updated 11:00 am EDT, Wed April 28, 2004
The return of the single
iTunes, MusicMatch, and Rhapsody customers , The Lost Angeles Times reports today in an article that analyzes what the implications of online music stores could be for the industry. Offline, consumers buy about 50 times more albums than singles. "There's no money to be made from singles," entertainment attorney Gary Stiffelman, whose clients include hit rapper Eminem, told the Times "Unless you can sell an album you can't really afford to launch the artists. The whole economics are driven by some sort of critical mass of product."
Selling singles online can still be profitable, stores contend. "Essentially, they send us spreadsheets, we send them money," said Sean Ryan, head of music services at RealNetworks, illustrating how inexpensive online transactions are for the record labels. Customers of Real's Rhapsody service spend an average of $150 a year on music, far above the American average.
Some analysts and record executives believe the shift towards singles again is inescapable. "Consumers have moved on," said analyst Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research. "The idea that they have to consume music by the album is something that many music consumers have left behind." And regardless how the situation is analyzed, music purchases of any sort always trump the free downloads that continue to run rampant on peer-to-peer services.