:Cue record scratch:
Music sales are finally up again.
Yep, that's right. The "inevitiable music apocalypse" was another false alarm. Overall music sales are up 1.6%, digital album sales were up 16.8%, and digital track sales were up 9.6% but there's two real juicy bits of data within these numbers.
Point One: Vinyl album sales were up 37% from 2010.
Vinyl, as in the giant plastic discs that most teengers have never actually heard.
Do all these music lovers actually own a vinyl player? Probably less than you'd imagine.
It's all about the artifact, the actual collectable experience it offers the fan. Most vinyl editions of the album feature large-scale artwork and, more importantly, limited copies. It's this scarcity that transforms the music from a cheap commodity that can easily be distributed at no extra cost (mp3) to a much more profitable good. You can't pirate a limited edition copy of your favorite album any more than you can pirate a T shirt. This is econimics/business at its simplest.
I'm calling it now: expect vinyl albums to become a more prominent and important feature of bands' income streams in the future. Likely this will be more for collectable reasons than actually hearing the audio (most vinyl albums come with free digital download now).
Point Two: Record Store Day was a smashing success.
"2011 saw the most successful Record Store Day in the event’s four-year history. Album sales at independent record stores increased over 39% the week of Record Store Day (April 16) from the prior week – an increase of 180,000 units – and 12.7% compared to 2010."
I love the idea behind Record Store Day since it is a great solution to a parallel problem that charities face daily.
There's no shortage of people who want to help out the world whether it be helping cure cancer or as simple as supporting a local arts community. But it's difficult to mobilze and allocate this goodwill. Each step of the process of finding volunteers all the way to completing a task increases the complexity of the operation, and increases the chances of a volunteer giving up, essentially wasting the goodwill.
To put it more simply, assume you want to "Support Local Music". Where are the venues? Where do I hear about events? Do I have to actively watch a bunch of websites to find out when something might interest me? What kind of support do they want/need? Will the events I go to suck? <== Big one.
And so on.
Each "complexity" requires more effort from the people wishing to help, increasing the chance that she decides her time would be better spent watching Good Eats reruns. (I'm guity of this one forty times over)
What works so well for Record Store Day is how it simplifys the process for "Support Local Music". It's a national event that builds awareness of these record stores with the help of large local acts who release limited-edition vinyl/cds/merch. (This last year Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips hand-delivered copies of their new album to Good Records!) Cookouts, body-painting, and of course live music all centered around celebrating local record stores. How do you "Support Local Music?" This entire event tells you how to do it.
Rule #456138 of marketing: "The easier you make it for someone to buy, the more sales you'll get."