It’s Not Working (How To Save The Music Industry)

It’s Not Working (How To Save The Music Industry)
-Zach Hart

How many times do you charge into a brick wall until you realize it’s just not budging? For most of us it would be two or three attempts and then we would sit back, think about the situation and attempt something new. The music industry is not like us, they are a stubborn bunch that has the memory of soaring record sales in the foreground of their mind and will keep running into the wall until everything returns to the old norm. Guess what? It’s not working.

Like any problem, let’s examine what has been done to fix it.

1.) Threaten legal action against those who download music illegally.
2.) Push to a future of streaming music.
3.) Have a web sheriff monitor illegal links/mp3’s/etc.

That’s it? Look, with all three of these in place, I can find any album, at any time, for free online. There will be a few who buy vinyl, buy cds, download iTunes tracks…but let’s face it, what’s hurting sales is that fact that 70% of the people who own the album didn’t buy it. With the three points above, the circle will always continue, and it’s flabbergasting that the record industry is this dumb. Well, a little kid from Kentucky has figured out a way to save it all:


The way you save the music industry is very simple: REWARD THOSE WHO BUY PHYSICAL MUSIC, IGNORE THOSE WHO DOWNLOAD!!! It’s such a simple thought that nobody in the music industry ever considered it. First, the labels come together to create an online database. All physical releases come with a serial number coupon. The patron goes on the database, creates a personal account, and logs their purchases. All this information is public. Columbia records can then go on the database and offer coupons/exclusive tracks/discounted tickets/special events/etc as a thank you for actually purchasing music. As the database grows, stores begin to implement key chain coding that allows for the patron to swipe their chain and the purchase is automatically uploaded to the database.

The documentation of sales being public is important because it allows everyday people to sheriff their own friends. So and so might have a million scrobs on, but the database shows no music purchases for the whole year. That person is a jerk. Nobody feels bad about downloading music because “everyone is doing it”. If we show that friends are purchasing music then slowly the morality of buying physical music creeps back into the psyche. This leads to harnessing the feeling of buying physical music…the emotion of helping out a band…owning the music, this feeling has to return.

The key to the whole puzzle is answering what I addressed with point number one:
With the new system in place that focuses on reward, the industry MUST offer exclusives and deals that cannot be downloaded or found online for free. Patrons then buy for their fandom; their need for everything a specific band puts out, the chance to hear something special. If music is free online, the value of that music is free. With rewarding those who buy physical with something that can’t be found for illegal download…the value of the buying physical music makes sense again.

It’s that simple. While I’m skeptical about a lot of things, I truly believe people love music and want to pay for it. It just doesn’t make any sense to pay for something that can be found for free. Instead of making those who download feel like a criminal, make those who buy feel like a hero. Rewards for doing the right thing makes us feel proud, rewards remind people that they’re doing what is morally right, and once morality enters, a spark is lit and buying physical music is not a second thought, it’s the only right thing to do.


  1. So your answer to how to save the music industry is to encourage people to buy physical? And short pressings are the way to go?

    It'd be great if that is what people wanted, but it's not. Yeah, vinyl is soaring and all that jazz, but it still represents a tiny fraction of sales, and as we know sales represent about a quarter of what we'll call "acquisition." I love having some albums on vinyl but it'll always be a novelty format for me...most music is going to be listened to on a train, exercising, driving, etc...not in my living room. That goes the same for most people I suspect and mobile is the way to go. There is a way to increase sales and it doesn't involve nostalgia but rather innovation. It's in the clouds and the only reason it's taking so long is because the tech isn't ready for it yet.

  2. I didn't fully answer the question though i just's not a reward thing...the morality factor already is there.

    the answer lies is convenience...making buying legal music easier and better than dl-ing illegal. we should chat sometime about it

  3. Physical music comes with legal digital download which satisfies your portable needs. In my proposal, itunes downloads register to the database as well as a purchase...which allows you to recieve exclusives as well. If I told you that by buying the new Radio Dept record you get a poster in the mail and three bucks off their live would buy that album.

