Once again this month Amazon.com has made available 50 country albums for only $5, and once again, they’ve put titles from independent artists and legends right next to the more popular artists (see below for titles). Of course your average consumer will take whatever they can get for however cheap or free they can get it, but the conscientious music consumer (of which I’d like to think the majority of the traffic to this site consists of) wants to make sure that their favorite artists get paid, and that the most music dollars possible get directly into the artists’ hands.
The best way to do this is by buying from artists directly whenever possible, but when Amazon made Merle Haggard’s newest I Am What I Am available for $2.99 last week, or Justin Townes Earle’s Harlem River Blues $2.99 on its release date, it created additional interest in a project that may have not been there otherwise. In other words, they used price points as a promotional tool.
Radio used to be the primary promotional tool for music, but as radio consolidation and the advent of iPod’s etc. have marginalized the effectiveness of radio for many artists, price points is another alternative. Radio might be becoming irreverent, but music charts are not, whether it is Amazon’s proprietary sales ranks, or Billboard’s industry standard charts, and lowering the price to stimulate sales can cause a snowball effect, rocketing albums up the charts, stimulating additional sales and press coverage.
We’re moving into an era where the majority of an artist’s money will come from live performances and merchandise. That merch may include creatively packaged CD’s and LP’s, but they will sell them to people who already have the music cheap or free on a digital format.
Clearly Apple’s $.99 a song format is not working to stem music piracy. Amazon seems to be the only one involved in the music industry that understands where we’re headed. The industry must attempt to discover what price point the market will bear, and it may be $5 per album, and $.50 a song, with cheaper or free music used for promotion. Yes, $5 digital albums would mean less revenue, but with the current system, revenue is heading toward zero for digital music. At the current rate, in 5 years nobody will pay for digital music. It will be given away, strictly for promotion.