How much SHOULD music cost?

edited September 2010 in General
Saw this in a couple places the other day. Asthmatic Kitty thinks they know how much music should cost. I'm not sure I agree; I think the cost is what the market will bear, and I've generally felt downloads over are overpriced at their "standard" prices. I read the referenced interview elsewhere with Laura Ballance. She indicated that Amazon takes the loss on these markdowns, not the artist/label. Does a one day sale generally depress music prices? I certainly don't expect to find every piece of music I want on sale at Amazon for $3.99 (I wish!). In fact, I know I buy things on sale at Amazon that I would have otherwise skipped bcause of the pricing. If it turns me on, I seek out more by that artist. I'm not sure I buy the argument that the artist is losing in this situation, but you're probably all smater than me and have your own thoughts.

Story: []AK story[/url]

Likely my link won't work (I tried! How do you kids work this thing, anyway?). If not , perhaps one of you kind people can help?


Your fiend,


  • AK story

    Just needed the http://.

  • My take is that AK's price estimate has no meaning except in a sense if they decided how much they'd want to profit on an average project, looked at their average sales numbers, and calculated an average price to achieve their goals. Outside of that kind of analysis, broadly suggested prices are meaningless. There is no "should" in market pricing at all. It's a silly concept.
  • While I'm not in the same league as Froggie, I buy on average some 20 albums a month. All these purchases are digital, very rarely do I buy physical media, and for the most part my tastes are left field and wide in scope*; I am no means the target customer for the labels or Amazon and iTunes beyond the quantities I buy.

    My purchase anxiety kicks in at around the $5 mark for a traditional album (80 mins of content) and $10 for sets ( > 80 mins). Because of eMusic and Amie Street I've gotten in the habit of pricing per track so that is usually less that $0.50. Honestly, $0.79/track feels like a total rip off. My feeling is that the impending changes at eMusic is going to raise the price floor from ~$0.42/track to ~$0.60-$0.80/track. Which is really going to curtail my discovery, purchasing, and listening.

    *I listen to tons of re-issue world music, stuff that is likely pure profit for the label since they bought crates of old studio tapes and out of print vinyl. I never of my own volition listen to the radio, terrestrial or Internet, because I am a control freak with ADD. When I buy new releases it is likely because I get caught up in the buzz and recommendation from communities like this one; peer pressure is a bitch.
  • *I listen to tons of re-issue world music, stuff that is likely pure profit for the label since they bought crates of old studio tapes and out of print vinyl.

    Apologize because this is totally off topic - but I have read of re-issue labels - specifically Analog Africa and Soundways, but I'm sure there are others - who take great care to track down artists or heirs and pay them royalties.
  • just some thoughts:

    if making music costs more than it makes, then no one will make music. draw your own conclusion.

    i now pay for the hard drive, internet service and perform the work to purchase the music. on the face of it, traditional distribution costs for the music industry have shrunk and the reach of their distribution have amplified.

    when i rec'd my sirius radio annual subscription, a surcharge was listed on the bill: royalties for artists. out of nowhere, a new revenue stream for the artists.

    historical pricing: cd prices of new material circa 1999 = $15 and older material often was slapped with "nice price" stickers of $10...with the transition to the digital world and the costs being dramatically altered, i would best-guess the costs at $7 for new and $5 for older material - if the release year were the variable (same product put out years later).

    in all my years of hashing thru this topic, music lover's peg of no more than $5 per cd sounds the most reasoned. not sure how you would track down his posts, sorry...
  • if making music costs more than it makes, then no one will make music. draw your own conclusion.

    Have to disagree with that. Your wife knits fluffkins right? And those fluffkins cost her more in time and effort than she makes right? But still she knits them. Someone or other will always make music. Because they like to. And besides making music can be pretty cheap. Maybe even cheaper than knitting fluffkins.
  • if making music costs more than it makes, then no one will make music. draw your own conclusion
    Oldie but a goodie on the breakdown of a $15.99 CD.
    This is not to mention the financial shenanigans that go on a labels regarding royalties, advances, and payments. Bottom line, like kargatron pointed out, pricing here is, more often than not, artificial.

