Is music a substitutable good?

Ad-Supported Music Central: The Times is a Great Textbook

In any industry the low-cost producer of substitutable goods will always win (whether recorded music is substitutable is open to debate but I would argue that it is, sicne listeners have virtually unlimited choice in what to spend their time listening to). It seems like the recorded music business is just beginning to learn this fundamental principle of business.

What is substitutable about music is choice *before the fact.*

Once you have come to know and love a piece of music, only that one will do. That is why there are classics. There is only one Kind of Blue, and people who know and love it will never have a substitute.

But before you meet Kind of Blue, you have a universe of choices. Your listening journey doesn’t spiral inwards to an inevitable meeting with Kind of Blue. Drop into a path starting at Opsound, for example, and you will end up loving other musics.

5 thoughts on “Is music a substitutable good?

  1. I love “Kind of Blue,” and I know what you mean when you say “there is only one ‘Kind of Blue'”–that there is only one official album by Miles Davis with that title, etc. And, that’s the thing we grab when we grab the LP or CD.

    But, in another sense, there are hundreds of variants of “Kind of Blue” (performed by Miles Davis, and then also by all kinds of other musicians over the years). So, after choosing a classic like “Kind of Blue,” you could also have a universe of choices.

    In fact, the whole CD remaster / reissue business has been predicated on one small bit of the possibilties in there being more than one version of classic albums.

    (btw, the “Bitches Brew Sessions” reissue is, to me, often more enjoyable than the classic version.)

    Post the LP-format, more of these possibilties seem more accessible, e.g., because physical packaging has ceased to be much, if any, constraint.

  2. Jay dude. That is a really really good point.

    What you’d say now is that there’s only one *Miles* or only one *Opsound* — you’d talk about sources of streams of releases rather than any one release.

    I mean, who talks about one classic blog post? You’d feel silly. It’s all about the series.

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