The most marked declines in recording values have occurred over the past decade or so.
In fact, the average cost of a song – averaged across all platforms and formats – is now hovering just above $0. But widen the timeframe to five decades (or so), and you’ll see an ongoing, steady devaluation at work.
Here’s one look at the interplay between format (ie, vinyl, tape, CD, download whatever) and the accompanying price drop on the song itself. It was compiled by Freemake, a company focused on free music software – and convinced the right price for recordings is now free.
Others have been chiming in on this topic, including a great beneficiary of the marked-up album and single: ‘Tommy Boy’ Silverman. As the industry has swung from single to album and back to single, Silverman noticed something funny: the actual price of an album – adjusted for inflation – was far more expensive in the early 60s. And, it contained far less music (see above).
“The first Beatles album in America came out in 1964 at $4.98 list,” Silverman calculated. “In today’s dollars that would be $35 for a 28 minute, monophonic 8-song album.”
The question is whether it makes sense for artists and labels to approach recordings as a zero-cost, loss leader. That’s certainly not the game the majors are playing, especially when it involves multi-million-dollar advances from companies like Spotify, Apple, and others. And there are still billions being made from CDs and paid downloads, depending on the artist and demographic involved.
But Freemake – like many others – see a limited market for paid music ahead. “Of course, there will always remain collectors willing to pay a pretty penny for limited edition records,” the group asserts, “But ordinary listeners have already made their choice by pressing ‘stop’ on paid music playback.”