It’s no secret that with the rise of music streaming services, digital music sales have declined over the last few years. In the digital music category, album sales have declined even more as albums were unbundled and fans could buy only the songs they wanted as opposed to buying the entire album. Also, in that ever-shrinking category of album sales, physical CD sales are declining as well, down to about half of all album sales. Among younger listeners this decline is steeper as this group, aged 12 to 24, has embraced music streaming apps such as Pandora and Spotify.
Which is why there was a commotion yesterday when it was “discovered” that Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated new album would not be available on Spotify. Ms. Swift has decided not to make it available on any streaming service as she “doesn’t appreciate” the low royalties paid by these services to artists.
What I admire about the album release is that Ms. Swift didn’t just restrict streaming to promote album sales, she created very compelling reasons to buy the physical CD version of album. Based on a sample of one, my daughter, who has never bought a CD in her life but has spent her hard-earned cash on Taylor Swift’s deluxe CD. Why? Because the CD is a better product, one that her fans really want to own.
- The bonus content: the CD version of 1989 has more content than its digital equivalent. There are three additional songs and three “memos” where Ms. Swift talks about her music.
- The package: the physical album was not just a CD in a simple jewel box. Oh, no. Fans got all the lyrics, an envelope full of “Polaroids” with quotes (in an additional stroke of genius, these are numbered and there are only 13 in each CD. Will fans buy more CDs just to get the different Polaroids? Probably not, but still, a nice touch that not all sets are identical.)
- The flexibility: my daughter can listen to the music on her Android phone, her MP3 music player (kept for long battery life) and her old iPod Touch. She can take the CD to the car and listen to it on the computer while working on her homework. She can loan the CD to a friend and give it to her mom to enjoy. This kind of flexibility does not exist in either digital downloads or streaming.
- The price: the CD only costs a bit more than the digital album. Google Play and iTunes sell the album for $12.49 and $12.99 respectfully and Target sells the CD for $13.99.
Taylor Swift is expected (numbers will be out on November 5th) to sell over a million copies of 1989, digital and physical albums! That’s an amazing feat considering that only 120 million albums were sold in the first half of 2014. She did that because she went beyond the music and created several compelling reasons to buy her CD.
Much respect, Taylor.