Let’s be honest here: Do you remember the last time you went into a music store to buy the new album of your favorite artist? Or to get their latest merchandise? Now your answer would not be the same if I had asked of the last time you used a streaming or an online service to download the new hit single to an electronic device, would it?

As Bob Dylan would sing, “Times, They Are A-Changin”…

What did we research?

As part of a descriptive study involving music preferences of listeners, we conducted an online survey on the general purchase behavior concerning music related issues to which we collected over 301 responses (as of May 2016). The study involved, among many other topics, the purchase of music albums and the use of streaming services.

What did we find?

Music streaming services, such as Spotify or the online purchase of music seem to be more and more popular among the younger generations. 60% of our respondents answered that these (streaming and online shopping) are their preferred way to have access to music, in contrast to buying physical copies in music and book stores.

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This emphasizes the intangibility movement of music. Listeners are each time more preferring the convenience of listening to a wide offer of songs through their Smartphones or Laptops, rather than having the actual physical record. Plus, with current streaming services it only takes a small fee for listeners to even an astonishing amount of songs offline.

This “new” trend is also made clear when accessing the most important attributes listeners value when buying album: The price (75%) and the number of songs (56%). Of course, the musicians that record on the album plays is also an important factor for 54% of respondents. Unfortunately (at least for me!) less important are elements like cover art (how sad…), if lyrics are included or who produced the album where under which label. This could be the reason why barely any of our respondents buy full albums (21%) or compilations anymore.

Now what?

Most musicians want to have their physical record. Understandable, records and their design are part of the “final product”, or the “concept” artists conceive. And giving up on the idea of having a record is extremely tough and painful. But artists or producers must place a greater focus on their digital presence. Specially independent artists.

What is the point for an independent musician to produce 1.000 copies a record, and spending great sums, if all the listener wants is to upload the songs to their mobile devices or access them offline through streaming services?

So it is possibly time for a change in paradigms, regardless of how sad or painful it may be. Ways of addressing this issue might be through developing a well designed and coordinated online presence, and develop cooperation with streaming services or online distribution platforms, such as CD Baby or Tune Core. They might represent an overall lower risk investment.

And what is your opinion? Do you think records will become fully intangible and this is the process towards the end of records as we know them?