Music Exec Watches Personal Music Budget Decline

Budget-cut Ethan Kaplan, former SVP of Emerging Technology at Warner Music Group, has published an insightful essay on his blog about the death of the music business and his shrinking personal budget for music. In it, he makes the point that the humans will die before the business of music does, as for as long as people exist, there will be music. Well said. The second point that he makes is that even he, who for nearly five years worked for a major label, has watched his budget for music shift towards new expenses and competing interests, things that, by his omission, weren’t even around 5 years ago.

“Life takes more care and feeding,” Kaplan says.

Music piracy is certainly real, but the fact of the matter is that there are also hundreds of more immersive and attention grabbing experiences that exist now, which cut into people’s disposable incomes. So too, we’re all paying for things that we could’ve never imagined paying for a few years ago. But it’s not like this happened overnight. It slowly, but surely crept up overtime. Instead of spending money on albums, we started allotting money towards our digital devices and consuming more free Pandora to supplement. It’s a reality of our times. And the trouble is that music hasn’t kept up. Not that it could’ve, but it certainly hasn’t.

Kaplan’s sentiments echo a recent Nielson study which showed a dramatic decrease in music spending among video gamers. Well, Kaplan is a gamer.

The music business didn’t die. And it isn’t dying… the human race will have to die before an industry around music fully succumbs. It is changing.

Shrinking, contracting and expanding.

It is also diversifying and competing for attention and dollars with ecosystems and markets that weren’t even imaginable five years ago.

Where one dollar might have gone toward a record before, it is now split between entertainment bills, ad-hoc entertainment, subscriptions and the increased cost of providing us the unencumbered connectivity and freedom brought by devices like iPhones.

When I was younger, even ten years ago, I spent money on my cell phone bill, my Internet bill and gas. Now I have my XBox membership, Rdio, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes apps and music, iTunes video rentals, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Github, 37 Signals, Rackspace Cloud servers, etc.

Life takes more care and feeding. And substantially more recurring billing.

This might be deemed a “first world problem” and to an extent that is correct. We are a first world society which extends to that which provides us leisure enjoyment. And to that end, the amount of dollars I comparatively allocate toward recorded music has shrunk as my time has been subdivided by the ramifications of technological progress. (Read on.)

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