The Null Device

The declining value of music

Over the past few decades, the market value of recorded music has been declining, as music has gotten easier to make and distribute, to the point where there is a flood of music vying for one's attention, and the challenge is not finding it but sorting the worthwhile stuff from the dross and filler. Of course, this sucks if you're a musician trying to be heard, as you're competing for the limited attention of your audience with millions of others.

The latest outcome of this commodification: a British band calling itself The Reclusive Barclay Brothers has paid 100 people £27 to listen to their song, a jaunty little number titled We Could Be Lonely Together.

There are 3 comments on "The declining value of music":

Posted by: Greg Fri Aug 13 07:06:12 2010

I disagree with the slightly disparaging tone of the Guardian journalist, in that I think this is a really interesting experiment/stunt/performance-art-event. The technological revolution in music distribution that we are all painfully aware of has raised genuine questions about what it means to "pay money for music".

* Why have we paid to date? Is it a "thank you" to the artist, or just a straightforward commercial exchange?

* Is music like other "products"?

* In the plastic-disc era, what were people buying - the disc or the music on it?

* Will people continue to pay for music? Should they? How?

* If not, how will musicians be compensated? Should they? Are they providing a service, or just selfishly promoting themselves? What about music that seeks to promote a cause and is therefore not selfish?

* Do the answers to these questions change when we look at live rather than recorded music? Why are consumers willing to pay for live but not recorded music?

The stunt will spark discussion on these.

Posted by: ianw Sun Aug 15 14:26:12 2010

it's not that far from the old (early 80s London) concept of venues charging bands to play.

Posted by: acb Sun Aug 15 15:30:33 2010

The economics of music, at least in London, are at their extreme, like those of professional athletics or drug dealing: a few superstars make a killing, and everybody else impoverishes themselves competing to be the next superstar. There are bands playing music to small audiences in small scenes and unconcerned with becoming the next NME hype band, but at the surface level, the economics are consistent with it being a competition for fame. I don't know whether venues charge bands to play, but there are nights where a promoter will slap together a bill of upcoming bands and each band only gets paid if a certain number of paying punters say they've come to see that band at the door.

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