Friday, April 24, 2015

Digital Downloads: Does the Future of Buying Music Rely Heavily on an Impulse Buy?

With digital music sales holding 46% share of all music sold in 2014. We have to wonder: Is the future of music sales banking on impulse buying?

Mobile phones, iPods, iPads and other mobile devices have revolutionized both the way we consume music and, in turn, the way that we purchase music.

The process of idenfying your next music purchase has changed so dramatically over the past decade that it is practically not comparable to the process that exists today. And yes, this is thanks to mobile phones, iPods, iPads and the like.

The age old process of hearing your favorite tune on the radio or live at a concert and memorizing a lyric or the bands crazy name and hoping you can store it long enough in your short term memory for that weekly trip to Best Buy days later has now been replaced with music identification apps, online streaming sites, on the spot lyric searches and more. These resources not only tell you who the artist is but they often allow you to instantly download the song and syndicate it to every device you own for future listening.

In comparison:

Sure, we've all done it - Went to your local Target for a couple things and left with 8 additional random items that enticed us on the spot while shopping, so we added them to our cart. You know, an impulse buy. An item we may never use, or barely remember wanting that badly because our decision was made within seconds - throwing product research and caution to the wind. This setup was no accident. This store setup was built just for you - the less cautious buyer with disposable income.

The process of purchasing music - through mobile technology - has become a bevy of impulse purchases based on convenience. - And Is it a problem?

Perhaps, not. After all, the artist just sold a copy of their song to you within minutes benefitting their and the labels bottom line. Selling music is the goal right? Mission completed. And it is perhaps a purchase the listener may have never made had they not had the resources available to them to make it so quickly. Maybe the listener would have had to hear the song and the artists name 5 or more times before their name or their song was memorable and loveable enough to get the listener to head off to the store and make a physical purchase. Maybe.

But what about that retail scenario from earlier? Does the process of impulse buying random music instantly take the passion, research, and love out of owning or being prideful of your music collection? Sure the marketing of yesteryear is gone, but back in the day I had pretty much fallen in love with every aspect of an artist or song before finally buying their full album. And once I owned it, I was proud. Regardless, Instead of forcing a listener to do the research and put forth a reasonable amount of effort to attain new music, does the song and the artist just become something they bought in passing? Something that heads to the shuffled playlist of thousands of songs on iTunes and is inevitably neglected? Just like that magic mop you bought on an endcap at Target that's still in the package at the back of your attic. Can you name the brand? Have you ever bought their products again?

Maybe, within this argument, it makes sense to note that the argument of many of the artists that were at first adverse to selling songs INDIVIDUALLY on iTunes, was that they believed each album was a COMPLETE piece of art and that splitting it into 12 pieces cheapens the whole.

Name the last five digital downloads you've made off the top of your head? If you know what they were, what do you know about the artists you purchased from, or the album the single is a part of? While technology makes attaining music more convenient it may cheapen the traditional artform of creating an album. Does impulse buying simply build and support downright sales or the artform of creating music? Maybe that's an argument for another day.