    @amclark2, if so, awesome, but the misanthrope in me feels as if its just a feel-good PR spin but I'll do some digging to dissuade that assumption from becoming a belief. ;-)
  • My feeling is that the impending changes at eMusic is going to raise the price floor from ~$0.42/track to ~$0.60-$0.80/track.

    If so, that's it for eMusic. What, $18 for a 24-credit sub, ie, 2 albums? Nobody's going to do that.
    Your wife knits fluffkins right?

    Oh man, don't get me started on the rising price of fluffkins.
  • Is that Arnie Fluffkin from Spinal Tap?
  • I agree and disagree with everybody.

    Asthmatic Kitty's pricing scheme may be off by a couple bucks here and there, but I can't say they are totally overprice. $10-$12 has long been my price break for new CDs. It dropped down to 10 even once other responsibilities kicked in, but for an album that I really wanted and couldn't be found elsewhere it could go higher. I'll even give them the $5/$8 breakdown for digital downloads with the caveat that it needs to be the bandcamp model - meaning FLAC must be an option. I'm not paying 8 bucks for mp3s no matter how many useless CBR bits you throw at me.

    But elwoodicious's remarks about purchase anxiety hit close to home. The whole discussion about how much music should cost tends to overlook the serious music buyer. $12 vs. $10 vs $8 is not a big comparison to make if you're the type of person that buys 1-3 CDs each month. The prices will be mixed and matched and you'll probably spend $20-$25 max. But that doesn't work for those of us that buy 10-20 albums each month because we have to look at our overall budget for music.

    I'm not saying all of us here have it completely mapped out in spreadsheets or financial software, but most of us have a decent idea of how much we're willing to spend each month. Sometimes it's more due to sales or sites shutting down, other times it's less. But if you're aware of a limit - say $40 - for the month, each purchase makes you think about what else can be picked up that month.

    I'm kind of rambling, but I hope you get my point. Digitally speaking, at $1-$2 an album I'll buy just about anything until the cost gets way too high. At $3-$4 I'm going to become a lot more picky - I'll still take a chance here and there, but most of the purchases will be things I'm 75% sure to like. You hit the $5 mark and these better be sure things. Over 5 bucks and I want FLAC, booklets, etc.

    Sufjan's a great example of this, because there's no way I would have bought his new EP for $5 or his upcoming album for $8 on Amazon. But I got the former from Bandcamp at that price and will probably get the latter that way, too. Dave Holland has a special, for $19.98 you get his new album, Hands, and his last one, Pathways, in FLAC with liner notes. I got his last one off Amie Street for like a buck, but people suspect it wasn't a legit upload so this sounds like a decent deal. I'd rather it be closer to 15, but his last one was so good it might just be worth it.
  • Thom, I think the monthly price thing is an important thing to consider, and this is what I wrote over at emusic regarding the similar question of "what are you willing to pay" (and apologies if you already read this)
    I'm willing to pay about $5 an album. That's the price my local brick and mortar has been charging for used cd's for years and years, and about what emusic charges now, and I can also find a lot at amazon for roughly that.

    It is very rare that there is something I want enough to pay full price for. I enjoy the process of searching a lot, so I generally just go to places that have prices I like (digital or physical) and just shop within those parameters. Almost everything I pay full price for is either by trading in cd's to my used cd store to get store credit, or by gifts or gift certificates.

    I think the more important number than what I'm willing to pay per album though, is the monthly budget number, which is about $25 - $35 per month. What I think emusic used to understand, and then lost, was the concept that if you find enough people who are willing to continually spend $25 - $35 per month, it doesn't really matter how much the per album charge is.

    When I got 90 tracks for $20, the artists made less per album, but more artists made money, whereas now the artists that I have to skip don't get anything. The labels made less per album too, but over time, I'm betting the distribution of purchases per label would be more or less similar. And emusic, which reportedly had 400,000 customers in 2008, and now has 375,000, definitely made more.

