Datavisualizing the Music Industry options

If we were all smart and PhD gifted, we would not probably need anything like visual representations. Most would directly read data-sheets and avoid anything that is about analogical. But sadely we are human beings, mostly sensitive as we need colors, shapes, 3D simulations to get to understand tricky things. But the good news is that we have now developed a very strong visual language that allows us to explain things that were left to specialists only decades ago.

Think for instance about the concept of the Long Tail -Chris Anderson patented- : it represents a logaritmical and sometime infinite chain of numbers. It is commonly applicable in many businesses while now summarised in two words ; and anyone saying "we can clearly see there the Long tail effect"  usually gets a nodding audience in return.

Let us do a fact-prof trial with the music industry prospective. It is generally a subject whereas foreseeing is difficult given the uncertainty of the piracy issue and several other landmark changes (distribution, marketing, etc.). During years, I had a very hard time to explain the different scenarii at stake to all kind of audiences, until I designed these three little visuals.

The first thing I had some difficulties to explain is that the music experience was not really improving. It was really uneasy until I created this quite simple scheme.

People started to see what I was meaning. They compared quickly the different music experiences (and size of the boxes) and came to agree with me. The best music experience was indeed the earliest one...  That is not obvious when you think mp3, internet adelivery, but when you consider the core of the musical experience, that may not be completely untrue.

Then I wanted to explain the music future scenarii as their are the most commonly defined in Europe... and depending of who tales what, it changes a lot. It is a real long tail story and... I dealt with it by doing some long tail drawings.

The first dash is basically describing the market as it has been structured over the past 100 years or so. A clear dominance of the 6, then 5, now 4 and maybe soon 3 majors records. A situation that was still very unchallenged until now as last year for instance, there were 46 of the 28 titles hitting the chart belonging to the Major records...

But everybody in the industry know that it is about to change. This being said, it is still very unclear on how, when, and what will come out of the change...


And indeed there are several scenarii at play. One of these is championed by the RIAA... this powerful body that represent the Major records in the US.

It is based on the idea that they will manage to overcome the crisis and that ultimately the music world won't change so much apart the shrinking that affects all. This scenario is highly challenged. Foretelling such model would mean that the piracy's enforcement would be so tough that it would end-up harming the 1st amendment. Something that few are really advocating for. Even the RIAA has understood that this project is sank by the advocates of a free internet... which obviously are quite numerous in the US.

On that precise side, comes the Libertarians. People that basically think that it is against the natural curse of things to try to keep people paying for the music. Music is accessible so easily for free on the Internet, that it should become as such. Anyone who wants to sponsor the music is welcome to do so, but the notion of paying for some music content shall pass.When challenged about the way artists make their living, they thing that the Live performance should be the only clear option. Given that the live contributes to only one fifth in average to the musicians' revenue... this scenario is not really the brightest for the industry... But there are lot of peoples advocating for it, especially in France, The 3rd biggest country for what regards music  piracy.

But the right scenario might be elsewhere... new players have already significantly altered the business model of the music industry -TuneCore, CDBaby and alike have created a brand new category... Therefore it is not impossible that the emerging model may look like the one of this new scheme. Even though this music scenario might not happen tomorrow, it is highly probable that it is already at play . sereveral researches (among which an analysis made by Chris Anderson himself) have proven that the music market size is already growing again, thanks to the limitless number of unknown small bands that benefit from the fact that the distribution costs of music is now down to zero.

Before that these four graphical were created, I had really some tough time explaning these four scenarii.

Let us now try to see if these prospects are in line with the consumer's mood... To this extend, we have made some interesting research, interviewing two groups of music consumers (i) 13/14 years old yougsters from a Paris school and (ii) Some French grown up "bobos" on their 40s.

We first tried to value the emotional potential of different type of contents (including the Internet). Is is something that bring you lot of emotion was the main question. Then we asked them to split a 100 euros budgets on each of these type of content. Both are the variable represented in the following images.

Outcomes are really surprising as, on both groups, there is a clear gap between the emotional value and the price they would be ready to spend for each of these categories.

As we can see teenagers are not valuing the music very much although they see it as a key source of emotion. As for HD movies, there is a clear indication that the habit of free download has changed the perception of real value. It is interesting as well to see that texts are considered as important emotionally speaking although they consider that their pricing is too high. It is funny too to notice that girls don't see the same value in Gaming than boys.

And for what regards adults, it seems that they are more inclined to pay for music while they are not ready to pay as much as teenagers for videogames... They see a lot of -practical- value in the Internet and in the mobile Text but don't perceive much emotional value in these media...

From that small note, it seems obvious to come to a a first conclusion : the music industry is in trouble and the game changer hasn't been invented/discovered yet. But datavis helps to understand where it hurts...