Why can we still buy music?

With all the music streaming platforms readily available at our fingertips, it’s hard to imagine why actually buying music is still an option. Many people may ask, “what is the incentive to buy each song individually when you can pay a flat monthly rate to stream thousands of full albums right on your device?” and they certainly have a point. Plus, not only does this model save consumers money, it makes money for labels.

In fact, Bill Rosenblatt from Forbes proclaims that “the most recent data shows that listeners get more music, and the industry makes more money from it, through ‘access’ models than through ‘ownership.'” This “celestial jukebox,” as Rosenblatt calls it, allows access to a plethora of songs and albums that in the past have been individually bought through services like iTunes. Just a few years ago, users were buying individual songs, then connecting their iPod via USB and dragging each song individually to their library — Now almost every music-lover out there has some sort of monthly streaming service. Spotify, for example, currently has 100 million users, which is 25 million more than last year’s report. It’s safe to say consumers prefer streaming.

So, with the obvious consumer preference for music consumption in streaming, why is music still available for us to buy instead of simply stream? Well, this classic component of the music industry is still lingering for some.

Balancing power between labels and consumers

In an article from Thomas Euler’s tech blog, he indicates that “while the labels own the most important asset in music, the catalogue, streaming services own the user. If you are a label, relying too heavily on Spotify and Apple Music creates a risk.” If labels depend on only streaming platforms to generate revenue, before they know it, the power will rest completely in the platforms.

Also, while there are far more music-savvy fans than not, there are also those occasional fans that don’t listen enough to pay a monthly rate, since they don’t know if they will actually get their money’s worth.

Vinyl still sells

Vinyl music is a whole other realm that strays from this idea; it has become increasingly popular over the years as a trend within the music industry. Let’s take Urban Outfitters for example: this popular fashion store has a whole section dedicated to vinyl and record players. In this case, music ownership is very valuable to the consumer, and they are willing to pay more because they are buying an experience rather than just the songs themselves.

It seems that streaming avails all other music consumption in terms of consumer preference, so why is it still available to us? Perhaps it’s because the occasional fans that don’t want a monthly commitment feel they have more control over their money by simply purchasing individual songs or albums at their convenience. It may also be due to the trendy element of owning vinyl. Whatever it is, we can safely say that streaming hasn’t completely taken over…yet.


(Photo courtesy of Reuters)