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Underground music buying habits from 2016 onwards (part 2 of 2)

Additions 7 February 2024

By Thomas (2000 Underground Music)

The information below, is from email exchanges around January 2021, and I have also discussed a few other connected areas.

For part 1 see Underground Music Buying Habits From 2016 Onwards (Part 1 of 2) published on the 23 December 2023.

Musicians and DJs getting paid, from online digital sellers

YouTube

There are many underground tracks, albums, and CDs on YouTube that people listen to for free. We are not too sure about how much YouTube pay musicians yearly. At least 50%+ of listeners, get what they want for free, and listen to the whole track for free. Then probably put the link into an audio conversion webpage (we have all done it, including myself) or use sound recording software, to record the audio in, then convert it to a digital file format like MP3. Then onto their device and they have the music when they need and can listen to it for free… Many people are not that interested in near-perfect 320 KBPS audio quality either.

The musician Pub of Ampoule label from Glasgow, that skilfully controls who sells his music online

When I searched for his music in 2019, I could not find anything on YouTube, or anything on other digital music seller websites like Beatport, Traxsource, and so on. He has a really interesting approach, if you want to listen to his music, you have to buy it. The only way to listen to his music in full online, except in mixes, is on his Bandcamp. This is good, as he gets paid (in theory) for people listening to his music (sounds amazing and even unheard of, does it not?). However there is a slight downside. If people are interested in his music but cannot listen to a certain amount, they might not buy it or look into him anymore. I cannot remember anyone else doing that, and it raises some interesting aspects around music sales and return on investment (ROI).

YouTube
Beatport
Traxsource

Untitled A (Architextures 1) by Akufen. Hautec, Canada 2000

A very new wave minimal record, from around the year 2000, and a great example of a Canadian progressive deep minimal record, from the 2000 golden era (the amazing German-orientated minimal clash that was going on at the time).

Untitled A (Architextures 1) by Akufen. Hautec, Canada 2000

As of 27 June 2010, it has 400,000 plays (count taken on the 3 February 2024). This means that 400,000 (nearly half a million people…) have listened to the record. And none of them or YouTube (I am fairly certain, who host the record from a member of the public) have paid £1 to Akufen… yes there would have been a few people who actually bought the record originally (estimating at best 500 copies were pressed).

Getting onto my point, imagine if everyone paid £1… do you see my point? What if the vinyl was repressed in 2024 selling for the average cost of £11 for a single vinyl EP, and 50% (200,000) people bought the vinyl, that they probably would, if they had the chance and if it was easy enough.

  • 200,000 people (half of the total plays on YouTube) × £11 (average price of a single vinyl EP in 2024) = £2,200,000 turnover.

Here is what a musician that I emailed in 2019 said, about sorting their music out on YouTube, made available by members of the public:

YouTube
‘If I put all of our YouTube videos together and created our own webpage, it might be better, but still a small income’.

Repressing vinyl

A lot of underground musicians and DJs and many superstars in the last 10 years, repress their old music on vinyl, still in 2024. It is highly desirable, as Liberty Dunworth (2023) wrote about in the article Vinyl Sales Up Nearly 15% in 2023.

Old greyscale photo of a man holding a pen device near the top of vinyl grooves. The vinyl is on some kind of vinyl turntable, but looks very old and scientific. Behind him are old industrial computer switches.

Old greyscale photo of a man holding a pen device near the top of vinyl grooves at Austrovox Record Production in 1947. The vinyl is on some kind of vinyl turntable, but looks very old and scientific [does anyone know what it is?].

Photograph by Austrian National Library (republished 22 January 2020), distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license, adapted, from https://unsplash.com/photos/boy-in-white-dress-shirt-holding-silver-round-tool-BDv7tOJnIlg.

Inflation and the relation to music retail cost, over the last 24 years

Since the year 2000, we have seen financial inflation of goods and services due to system, economic and government factors, go up on everything by about ×3.

Financial inflation of a chocolate bar from 2000–2024 (last 24 years)

A chocolate bar in 2000 would cost around 30p (£0.30). A chocolate bar has gone from 30p in the year 2000, to 80p (£0.80) in 2024. Just under a ×3 increase in the cost. And it can be double that, if you buy it from a petrol station or airport…

Financial inflation of cigarettes from 2000–2024 (last 24 years)

In the year 2000, cigarettes would cost £5.30 for 20 (£2.65 for 10). In 2024, the cheapest you can get are about £11.75 (for 20) and some of the popular brands are £14.99 for 20 cigarettes. That is between a ×2 and ×3 inflated increase cost over the last 24 years.

