Mythbusting : Music Is Too Expensive!?

Music has never been less expensive to own, legally. We often hear that if music were cheaper, artists would sell more, but this is simply not true. Myth busted, read on.

Digital Music News – Worse Than Worst Ever? Tommy Boy Starts Number-Crunching Again…

“The first Beatles album in America came out in 1964 at $4.98 list,” Tommy Boy continued. “In today’s dollars that would be $35 for a 28 minute, monophonic 8-song album.”

In other words, using today’s pricing of $9.99 for an Itunes album would have only cost $1.35 in 1964… Even if you wanted to entertain a $20 CD (are there any $20 CDs these days?), the same would have only cost $2.70 in 1964. That’s nearly half of what it actually cost then.

So in the very worst case scenario, music is STILL 45% less expensive today than it was in 1964! And that’s calculated on a $20 CD! If you calculate the difference for an Itunes download, and full album today costs 86% LESS than it did in 1964…

Inflation Calculator: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Today’s $8.00 hr Min Wage equates into only $1.08 in 1964. But, the Federal minimum wage in 1964 was actually $1.25… so today’s minimum wage, adjusted for inflation actually has MORE buying power than it did in the 60s.

This is the weakest argument ever for the decline in music sales… the weakest… And, low ticket items (like 99 cent songs) or the most resilient in a bad economy. It’s durable goods like cars and washing machines that take the big hit.

Let’s look at 35 years of historical data 1973 – 2008 (Source IFPI). *

73-08salesnapsteritunesSo it looks like the economy and consumer competition really isn’t that big of a factor after all, again, looking at 35 years of data… the late 90’s may have been the peak, but that’s only because of the onset of illegal exploitation of content without compensation that began at the turn of the century.

Let’s also remember that each decade saw it’s own added consumer competition.

The 70s saw the initial release of VCRs and Video Cassettes as well as video game consoles and cartridges.

The 80s saw home video boom as VHS matured, cable tv boomed, new types of youth sports took hold.

The 90s saw the introduction of DVDs, home computers became household items, people started paying for internet service, and cell phones began to be common place… each offering competition to music sales, but not free music itself.

Yet through each one of those decades (without rampant online piracy) sales grew steadily until p2p sharing and broadband reaches ubiquity at the turn of the century…and then, the sales plummet.

It’s also important to note that sales of recorded music (in all formats combined) started dropping with the onset of Napster and affordable broadband. Many assign the decline of recorded music sales to the introduction of ala carte song sales and Itunes. However, Itunes didn’t launch until the end of 2003 and this introduction of legal ala carte song sales did not accelerate the decline of paid sales (nor did it slow it).

* Chart includes all formats including Track Equivalent Albums whereby every 10 songs = 1 logical album unit.