Business Chuck Klosterman Wonders: If the Money’s Not Going to Music, Where is it Going?
posted by April 8 at 15:22 PMon
And with a new Esquire essay, “Teenage Music Purchases: Anyone Seen My $4.2 Billion?”, Klosterman shares his simple theory on the matter and asks “What is happening to all the money not being spent on music?”
When the Associated Press did its (now annual) story about How the Music Industry Is Failing this past January, it tried to answer my question with one sentence: “The recording industry has experienced declines in CD album sales for years, in part because of the rise of online file-sharing, but also because consumers have spent more of their leisure dollars on other entertainment, like DVDs and video games.” This is a rational explanation supported by the precipitous commercial rise in both idioms. (Video-game revenue has more than doubled since 2000, and DVD sales grew from $2.5 billion in 2000 to $23.4 billion last year.) The only problem is while CDs, DVDs, and video games are physically similar, and they’re sold in the same outlet, the experiences they offer aren’t logically connected. I don’t see why not having to pay for a Band of Horses album would make a person any more likely to buy a copy of Knocked Up, as opposed to buying four gallons of gas or a pair of sunglasses or a turtle. I don’t think young people swap out items in their “leisure” budget that explicitly. What seems more likely is that this extra $4.2 billion — unequally distributed among all the music fans who didn’t pay for music in 2006 — entered the overall economy in lots of disparate ways. And while we’ll never know exactly where all those bones disappeared, my specific theory is this: A lot of the money not spent on music in the twenty-first century is being used to pay off credit-card debt that was incurred during the nineties. In other words, not paying for In Rainbows today is helping people eliminate the balance they still owe for buying Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness when they were broke in 1995.