Yes we know smoking is not good for you, but that is another story, and we know that governments, are usually not great… But the point that I am trying to make, is that the cost of digital music files, physical CDs and physical vinyls, has not gone up, the same as how chocolate bars and cigarettes have.

And if we look (although it is not always the case), a lot of people, especially young people, are listening to a single record today in 2024, for 1p a stream… I think I have said enough. A CD (either digital download, physical CD, or a digital and physical package) still costs £10… And if you really do the maths, surely a physical CD that comes with a digital download option, are 2 things, so 2 × £10 (and the £10, is still the underinflated cost of a CD album, that has not changed since the year 2000, that was 24 years ago…).

Note

I am doing some investigating here, just to weed-out aspects that I have noticed and annoys [vexes] me, here is what a musician and DJ said:

Spotify
‘I completely understand Spotify is based on streams, and it is a very small income ratio for the musicians who made it. Again, I earn more through generous buyers on Bandcamp, like yourself!’

Music preview length reconsiderations

Many musicians allow their tracks to be available online for free. All it takes, is the press or tap of the play button, and the user can listen to the whole track for free.

1 of the suggestions I had when writing an email to a musician and DJ in 2019, is to only allow (say on Bandcamp or YouTube) 15 seconds of their single track to be listened to. Then if the listener wants to listen to the whole track, they obviously and rightly, have to pay.

Musicians and DJs policing music available to listen to online

Music and reproduction law for underground musicians and DJs, is very rarely respected or enforced, it may as well, not, exist… But what happens in the way of organisations or even the musicians and DJs policing their music, that has been made available for free online (well in a less than ideal, 320 KBPS sound quality version). The law, or more precisely the music law, does very little about it. Musicians and DJs rarely make sure what is uploaded, is legit and correct (and I do not blame them, as it is a lot of work, and they have already invested serious time and effort just to make the music in the 1st place). They would then have to go through the internet and digital sellers, to check, see, and then remove, any of their music that should not be there.

Taking SoundCloud as an example, you can report a copyright infringement, for any music hosted music with them, and this is good and right, bravo! But this is not always the case for other digital resellers, and in many cases, there might as well be no music law at all…

How the internet changed buying physical music, and also affected physical music stores and smaller suppliers

The wide-spread uptake of the internet around the year 2000, reduced the buying of physical releases like CDs and vinyls. Because people could and did, download the music for free from Napster. The internet essentially removed the mass of clean music sales of the past, especially through long-term physical high street stores in the United Kingdom, like HMV. This not only affects HMV, but also the staff, their salary, jobs, people’s income, highstreet life and presence, and essentially the makers and manufacturers of the physical items themselves. The list of people is endless from printers, CD and vinyl duplicators, vinyl dubplate cutters, vinyl duplicators, graphic communication designers, photographers, copyeditors, to licensing people. There are loads of industries connected to making physical music, loads!

Screenshot of the Napster software running on Mac OS9, show a grey interface with the track title in small text on the left, then on the right, a red progress bar, showing when the tracks will be downloaded.

The official Napster client software running on an original Mac iBook, on Mac OS9 operating system. The search and transfer manager windows are visible. Several MP3 downloads are underway, over a dialup (4 KBPS) internet connection.

Photograph by Njahnke (11 March 2001), distributed under a CC0 4.0 Deed license, adapted, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napster.

Another really great aspect of physical releases like CDs and vinyls, is that they are essentially (although not really), more difficult to copy, transfer and duplicate. Yes people in the know can easily do it, but it essentially reduces duplication and uploading onto the internet, then downloading for free. Here is what a musician and DJ said to me in an email in January 2019:

‘1 day we will get round to managing these things properly, sadly I do not have the time, nor the money, and live in hope, that we will, somehow’.

Ending quote

Not really a quote, however the Toto language was developed in 2015, 1 of the newest languages to be created in the last 10 years, that is primarily spoken orally and by only 1,600 people, that is on the brink of extinction, well struggling, only in parts of West Bengal (India) bordering Bhutan (a landlocked South Asian country). See Johannes Bergerhausen’s (Hochschule Mainz in Germany) Worlds Writing Systems website:

‘This website presents 1 referenced glyph [a letter, symbol or character] and basic information for each of the world’s writing systems. It is the 1st step of the Missing Scripts Project, a long-term initiative that aims to identify writing systems that are not yet encoded in the Unicode [encoding for languages and scripts, that are assigned a unique numeric value] standard. As of today, there are still 131 scripts not yet encoded in Unicode. So they cannot be used precisely in a digital environment yet’.

Toto language
References to literature in the writing

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