The Extremely Chaotic State of Music Pricing Today

No wonder music fans are confused!

Here’s a sampling of some of the most popular ways to pay (or not pay) for music today…

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19 Responses

  1. Pete

    Please normalize this graph and display the notes per dollar per second.

  2. Paradox

    Hey Paul, how about an article about MUVE MUSIC?

    It just introduces Muve Music to all its Android phone from now on. Which mean anyone who buy Cricket Android phone will have Muve Music.

    And Radio Shack is launching its No Contract Wireless that include Muve Music.

    In a few months, Muve Music will overtake Rhapsody as the #1 subscription music service in the USA.

    #1: Rhapsody (over 1 million)

    #2: Muve Music (with a lot of increase expected since all Android Phones from Cricket now will have Muve Music bundled in) –it is at 700,000+

    #3: Rhapsody

    According to Billboard, Muve Music could have 2 million subscribers by the end of 2013.

    • paul


      That’s funny you raised Muve, because it’s really difficult to represent in a diagram like this given its heavy bundling. Certainly something to consider if this grows as a consumption trend (and yes, it’s growing). Actually, adding to the challenge is that in many cases, buyers won’t be using it at all with the new Android expansion.


      • Paradox

        I disagree that many won’t use it when they purchase the Cricket Android phone. Why?

        It’s FREE.

        It doesn’t count toward your data.

        You can download as many songs as you want.

        And I’m sure Cricket will advertise the heck out of Muve Music on the phone manual/paper that come with the phone. Most people who buy the Android phones will know that they can dowload music for free and legally.

        It’s like saying if T-Mobile give away Spotify for free to its Android phone customers, many won’t use it.

        There are a few who won’t use it but I am sure many will.

        • Casey

          That’s assuming it is a service people find worth using. Granted I’ve never used Muve, but I have never heard any good things about it. The catalog remains vastly more shallow than the competitors, and supports almost nothing outside of the phones. That makes the service rather useless to many people. They may listen to it on their phone, but it won’t be a replacement for their Spotify subscription if it doesn’t support their ipod touch, ipad, computer, etc.

          Cricket is not in the music business. They may offer a product to “increase” the face value of their phone service, but when it gets down to it the service just isn’t that great.

          • Not so fast

            People who buy a pay-as-you-go phone from Cricket are probably not that likely to own ipads and have credit enough to pay for a Spotify subscription – and there are a lot of people in this situation.

            Dismiss MUVE at your own risk, Richie Rich. But the audience they serve is enourmous and will absolutely play the free music that comes on thier phone, because its free.

          • Paradox

            Their catalog is 8 million plus. They aim to reach 10 millions at the end of this year.

            They have pretty much the same catelog as Spotify from the 4 Major Labels.

            What of their service that you don’t like? (though you admit that you never use it)

            You search the song and album to download. After you download, you play the song/album. You can also make a playlist. And make a ringtone from the song you downloaded.

            Youtube it. There are a few people who show you have to use Muve.

          • This has been...

            This has been a paid advertisement from Muve. Nothing to see here.

          • Former Major Label exec

            Actually, the Muve service is really seamless and done well. I have no stake in Muve but I was an exec involved in the early days of the product on the label side and the consumer base for this product is a largely underserved and ignored population (ie lower income, access to phone trumps access to computers) and their consumption patterns for the music and video content through Muve is more than 5x that of other service providers. You may not care for it, but there is a HUGE group of consumers that do.

  3. TankTop

    Digital music news usually presents very interesting articles, but this is completely useless! It doesn’t say anything about the current state of pricing for music downloads or streaming, and in fact the article says nothing.

    Start by breaking up physical, digital and download, then dividing into subscription and one-off payments. Then things will be clearer.

    Also, where are you getting your data from? $13 for a beer at a concert? Surely that depends if you’re watching J-Lo or an underground punk band, no? Are all iTunes album downloads $9.99? And why bother comparing between illegal downloads (bittorrent) and paid services?

    Please try to keep the standard of your articles as high as possible, I really enjoy reading most of them!

    • mdti

      I think it’s the best charts since a long time from DMN. It shows that anything is possible and available. It changes from the boring classical finance style chart who bring nothing more than this one (as too few people here really knows how they are made nor how to actually read them).

    • Steven Corn (BFM Digital)

      You missed the whole point of this list. The operative word here is “sampling”. It was not meant to be a comprehensive research study. Many things were left out:

      • the price of a track on eMusic: $0.20-30

      • the price of a Gaga CD on Amazon: $1.00 – $13.99

      • the price of a CD sold at a concert: $20

      • the price of a 30-sec ringtone: $1-3

      I think Paul’s point is simply that music prices are situational (and complex and confusing). They vary based on convenience, permanence, perceived value, billing methods, etc. Brings back memories of the classical analogy of a how much does a bottle of Coke cost? $0.35 at Costco, $1.50 at 7-11 and $5.00 at a baseball stadium.

  4. Sara Tiemogo

    Well duh. Do we really think our fans are stupid? This is like saying people are confused that Mac n cheese costs so much more at Whole Foods than at Wal Mart. Or they are confused why Sprint and Verizon cell plans are different pricing for the same thing. We aren’t confused. This is common in any item on the marketplace and the customer is not confused.

    • mdti

      except that a burger that you pay zero, is probably a burger that you should not eat.

      Whereas the music that you pay zero, makes you think why on earth would pay for the excat same “product” at another location… and hey, why are the music biz complaining as much is available for zero?

    • mdti

      I would even say that, contrary to most products, music can have more value to the user when it costs zero. Or it can have the same valueas when it is sold for a price. There is no comparison with fast moving consumer goods. because music is not a good, it can never loose value, and the value depends on each person. it is not like a yogurt which has a consumption date, nor like a watch or car that can be broken and cost you more than purchase price (insurance, gaz, fines, parking…) etc etc.

      sorry, but comparing art productions with products means not understanding the art product in all its dimensions.

    • Visitor

      Who pays for ringtones?

      People who can’t go online and find the instructions from some crafty hacker that explains how easy it is to make your own ring tones for free..that’s who.

      • paul

        You’d be amazed though, ringtones are still spitting out revenues in the low billions (ringtones, ringback tones, etc.)