Newsflash, courtesy of PR agency Edelman: Young people don’t feel warmly about the music industry, presumably because they are harshing their mellow and trying to stop them from pirating music. Leave aside the dubiousness of a PR agency telling other people they have a PR problem, and take a gander at these supposedly damning statistics, via the Guardian:
The number of UK consumers who said they trusted the industry fell from 47% in 2007 to 31% this year, with confidence disturbed by moves by the music industry to track down and punish illegal music copying, and high-profile scandals in broadcasting.
Surveying younger consumers aged 18-34, Edelman found that 55% would take “direct action” against a company if they objected to its practices, 53% would share negative opinions with friends and 46% would ignore a firm’s marketing and advertising. Even more damning, a further 39% said they would not invest in those companies.
That’s terrible! But remind us again: In what era did consumers cherish media moguls and the companies they ran? Was there a love-in we missed in 1999 and 2000, when the music industry recorded record sales while peddling the likes of Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys?
The music business, of course, has been in steep decline since then. But it’s not because of a PR crisis: It’s because the Internet, helped along by the likes of Shawn Fanning, and later Steve Jobs, has made it possible to get any song you want for 99 cents or less — most often for free. The industry certainly hasn’t helped itself since then by taking forever to adapt to that reality — a fact it still hasn’t really come to grips with. But it’s trying. Not hard enough, says the Guardian:
The survey showed 56% of young UK consumers would rather buy legal content, if it was at a reduced price, than download illegally. That compared well with the 27% who refused to pay for content, and the 17% who said they might pay, but could continue to download illegal content as well. Much piracy, this would suggest, is fed by the lack of a legal online alternative.
While we’re at it, let’s take on this persistent myth: The notion that the music business is preventing people from getting the music they want online at a reasonable price. That was indeed true 10 years ago, when the industry’s Napster alternatives were PressPlay and MusicNet, a couple of lousy, label-owned “music services”.
But now you can get just about anything you want — legally — at any price point you’d like: RealNetworks (RNWK) and Napster (NAPS) will let you download as much music as you want for about $13 a month; Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) will sell you individual tracks for less than a buck apiece, and on-demand streaming services like Last.fm and imeem are completely free. Yes, each offering has an asterisk or two, but if you’re a music lover, they’re awfully compelling.
The bigger problem for the music business: There just may not be that many music lovers. Recall that Radiohead, perhaps the world’s best-loved tech-savvy band, offered to let their fans pay whatever they’d like for their new album last fall — and most chose not to pay a penny. If that’s at all indicative of bigger trends — and we think it is — then the music industry’s future is clear: A modest, niche business supported by a handful of passionate consumers, and ignored by most others. And no PR agency will be able to fix that.
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