    Assuming I'm willing to keep spending $25 - $35 per month for the rest of my life, and assuming that I will never run out of things to buy, what does it hurt anyone to give me more tracks for my buck?

    The only person to respond over there was, of course, Wanderer, who said:
    I agree with some of your sentiments, primarily with the idea that the dollars may have been spread around more lesser known artists in the former days of emusic. But, the selection was smaller and seemed to narrow in the couple of years before the change. I pay more per track now, but I settle less than I did before, and I'm more often enthusiastic when I buy something than I was a couple of years ago.

    So maybe the question of "what does it hurt" is answered by it hurts the less exploratory buyer who wants more selection for higher price. Well, if emusic goes up even a little bit, then the less exploratory buyer is better of at amazon I'd think, and then emusic's not well serving Wanderer or me.
  • edited September 2010
    The only person to respond over there was, of course, Wanderer

    Of course. Most of us were happy with eMusic being a store to pick up random African comps, experimental obscura, and a decent number of "big indies" for $2-$3 per album. Wanderer wanted a place he could grab Dylan's Blood on the Tracks for a dollar less than Amazon.

    Sorry, seeing that he's spouting the same bullshit about their selection narrowing no matter how many times I called him on it just aggravates me.

    As for your comment, I think you've got it pretty much right. Even if 90 for $20 is too low for everybody, there should have been a decent middle ground that allowed purchasers such as us to maintain our "budgets" without severely cutting into the number of albums to download.

    P.S. While I haven't been a regular subscriber for many months, it occurs to me that I probably only purchased 2 or 3 albums from the majors since they dropped there. And looking at the charts, it appears that most of the top downloads still come from the indies. I wonder if they would have done better with a smaller price increase and ignoring the majors all together.
  • This thread reminds me that, until I got an iPod, iTunes, and DSL, my music purchasing was practically nil. From about the mid-90s (married, kid, etc), I bet I bought a couple CDs a year, if that. I listened to the radio *a lot,* esp public radio; and played my modest (couple hundred) selection of CDs. Sometimes I would want to buy a new pop CD but couldn't find anything I actually wanted.

    So in other words, for a decade of my life, the music biz got maybe 12 bucks a couple times a yea from me. Now I have become sort of an insatiable collector/bargain hunter, simply because all this music is accessible to me at pretty low prices. So now I pay eMu every month, plus the occasional booster and other splurges. And oh yes, probably a couple of CDs a year.
  • edited September 2010
    I must point out that Wanderer, for all the discord he caused, did not renew his membership when his annual ended in September. He was happy with everyone's disappointment at the new eMu so long as he could continue to lap up major label material at a lower cost. He only recently returned. He feels no differently about album costs than the rest of us. Only his hypocrisy differentiates him.
  • Now that I'm paying 40 cents a download, as opposed to the 25 before the "restructuring", I'm a lot more cautious, as evidenced by the 1300 or so titles I have in various SFL lists over there. I don't pull the trigger as glibly by far - except if I see something like Roots of Chicha Vol.2 that I bought 2 days ago without so much as a sample listen, but that's more the exception. Most of the whopper bargains to be had that I'm interested in I scoffed up when I had a fistful of booster crack cards last year. Now I'm asking myself, in addition to whether I want to pay that much, whether I'm really likely to listen to this any time soon or am I just suffering from itchy palms. For $5 it better be good, for more than that it better be great.
  • WRT the whole idea of devaluing the music, umm, I think that horse left the barn ages ago. The fact that some people are willing to pay anything at all when it's so incredibly easy to find pretty much anything for free should be applauded. I really think the idea of pushing the price of music back up is long over. The market is just not going to support it, plain and simple. I sympathize with what they're saying. I'm a musician who self-releases stuff, but we've always managed to at least break even if not profit from what we've released. Not much profit, mind you, but we're not doing it for that anyway.

