The Value of a Song
My good friend, and label-mate, Jerry Dale Harris recently announced that he will be offering his new album (which comes out on October 28th) for whatever you want to pay for it, including not paying anything. Jerry is fantastic, and I have no doubt that the number of people who pay for it will far outweigh the people who don’t. But it brings up an issue that’s discussed a lot in the music industry lately. What exactly is the value of a song?
There are several different thoughts on what the value of a song is. The music industry has set the price to download most songs at $0.99. Some songs may be $1.29 to download. So the price of a download for you is just under a dollar. If you purchase one of my songs from iTunes, they take a cut of your $0.99, then the distributor takes their cut, and I get about $0.60. Which means that the value of my songs is actually less than you perceive it to be.
On-demand and streaming music services present a complication in determining the value of a song. These subscription based services don’t charge on a per song basis. For most, you can sign up and immediately play any song you want, or stream any type of playlist or “radio” station without paying anything. Songs then become a sort of disposable entertainment as one fades into another, and another, and another. This would seem to eliminate any type of personal connection with music.
So then the value of a song through streaming music services goes way down for the consumer. If you can get any song you want, at any time you want, then the song itself becomes mundane. The playlist becomes just ambient background noise.
For me, the value of each song that’s played through a streaming service like Spotify is $0.006 per play.
To put the monetary value of a song into perspective, in order for me to make minimum wage, I would need to average at least 12 downloads each day. On the streaming side, I would need to have approximately 9,667 streams every day.
This is how the music industry and a lot of musicians discuss the value of a song. But there’s another way to discuss the value of music.
Let’s try something. Think of your all-time favorite song. I know, one is hard to chose. If that’s the case, then think of a few of your all-time favorite songs. Think of the first time you heard it, or what it means to you and your life. Think of the friends you’ve shared it with.
Now imaging your life without that song. Erase every memory that that song was a part of. What is the value of that song now?
It seems to me that the true value of a song stems from the associations and connections that we make with it. When someone tells me that a song of mine connected with them, or made a difference in their life, that is worth more than whatever they might have paid for it. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard as a musician and songwriter, I put in a lot of time and effort to write and release music, and it’s great to be compensated for that.
As I’ve said before, music is a part of us, it makes us feel, it sometimes says the thing we didn’t know how to say. It enriches our lives. And you can’t put a monetary value on that.