I’m a fan of listening to doo-wop and oldies on Youtube, so I feel like a data expert in music reviews written by sexagenarians. One phrase that sticks out for many reasons is, “this song got me laid.” I think that concept has higher frequency among old-timers because I can’t imagine someone sleeping with you for typing a song name into a search field. Yes of course that would work for someone who already had intimate feelings for you, or because finding out someone likes the same kind of music as you is sentimental. But how far back do you have to go before it signaled any sort of commitment? When was being able to produce a catchy song made anyone think, “Oh this guy is seriously throwing down on this date!” What’s the price of a Spotify subscription again?
Record collections are worthless
Back in the day, record collections were something you had to build yourself. They couldn’t be shared very easily by today’s standards. Music that needed to be played on demand was expensive and bulky. That meant not only did it cost money to buy records or CDs, but also you needed a dedicated place in your house and car to store them. To have a good time you need music, so at least 50% of the population had to be supplying their own record collections. So what you had was a huge inequality in the value of record collections in the population.
Owning this single from a one-hit wonder definitely got you laid.
However today that inequality has vanished, replaced by a vastly more equal distribution to music. For less than $20 a month, you can get your hands on a decent amount of music, delivered to wherever you are, it will be compatible with numerous devices, and it’s always updating. No seeking or going to the store needed. And that will get you access to about 90% of the music being demanded in your region. That’s a good deal! But going for the supreme collection is also now in the hands of so many more people. Pay more to get pretty much everything on the internet. That leaves out the few artists that explicitly remove their music off the entire internet, which (God willing) will remain a very small segment of musicians.
Can’t we just “chill”?
What does this new found equality mean for the quality of music, though? Will good artists get recognized faster (and possibly burn out faster) because popularity will travel like more like a short pulse rather than a long wave? Or will risk-aversion set into the industry, when artists trade quality for quantity as they take a shot at the lottery? Or will nothing fundamentally change because of this trend? I’d love to hear predictions.
One thing I am more or less certain of is that this trend where everyone has the same, massive record collection of will probably become the norm. It’s a good example of an iterated prisoner’s dilemma among record companies and artists, where they must individually decide whether they will stand in solidarity of each other to achieve common goals, or sell out their peer group to reap the rewards of mass distribution while their peers held firm. The winning strategy in this sort of situation tends to be tit-for-tat which is, respond to selling out with selling out and cooperation with cooperation. Since artists do not appear to be following the Wu-Tang strategy and are actively seeking mass distribution, and distribution companies are engaged in a race to the lowest price, it seems everyone is selling out. This will have the effect of forcing all new entrants to follow the same strategy, and so the cycle of selling out is here to stay.
What do you think? And do TPP/TIPP change the answer?