    Here's a tangent that I always think of. I'm a recording engineer by trade and my industry has been decimated by the music industry woes and, more importantly, the availability of inexpensive, high quality home recording rigs. So many artists are using home studios these days. What always gets me is, we all know manufacturing costs are small. Digital distribution costs are even smaller. If bands aren't using professional studios anymore, where is all the cost in releasing music these days that would necessitate higher prices, especially on indie labels which usually operate with low overhead? I can speak from personal experience and I've been able to record professional sounding stuff for next to nothing using my own home studio. I know not everyone has the technical expertise I have, but it's still just not like it was where a band needs to spend 80 skadillion dollars in a studio.
  • Does a one day sale generally depress music prices?

    not by itself. but i've felt like has a twofold strategy here in absorbing the losses on sale-items: (a) cut into itunes' market dominance and (b) squeeze out small niche players, like emusic. in a way, it's like a big-box superstore using its large market share to drown out regional boutiques.

    but don't listen to me. i've proven myself time and time again on these boards to be a group thinker; that is, someone without an identity and a stereotypical moron.
  • Some of the trends I've noticed in amazon's monthly deals make me think they're specifically targeting emusic. I felt like I was seeing a lot of Sony right after emusic's Sony drop, and a lot of WB right after the WB drop. And there's almost always some of the month's big indies in the deal.

    But the point is that I think that emusic's best chance at beating amazon was to play a different game.

    What I honestly don't get is why anyone ever shops at itunes. Their selection seems worse than amazon to me. And there's even a lot of stuff that emusic has that itunes doesn't. I only use itunes when I get a gift certificate.
  • itunes sucks. it's the blandest of big-box stores.
  • I use iTunes occasionally when I absolutely have to have something right then and there -- if Amazon MP3 were available to me I would use that as my first stop though since it is much cheaper and has all those deals. If there's a good deal on Amazon I ask a friend in the states to grab it for me and I paypal him the money. Normally the $16 AUD for an album on iTunes is too close to the $22 I can get a hard copy for for me to justify it.
  • itunes sucks. it's the blandest of big-box stores.

    BUT, if you are looking for American Idol hits, they are all over it. Like, the day after the show airs. Crazy.
  • There's quite a few reasons why people still use itunes. Probably #1 is habit - wasn't it the first legal download site in several countries?

    At the time, 99 cents for a song sounded like a good deal to millions, me included. I know I was tired of having to buy whole albums to get the one song I wanted from it, and CD singles were almost as expensive as the full CD....but I digress. eMusic had legal downloads before iTunes, but it was a subscription service, which doesn't appeal to a lot of casual listeners that want a few songs, and that's it.

    Like Nanker pointed out, cheaper alternatives aren't available to everyone.
    Another big seller is the TV shows. For folks who can't afford cable, they can get a certain show at a decent price without having to wait for it to be released in a box set after the season is over.

    It does seem like Amazon is picking on eMusic. Their daily freebie is the same as eMusic about once a week, it seems.

    Anyway. Having been spoiled by the 90/$20 at eMusic for years, I'm not willing to pay much for music anymore.
  • edited September 2010
    Having been spoiled by the 90/$20 at eMusic for years, I'm not willing to pay much for music anymore.
    Just an academic note about this issue, lots of people's feelings on it (Katrina's just one example) are almost certainly heavily influenced by the cognitive bias of anchoring.
  • @captainwrong - hey man, where can we sample y'er sound???

    plz submit your bill to amclark. expect kargatron to review it. katrina to anchor it. thom will make it bigger than itunes. bigdblues will warehouse it. elwoodicious will time it. i'll bug froggie to overmodulate it and doofy will wait a decade and then recall hearing it on the radio.
  • This discussion is good, and I find myself reacting in several different directions. First, I buy alot of music, so the cheaper the better. But I am willing to buy a real CD from a store from an artist I enjoy and respect, usually $10-15 on "release day." I like that some artists have added value to their packaging, or offered bonus items for pre-orders (Dylan's upcoming Bootleg album on Amazon for example).

    Second, cheap music means I buy alot of it and I appreciate it alot less. Guvera's free tracks have been a great treasure to me, but if I get five or six albums in a day, I cannot possibly listen to them all that day, or that week! I have engorged myself and it will take months to sort out everything I have downloaded this month from Amie's death-throes and Guvera's free gifts.

