Tag: Making Music

The Ethics and Economics of “Free” Music

Speaking of things that are “free,” David Lowery, indie rocker and now instructor at the University of Georgia, takes the current generation of music lovers to task for downloading songs on share sites, hence bilking the artists.  Here is his rather extensive post on the subject.

Here’s a taste:

The existential questions that your generation gets to answer are these:

Why do we value the network and hardware that delivers music but not the music itself?

Why are we willing to pay for computers, iPods, smartphones, data plans, and high speed internet access but not the music itself?

Why do we gladly give our money to some of the largest richest corporations in the world but not the companies and individuals who create and sell music?

This is a bit of hyperbole to emphasize the point. But it’s as if:

Networks: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Hardware: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Artists: 99.9% lower middle class. Screw you, you greedy bastards!

Congratulations, your generation is the first generation in history to rebel by unsticking it to the man and instead sticking it to the weirdo freak musicians!

I am genuinely stunned by this. Since you appear to love first generation Indie Rock, and as a founding member of a first generation Indie Rock band I am now legally obligated to issue this order: kids, lawn, vacate.

Lowery is an interesting guy, that’s for sure. Here is a previous post where he describes his role in Groupon.  And here are some of his musings on his forthcoming (?) book, “Highly Volatile: How Your Lame Band Taught You Everything You Need to Know about Economics and Finance.”

Well, let’s hope it didn’t teach you everything.

For more formal treatment of the economics of file sharing, you might head to the link at Stan Liebowitz’s homepage (of Liebowitz and Margolis fame).

Professor Liebowitz reviews the literature, which generally shows the significant hit file sharing has delivered too the industry. For some careful details, see “File Sharing: Creative Destruction, or Just Plain Destruction?” in the Journal of Law and Economics.

The Levee Appears to be Drying Up

Today I give to you a couple of visual snapshots of the recorded music industry, along with a lesson on the importance of adjusting for inflation &/or population growth.

Here are the raw numbers that caused something of a hubbub.  Ask yourself — where is the industry at its peak?

So, there are several technology transitions going on here, culminating in a sorry state of affairs for the supply side of the music industry.  One implication is that the introduction of cassette tapes had no real discernible impact on industry revenues, even though people rampantly started taping one anothers vinyl at that point.  (I actually have several boxes of tapes that I recorded from record rentals from That’s Rentertainment.)   Interesting that the Record Labels only began shaking them down when the compact disk market took off).  A second implication is that CDs marked the real heyday for the record labels.

With that in mind, let’s look at these same numbers adjusted for inflation and put in per capita terms:

Completely different picture, isn’t it?

This seems to suggest that (non-prerecorded) cassettes cannibalized vinyl revenues, and it was only the introduction of the superior CD format that resuscitated the industry.

In IO, we are talking about the big challenge of the “New Economy” is often not in creating value, but in capturing it.  Do you think the total value of recorded music is 35% of what it was 15 years ago?  Or, is it more likely that consumer surplus has gone through the roof?  I don’t have any way of answering that question, but I have my doubts about the former proposition.

As per usual, I nicked this from O&M.  And their comment section pointed me to a really excellent analysis of all of this at Business Insider, where I now subscribe to their Chart of the Day!

LU Symphony Responds to Incentives

Our resident (American) football fan, Professor Galambos, has alerted me to this important change in the demand schedule for Sunday’s orchestral performance:

Players Exchange Views of the Rossini Selection

To accommodate both music lovers and Packer Backers, (Lawrence University Symphony Orchestra Director, David Becker), has moved up the time of the Sunday, Jan. 23 Lawrence Symphony Orchestra concert to 12:30 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.  The concert was originally scheduled for 3 p.m.  The Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears in the NFC championship game at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

In keeping with the spirit of the day, people attending the concert are encouraged to wear their green and gold Packers gear.

Click the image for a taste of symphonic goodness.