mobile phone on eBay…)
What’s so good about it? Well, because we’ve got a decent wi-fi signal around the house, the iPhone can play any of the songs directly from Spotify, through the system, into the house.
It’s very nearly replacing the need for CDs at all… sure, Spotify isn’t an all inclusive service yet (though it does have six million songs, which will keep us going for a while…).
But what the whole set-up has done has turned my mobile device into something that moves with me wherever I go, allowing access to music via either internal storage or straight from the cloud.
It’s beginning to sound very close to the delightful technological future we’ve been promised for years. So, what does it all mean?
Well, firstly, things aren’t looking great for the recorded music industry…
If someone like me, who was until three weeks ago still buying CDs, is now listening to three times as much music at a fraction of the cost I used to pay, then whilst Spotify’s claim that their main target is piracy, in fighting that battle the collateral damage may just be to wipe out the little money the record labels were still making from selling folk like me CDs. It’s sad to see it, but it’s more nails in the coffin of an increasingly defunct business model.
The second thing I think is important, possibly much more so than the music thing, is scaling this behaviour change into the future.
What is the media landscape going to look like when people carry around the 5th generation, 160Gb iPhone that plays BBC iPlayer content from the cloud…
…and plugs straight into their TV system at home?
If this sort of behaviour shifts into the TV model, the changes in that sector will undoubtedly mirror those that the record industry is facing now.
And the thing about TV content is of course that it’s a lot more expensive to make than recording music. Content creators are going to have to think very cleverly indeed to work out how they’re going to make money from it.
Content may have been king, but it’s increasingly facing a future living like a pauper…]]>