What is a ‘thing’ worth? Any ‘thing’? Say a loaf of bread. A loaf of bread in one local shop is, say, one pound. The same brand loaf of bread in the other local shop is ninety pence. Which one do you buy? Suppose in a third shop (there are lots of local shops round here) that a different brand of bread is fifty pence. What do you do? Go for ‘value’ of go for brand loyalty?
Suppose you are in the market for a new car. You can go for a second hand Mini. Or you can go for a fresh off the production line Porsche. Both have four wheels and get you from A to B. The Porsche is currently available with a handy one thousand pound discount. Is that better ‘value’?
Now think of something more nebulous. Not a concrete thing but a creative endeavour. Suppose J K Rowling has a new book out. It’s £10.99 for the ebook version. Then there’s a writer you’ve never heard of who self publishes a new novel – looks interesting according to the synopsis. It’s £0.99. Which is better?
The reason for theses ‘thought’ games is to ponder on what notions of ‘worth’ and ‘value’. Now you’re here because you’re a music fan, right? What is music worth in monetary terms? What is better value – a stream, a digital download or a physical CD? Now you will probably want to support an artist that you like. You pay for their album and really enjoy listening to it. You buy their ‘difficult’ third album and, thanks to a creative volt face, it’s absolutely rubbish. Is that ‘value’? It’s not like you can get your money back (easily).
Now these are strange times by any measure and whilst live performances, gigs, festivals and the like are a no-no right now there has been an explosion of on-line stuff ranging from pay-to-view to pay what you feel to completely free. You pays your money (or not) and takes your choice. The bigger picture is one that has been around for a while. The amount an artist earns is directly related to what someone is prepared to pay for their work. Twas ever thus of course but now things are in much sharper relief. We came across some interesting stats recently which might help to contextualise things:
In 2019 royalties were earned on music thus:
Public Performance: £222 million
Streaming/Online: £179 million
Radio and TV: £130 million
The streaming/online figure is some 22% up on the previous year. Which is interesting when you consider this: some research has been done (not by us – we’re taking this stuff at face value) which is eye-opening to say the least. For example Amazon pay an average of £0.009 per stream which means that it takes 111 streams to earn £1.00 and 970 streams to earn the equivalent of the minimum wage. Apple Music: £0.0054 per stream, 185 for a pound and 1,615 for minimum wage. Spotify: £0.0028, 357 for a pound and 3,114 for minimum wage.
Producers versus consumers. Who’s going to win?