Redefining What It Means to Collect Recorded Entertainment: Digital Music Sales Overtake Physical Media in the UK

Filmmakers and musicians used to dream of selling millions of copies of their work to fans who lovingly collected physical copies. Those days are gone.

According to new British Phonographic Institute research (as reported on June 1, 2012 by the Internet Advertising Bureau), the first quarter of 2012 marked a sad day for anyone still attached to vinyl and CDs. For the first time in the history of recorded music, digital music revenues accounted for a majority (55.5 per cent) of UK recorded music income.

This is, of course, depressing news for anyone involved in manufacturing physical copies of entertainment - including any filmmakers still looking to DVD sales as a significant revenue source. The era of physical copies is over.

And even the digital download age (today's preferred medium) may be short-lived. As quickly as consumers have abandoned physical copies in favor of downloads, they may soon stop downloading (and clogging up their devices with gigabytes of recorded content) in favor of streaming services (where the content is stored in the cloud, and the consumer simply pays to access it).

The move toward streaming (instead of downloading) can be seen in the strong showing of UK paid-for subscription services in the first quarter of 2012. Streaming services like Spotify and We7 performed very strongly - almost doubling their income year to date.

In addition to the premium (ad-free) subscription services like Spotify, ad supported music services in the UK also saw increased income - but they didn't grow as quickly as ad-free subscription services: Ad supported music saw only a 20% increase over the first quarter of 2011.

The bottom line for filmmakers? Consumer preference has moved, much more quickly than most experts predicted, from a culture of copies to a culture of access. If you're planning on distributing your film yourself, you need to watch consumer behavior - you can't make a sale unless you line up your delivery system with how your core audience wants to receive its content.

Thanks to Gary P Hayes for the link.

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