Unlimited Access – A Transformation of Music Listeners’ Buying Experience

young woman with headphones

Anyone over the age of 20 can remember back to the process of purchasing music before streaming and MP3 services. When I look back, I am flummoxed by our buying practices of the day.

First there was the CD selection where we knew a few title tracks on each album (because of radio, TV, etc.), but had no idea what other songs we were purchasing along with them. Then, there were crazy marketing offers like: “buy nine CDs for $1” where upon providing payment information, one finds out shipping costs $15 per CD. Even without the promotional material, albums costed between $10-$20 apiece, which – accounting for inflation – comes out to near $30 in today’s money.

All of this considered, buying music in the 90’s was a really big deal, and an especially big deal for 10 to 15-year old youth like myself at the time who craved it. I frequently used all my birthday and Christmas gift money for the next great album…happily.

It is for this reason that, even after streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify have been around for years, I revel in how incredibly inexpensive and vast the listening experience is. Never taking for granted the fact that for a fraction of the price of one CD in 1995, I can listen to any album ever put out in its entirety.

The transformation of our music industry is jaw dropping. It makes me think of what the next big disruptor will be. Will we acquire and wear any piece of clothing under the sun at any time for just $15 a month? Will we drive any car we could ever dream of any time for a similar fee? These concepts sound totally unfathomable right now; but just remember how music consumption changed in the blink of an eye. What do you think is the next place consumers will be gifted unfettered access to goods or services at a fraction of the price they pay now? Let us know by posting this blog or responding via LinkedIn.

– Lee Sumner, Research Director