Hooked on music: the economics of summer hits and its shortcomings

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Content consumerism: the digital age economy.

We are all consumers of content. Even if we don’t want it, it’s just all over the place to be ignored. Call it entertainment, advertisement, or what you want. That’s all it really is, content. Most of it it’s quite annoying and dull. None of us was ever delighted to see for the umpteenth time the Audi ad on a Youtube video. But that’s the way to get it for free. The idea is this: some very creative people generate very appealing content, a lot of people look at it for free but, since the creative didn’t generate it at no costs, he has to put an ad in the middle to get paid. The circle closes. The consumer gets free content and annoying ads. The creator gives free content but gets paid by a company. The company latches the popularity of the creator with one of their products. Simple.


The hook strategy.


It seems it is only of advantage for everybody in the stake, right? Well, there’s a twist. You remember that time you went to a perfumery and they gave you a free sample? You were so hooked in that wonderful scent that you seriously considered buying the 60 euro bottle. Isn’t it? The same happens with any type of entertainment or service. There’s always either a free trial for a couple of months, or you can get a ‘light’ version. The goal is always to get you hooked and, only then, make you pay for it. It works. Go look for how many things you’ve subscribed for just because it was free and then got charged, after you’ve forgotten to unsubscribe.


Selling the unsellable. Giving the unquestionable.


What’s the problem with this system? Well, it just makes everything disposable. Let me tell you a little story. Mr. King Gillette was a frustrated inventor before he had a fantastic idea while shaving. It goes like this: “What if, instead of maintaining your very expensive blade for a long time, we could have a disposable one for almost nothing?” It worked. He started with soldiers and then the attitude was taken with them, in times of peace. Now, I’m not bashing on making razors disposable but, when content – more precisely music – follows the same way of being sold, distributed, published and ‘consumed’, I’m rather concerned.

Summer hits: the cash cows of the music industry.


Have you noticed how much you end up listening to a summer hit in those three months? To nausea! That is the way for music distributors to earn the big bucks. More simply, as follow: forget about talent, artistry and technique. Take something catchy and polish it to perfection. Then, literally throw it out to the highest amount of channels and media platforms with unbelievable frequency. Let people get hooked, dance till sunrise with it and then get tired of it. Once that has happened, restart the whole process all over.


The result? Music, as any other type of content becomes disposable. Nobody listens to Jimi Hendrix, everybody listens to ‘Hippy vibes playlists’. Nobody listens to A Tribe Called Quest, everybody listens to ‘I love 80’s Hip Hop’. It just looses  its meaning, its energy, its real significance. They made it plasticized and shining. But as they say, not all that glitters is gold.  


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