US album sales in October declined 19.4 per cent year on year, according to the latest SoundScan numbers as reported by Coolfer.
That’s steeper decline than 2008 has been as a year, but quite possibly attributable to a relatively weak summer release schedule (just watch the action hot up from mid-October on), the US elections and – principally – the economic downturn which will have a huge impact on music sales.
Why will recession have such an impact on music sales? Because years of litigation against customers has driven a schism between US music consumers and US labels, sadly to the detriment of all concerned, including the artists.
Given the choice between purchasing music online or in the shop and food or gas, most US music consumers will have to opt for the latter. They’ll then run off to find the music online in some other way, whether streamed or stolen.
US consumers will argue that since the reason we’re in this financial mess is the bad actions of a cabal of corporate fat cats in the banking and sub-prime mortgage industries, taking a few strands of music from some other corporation doesn’t represent anything other than ‘sticking it to the man’.
After years of prosecution in the US courts, music fans in America are infuriated by the labels, who are seen as rapacious, mercenary and threatening.
Music fans are also infuriated at the constant posturing on the part of some major labels who seem hell-bent on putting up barriers to the success of the music retail system more Americans use than any other, iTunes.
Music consumers don’t want to understand why the complete catalogue offered by iTunes isn’t DRM-free, when Amazon’s is, and they’re savvy enough to know it’s the reluctance of some labels to license music in that format to Apple that’s the cause.
And yet, these are honest music consumers who are happy to fill their iPods up with music legitimately purchased from iTunes. Sure, moving them to Amazon may break brand loyalty to the Apple music service, but it’s an inconvenience barrier posed before the very customers the labels should be most focused on, most eager to please – the honest online consumer.
With such inconsiderate behaviour in mind, now that deep recession is rearing its ugly face, music fans aren’t likely to want to protect their local major music label from the vagaries of financial fate. They will, however, support their favourite band (as long as that act hasn’t done too many blatantly commercial product endorsements and still has some cred).
Certain sectors of the music industry must change their public perception if they want to survive recession while maintaining some position in the music value chain.