  4. ok, now i see where you're going then and it presents some interesting ideas, except that it doesn't require physical or nostaliga, nor does it necessarily devalue the music...and Apple already applied for the patent

  5. But it's more than just a ticket. All purchases are logged, and the value of buying music is rewarded both through perks and public recognition. If I lay out 200 bucks on record store day, it's logged for Ear-X-Tacy to maybe offer an exclusive for shopping there, Columbia for buying three records, and for the specific purchased bands to offer early streams of new material etc. The value of music is no longer just the music but buying into a group that acts as sort of a kick back club.

  6. that is interesting....frequent buyer program...earn points and gain rewards...i'd love to see it but that won't save the industry...

  7. also you have to read beyond the title of the apple thing, it does go beyond the idea of concert tickets...that's just what gizmodo focused on, it contemplates much more than that embodiment, it's like a more narrowly targeted version of what you're talking about, which in truth is really the only means of achieving this

  8. This totally makes sense. Incidentally, my solution for how to solve the problem of international pollution is to create a massive space vacuum that sucks up pollution from key points in the globe, passes it through several strategically placed filters that are most likely housed in large satellites, then recycles it back to Earth. It's that simple. I have no knowledge of engineering, physics, or the complexities of international space programs, but from where I'm standing, this is so basic and easy to pull off my brain hurts.

  9. Oh, that was by Mikael by the way. Hi Zach! Sorry for not signing my post. You'll be happy to know that a lot of the incentives that you talk about are actually already in place and growing inside of a few of the "Big 4" - especially limited releases, incentives, instant grat tracks, and discounts to reward loyal customers. I just wanted to give you a hard time for funsies.

  10. I think what you're proposing is a fantastic idea, but I agree with some above comments, that I don't think most music buyers care about owning the physical anymore. I admit to giving digital music a listen before deciding to run out and buy a physical copy of what I end up loving, but even with rewards and perks and a database full of registered music owners, those music owners will either get their free digital copy or upload their music for their mp3 players, and then either their stuff will be made available through whatever file sharing they use, or they'll give their friends copies, something. You also have to consider that what you're proposing is playing on people's consciences, their ethics, morals, whatever, and in today's society, I don't think people care that much at all, actually. The majority of the world is downloading music for free, they know it's wrong, they know their friends are doing it, and I don't think that people would care if their lastfm friends could look at a database and see that they didn't pay for the music they're scrobbling.

    I miss physical music, I miss cd stores, I even miss picking up a cd without anything more than a positive review or recommendation to inspire the purchase, but it's sadly gone. In my opinion, if record companies want to save the music business, they need to recognize that money is lost in investing in more than a digital format. As far as bands go, it's never been a secret that bands make far more money from touring than they ever will from record sales, so ultimately, it's the record companies that are truely suffering from the loss of physical music sales. I think that with or without physical music being a successful seller, the bands will evolve and find a way. Which is what makes independent music so prominent right now, the indie bands are thriving in a world where they can expose their music to the world via the internet, and then have packed houses when they come out to play shows. The record companies are going to have to get with the reality of where music sales are going, or fizzle out. Either way, the music will still get to us.

  11. One of the reasons I think morality works is first hand experience. I've introduced numerous people to the world of vinyl and all of them come back and say that something has been rekindled in their junkies. It's about collecting, holding the product, the hunt, etc. When people start buying, they realize it's a hobby...everyone of them remember the power of buying something on it's release date, a mini christmas...if you get people back on, that feeling returns.

  12. There are definitely shades of Topspin [1] here. I like it.


  13. but most of the people are not interested in collecting, holding the product, the hunt. The "Now! TWICM" masses couldn't care less for the experience, they just want something to hum in the car. Of course, here we are, music geeks, who care about what our peers think about which albums we buy and which ones we download, and for whom music is an experience, but for the major part of the public music is just background noise.

    also, "The documentation of sales being public is important because it allows everyday people to sheriff their own friends". Wat? What if i just don't want people to know that i liked say, MCR's "The Black Parade" enough to spend money on it? or, better put, why should i share something as personal as my purchase history with whoever happens to be interested in me? Of course, there are tons of people already sharing what they are hearing, with and similar places, but i know quite a few people who just don't see the point in doing it. It's just their music, it only matters, more or less, to them, and it shouldn't matter to anyone else, so why should they be sharing it?

    my point is, your idea would be a nice one if everyone were a similar minded music geek like us, but most of the people aren't

  14. I agree with the pfranks opinion.