The Fall of The Music Industry

My face lit up every time I walked through the doors of Easy Street Records in downtown Seattle. The strong scent of cigarettes and the nude posters throughout the store never quelled my excitement at the tens of thousands of CD’s that towered over my 8-year-old stature. Few things matched the joyous feelings experienced after walking out of that store with Kanye West’s College Dropout, and other popular albums of the time. The historic record company on lower Queen Anne in Seattle was recently converted into a Quizno’s Subs, and never again would I experience the satisfaction of purchasing the classic CD’s of the early-2000’s.


Easy Street Records Store

The consummation of music is an influential and integral part of human society and cultural identification. From live performances, to old records, to CD’s, to iTunes, people constantly desire listening to the endless music offered. Today though, our habits of how we consume music are detrimental to the music industry as a whole. Youtube, Spotify, Pandora and other free music listening enterprises have considerably dominated how people access music. Why go to a record store and spend $12.99 on an album that can be accessed for free on Youtube? The demand for hard copy CD’s and even attending concerts has astonishingly declined over the past decade. Of the seventy-four albums that have sold at least 20 million copies, only one album (Adele’s 21) achieved this feat after the year 2002. The Internet makes music so accessible that the desire for physical copies of an artist’s work in the form of a record or CD continuously decays. The record selling companies exhibit almost perfect inelasticity because no matter the change in price of their CD’s the demand consistently remains relatively low due to substitute goods like Spotify that offer a price of $0 for listening to music.


College Dropout by Kanye West

It is important to understand the relationship between how the consumers’ intake of music affects the producers’ sales and profits. Internet pirating on Limewire or The Pirate Bay allow consumers to personally own artists’ music for no charge at all. Theoretically, if everyone used pirating websites to obtain music the supplier would be making a net profit of $0. Unfortunately the rate of music piracy is rapidly increasing as the Internet allows more accessibility to these sites. Astoundingly, the annual harm due to music pirating costs $12.5 billion dollars in losses to the U.S. economy as well as more than 70,000 lost jobs and $2 billion in lost wages to American workers. If we continue to disrespect music artists by pirating their music for no charge eventually they will lose their motivation to produce the music we so thoroughly enjoy. There has to be a price exchange for a market to run, without any price given to the producer the supply curve does not even exist and our intake of music though free, becomes very short lived when artists who are not making money decide to cut off their supply to the music community. The way we experience music now compared to when I walked my 8-year-old self out of Easy Street Records holding the College Dropout has significantly changed. Although the internet has completely transformed how we consume music, it is essential that we refrain from illegally downloading free music in order to prevent places like Easy Street Records from running out of business and to bestow a renewed motivation for artists to produce the music we listen to and love.


Works Cited

Knopper, Steve.”The New Economics of the Music Industry.” Editorial. Rolling Stone 15 Oct. 2011: n. pag. Web.16 Oct. 2014.

“Who Music Theft Hurts.” Representing Music. RIAA, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.


3 thoughts on “The Fall of The Music Industry

  1. jamesel2014 says:

    I understand your point of view about illegal downloading music artists, who have obviously spent both money and time to produce a sort of masterpiece, but it makes me question how domains like Youtube, Spotify, and Pandora afford to play free music? Aside from the ad income method, where else would they intake revenue? I know I tried viewing a movie on Youtube and it rejected my view due to copyrights, although when I search for an entire album from a specific artist it plays all the tracks plus an addition of ads. I’m not aware of what policies the movie industry is executing, but I think the music industry should consult and practice their policies. Do you agree?


  2. jaffeas says:

    Yea I get how illegally pirating music doesn’t give the artist any money, but the incremental amount they receive from Spotify and Pandora isn’t that much of an increase. I think the bigger problem for artists nowadays isn’t illegal downloading, and more the fact that we have moved into the digital age, where property is easily swapped without permission. As we progress farther into a place where everything is online, the need for a physical disc or record diminishes and stores like Easy Street Records will fall by the waist-side. However, in places where there exists a large population of people looking for more vintage music feel (like Berkeley, CA), the rare record shop thrives.


  3. First off, I must commend your 8-year-old self’s music taste. College Dropout is still one of my favorite rap albums to date. Concerning the decline of music sales, I think it would be very interesting to compare the amount of money performers get from the sales of their albums vs. the amount they receive from tours and live performances. Also I think that it would be very interesting to look at legislation concerning online pirating and internet censorship, to see if there is anything that can be done to lower the amount of pirating. Lastly, I think it would be a really cool study to focus on the increased amount of consumers listening to the music, and the amount of losses that artists are seeing.


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