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Old 21st May 2009 | Show parent
Gear Addict
I believe the iTunes store is making a significant amount of money. If they have sold a billion songs at .25 profit to Apple thats $250,000,000. The volume business model works for so many companys. Why not a software developer?
Not least because of tech support costs, and because the acheivable volumes are comparatively small.. bear in mind that billion songs is from tens of millions of available titles. A single very very popular song will only sell in the millions; if we assume ten music listeners/buyers for every musician that dabbles in recording, a single very very popular music software package might sell 100,000 copies even when "volume priced", with most "success stories" selling far less.

Basically, the market decides where prices are set.. given the market size and the R+D cost, most manufacturers seem to reckon the sweet spot for audio software is between about $99 and $499 for things with relatively 'mass' appeal. If getting prices down further were really the key driver in this market, you'd see ten FL Studio users for every Reason user and ten Reaper or Magix users for every Pro Tools user, and the numbers just don't bear that out. Not even close.

Also - there is a lot of fairly high quality, legal, freeware out there for audio production; anything aimed at this supposed ultra-low-cost "volume" market has to compete with that. The same isn't true in the same sense for popular music.

One thing that the music industry might be able to learn from - and I see those writer-performer-producer type artists who have end-to-end control of their work doing this already e.g. NIN, Radiohead, Steven Wilson - is to sell people more of a sense of connection as part of the package. Premium non-standard packaging - combo gatefold vinyl plus CD box sets - sold as limited editions direct from the artist's web site are a big step in the right direction here. People that don't really give a damn about you as an artist will pirate your stuff anyway, or pirate other peoples' stuff if they can't get their hands on yours. But treat the people that do give a damn right, and they might pay much more than the standard $15 for an album or $30 for a show, if you can make it seem worthwhile.

The current insane show prices for big-ticket artists also bear this out. My guess is that part of the reason e.g. Madonna can command $200+ a seat (that's way more than the 'elitist' Royal Opera House, ferchrissakes) is that people have more disposable income as a result of pirating, instead of buying, albums. Again, that applies to the box-sets - if you get all the bands you sort-of-like for free, you have more disposable income left over to spend on the bands you really-love.

The same trend is very much evident in gear the past 5 or 10 years too. Because people can use free-with-their-DAW compressors or cheap plugins for day-to-day stuff, the money they would have had to spend buying a rackload of 3630s or Behringers is (thankfully) freed up so they can buy one or two choice UA, SSL or Manley pieces.

However, all of that is not really much help to the crafting songwriter or others working with artists who have historically relied on high-volume, low-brow mass-market retail sales. Perhaps the best hope there - if it can be shown that the income previously spent on records is significantly being diverted towards live shows - is for your rights organisations to negotiate for a bigger slice of the pie when your songs get played live.