My biggest hobby, other than tinkering with computers, is listening to music. As a young kid, I discovered my love for music by watching MTV in the 1980s. While I love all genres, I am truly a Hip-Hop fan. Say what you want about rap music, but there is much knowledge in the lyrics. Sure, some of it is ignorant, but I have learned countless lessons from KRS-One, De La Soul and Common to name a few.
Unfortunately, the internet and piracy threatened the future of the music business. It was a perfect storm, as album prices were getting extremely high around the same time broadband connections became widely available. And so, people justified their theft by decrying the cost of CDs. While online music sales from places like iTunes were more reasonably priced, the damage was done - album sales were forever doomed.
Luckily, streaming services are here to save the day. Things like Beats Music and Google Play Music All Access offer unlimited music in exchange for paltry monthly fees; piracy simply is not worth the effort. As can be expected, these services are driving the final nail into the coffin of album sales... and that's a good thing.
"As streaming gathers momentum, the U.S. music industry keeps breaking sales milestones - the wrong kind. This week's 3.97-million album sales tally is the smallest weekly sum for album sales since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. It's also the first time weekly sales have fallen below four million in that time span," says Billboard.
Billboard further explains: "Larger retailers and CDs, vestiges of an older record business, have been hit the hardest. Through 24 August, CD sales are down 19.2 per cent year-over-year while sales at mass merchants and chains have fallen 23 per cent and 25.6 per cent, respectively."
So why is this a good thing? Streaming services are ushering in a new era of music discovery and enjoyment. As technology marches on and entertainment prices decline, the dinosaur-like model of selling individual albums will eventually become extinct. For far too long, the music industry made stars of some performers, while others starved and faded away. With unlimited streaming, a consumer can explore and find new music without wasting money. In other words, consumers are winning.
Of course, artists will likely earn less money from streaming than they did from the days of selling CDs. This is simply the market correcting prices in a world with Netflix, Hulu and free content on YouTube. Even though fewer artists may be getting rich, there is still a deluge of quality music being made.
Don't take my word for it, listen for yourself. Here are just some of the wonderful Hip-Hop albums from 2014 that I have been streaming on Google Play Music All Access:
- Step Brothers "Lord Steppington"
- MC Chris "Foreverrr 1 and 2"
- Dilated Peoples "Directors Of Photography"
- Earthgang "Shallow Graves for Toys"
- Jazz Spastiks "The Product"
- Cormega "Mega Philosophy"
While album sales may be at an all-time low, consumers have greater access to music at rock-bottom prices. Best of all, many consumers are choosing to legally stream instead of pirating (stealing). To the record executives that have to cut down on caviar and champagne, please accept my sympathies.