    This is what saddens me. When I was a kid, I bought one record at a time, and I had to work pretty hard to get the cash to go down to K-Mart and buy it. (Actually, there were alot of 8-Track tapes involved at the time as well....) When I got a new album, I listened to it over and over and over again, until I was intimate with the album. Dang, but I can still remember listening to Boston for the first time, or Al Stewart's Year of the Cat (on cassette even), I had Cosmos Factory on cassette in my car for a year and that was about all I listened to. The absolute thrill of buying a copy of King Crimson's first album....

    All of that is gone when I buy 200 albums in a month. Maybe if my music cost more I would value it more, and spend more time with each and every artist.
  • edited September 2010
    @brittleblood: Older stuff from a band that is a sporadic recording project now, but gives you the idea.
  • I will fess up and admit I bought the CDs of the new deluxe SRV Couldn't Stand The Weather(because of the concert material on disc 2) and Govt Mule's Mulennium triple disc and weeks later I still have only managed to hear the first disc of Mulennium in spite of dragging them back and forth to work and all. If I wasn't spending such time and effort on these digital pursuits lately, admittedly there were deadlines of sorts involved, there's no way that would have happened. I spent one summer in high school listening to pretty much nothing else but Derek and the Dominos and the Allman Brothers at the Fillmore East - over and over. On the other hand I still tell (kid) myself that I will find time to listen to things I've downloaded. Actually doing it will be easier if price points go up, not that I'm wishing it.
  • @Plong42, I hear you and agree with you though my take is slightly different. While I have fond memories of deep listening on an album I much prefer the breadth that my listening can take now. I can skip around from Disco to Chicha to Rhumba to Rap to Punk to Jazz to Drone to Baroque in an afternoon. If I feel like being focused I can spend a week swimming in proto-Dancehall or learning more about Tropicalia. I wish I had this chance when I was a kid playing in garage bands, rather than being at the mercy of minimum wages, corporate radio, and the pressures of mass culture I could have learned and experienced so much more. I shudder to think going back to those dark days.
  • i might have been EXACTLY behind you in the record store - buying boston's1st AND (drum roll) the destroyers!!! yes, handsome dick manitoba was an early 68 roll of the dice. as vividly as i can remember that event, i treasure a thousand times more just getting exposed to things like the sufi music or josephine foster. discovery scores much higher than my individual milestones along the rock n' roll commercial highway.

    john cougar mellencamp crying about the innerwebs killing the music industry is so self-serving i wanna burn a scarecrow...ok, wait, that might be self-serving on my end...

    but you know what i mean!!!
  • edited September 2010
    Just an academic note about this issue, lots of people's feelings on it (Katrina's just one example) are almost certainly heavily influenced by the cognitive bias of anchoring.
    Nope, I am not talking about any anchoring effect. Is that fancy term for wisdom?
    I am talking about the price of what I consider to be an absolute brilliant track vs a mediocre track, law of averages, and whether I'm employed or on the dole. Current eonomic and social situations also come into play (job/nojob, kids/nokids, physhealth/ill), esp with unemployment levels today and disposable income.

    Second, cheap music means I buy alot of it and I appreciate it alot less.
    AMEN to that. But. eMusic led me to some music I appreciated even more than full-price $15 CDs.
    When I got a new album, I listened to it over and over and over again, until I was intimate with the album.
    Yeah, but you had first listened to the hit track over and over on the radio, right? So you were already disposed to liking the enitre album.
    It wasn't the scarcity of music that caused you to listen over and over; it was the abundance of teen USA time.

    Erm...sidenote. For you friends of mine on lastfm. I have been going through the albims of my youth and revisting. That's what all the Madonna plays are about.
    But you know, she is one artist I usually pay full price to get the physical CD...U2..

    PLEASE tell me I will win the Golden Palominos bid on eBay: $17 for the one song I like. I have waited years to buy this. I lost the cassette tape mix this guy gave me.
    I've Been The One

    /off rambling
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