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Is The Album THe Answer To Everything?

SEATTLE (Hypebot) – iTunes vs. Kid Rock and The Music Industry

The Wall Street Journal took a look at why some artists are keeping their music off iTunes. Because the store does not allow full album only downloads, Kid Rock, AC/DC and others have opted out. Some acts like Radiohead did it to protect the artistic integrity of their work while others are clear that their motivation is money. Single tracks don't net the same profits that albums do.

"Since the beginning of 2006, only the Beatles have sold more "catalog" albums in the U.S. than AC/DC — also without licensing their music to iTunes. Among the six best-selling catalog artists during that period, the act that sold the most individual songs digitally — the Rolling Stones — sold the fewest albums, digital or physical. That is important because while the Stones' six million single tracks sold may seem impressive, they represent low-cost, low-profit transactions. Album sales, on the other hand, are much more profitable."

It would be easy to conclude that many more album only releases would benefit the industry. While clearly an option for some super star acts, album only releases also inhibit music discovery. It's a lot easier to be impulsive at $.99 than at $9.99; and if the only ways a fan can get the single track they want is to pay $10 or to grab it free via P2P; which one do you think they'll do?

The staggered release could…also be viable monetization model. Offer 1 to 3 tracks at a time and if the tracks are worthy, fans will come back for more dropping a dollar or two each time. Subscriptions may prove an even better revenue source. For example, Josh Rouse works with Topspin to deliver a $29.99 subscription to his entire creative output for the year plus exclusive member content. (Though I have to say that his site does a poor job of explaining exactly what you get for your money.)

Apple is wrong to require only single track sales. These kinds of heavy handed policies have led to a steady erosion in label confidence in the retail giant and someday consumers may follow. But a few successes should not lead the industry to conclude that album only releases are the answer to its woes. The music industry should learn from its previous mistakes and remember that in the digital age restricting consumer access is seldom the answer. – Bruce Houghton