Friday, June 7, 2013

Does Free Streaming Help Album Sales? It Worked for Daft Punk, At Least.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 7, 2013 at 11:09 AM

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In an odd, ironic turn of personal events, my experience with the three aforementioned recent releases were completely the opposite as the article -- sensible as it may be -- rolled things out. As an avowed Spotify lover, I jumped on the chance to hear new Daft Punk material a week early. I gave the album a real shot, but this one put me to sleep quicker than a full belly of Turkey Day dinner during a Dallas Cowboys loss. Thanks to hearing the record early on Spotify, I was not one of the 339,000 folks gobbling up the vinyl that came with a robot helmet or waiting for the tunes to pop up on iTunes for downloading.

I was, however, one of the people to actually to download from iTunes the Vampire Weekend disc in its second week available and to also purchase a physical CD of the National's new one in its debut week.

What was behind this commercial wackiness? As noted in the RS item, neither of these records were available on Spotify a couple of weeks ago, and hell if knew when, or if ever, they would be. I wanted both albums tremendously, and it seemed as though I had two choices: Buy them in one form or another at the time I wanted them, or wait and aimlessly wonder if they would ever show up on Spotify. In this age where digital streaming should satisfy our needs for immediate gratification at a low price, it couldn't help me.

Perhaps the most popular form of marketing for new albums in recent years has been for a band or label to leak a track or two for the public to hear in advance. It's a sensible approach, to be sure. But I hadn't listened to any of the tracks that various media outlets such as Paste, NPR or Spin had offered up from Vampire Weekend or the National. I'm weird like that. I want to hear the albums I'm salivating the most for in their entirety at one time. I don't even shuffle that shit. Crazy, I know.

The point is, streaming audio kept me from buying the album Rolling Stone says was bought by many precisely because of its streaming. The article goes on to say that the lack of streaming prevented people from purchasing two other albums that, conversely, sent me to iTunes and Best Buy. Plus, a lack of streaming availability and personal cheapness led me to purchase the physical CD of Luna's Romantica on Amazon. Before you locavores and indie-retail advocates get your torches out, I do make regular trips from the 'burbs to our various indie record stores for vinyl purchases.

The fact that vinyl sales continue to rise and new vinyl-intensive retailers still manage to pop up and survive proves that consumers still have a need for true ownership. While Spotify is tough to beat in terms of economics and convenience, I often cling to the idea of something being mine.

In the future streaming will benefit all parties, not just the consumer and major record labels. But we're not quite there. Take all of your stats, reports and statements; ultimately, the moves of a music consumer on a mission are a tougher to predict than when Daft Punk will release another album.

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