By Macworld Staff, MacworldMAR 28, 2005 4:00 pm PST
The Cause and Effect of Music
Ever notice how much overlap there is between what people are buying, what’s played on the radio, and what is being downloaded on P2P networks? Compare the charts of online singles (at
iTunes ), radio play and sales (
Billboard’s singles chart ), and P2P downloads (as measured by
Between what’s being downloaded and what’s being played on radio, there’s serious overlap (which to me points to an obvious cause-and-effect relationship between media exposure and P2P searches). 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” tops the Billboard chart and sits at #3 on the BigChampagne.com chart. Usher’s “Caught Up” tops the BigChampagne.com chart and is down at #9 on the Billboard chart. The Game’s “How We Do” is at #6 on BigChampagne.com and #8 on Billboard. Mario’s “Let Me Love You” is on both Top 10 lists as well.
The downloaders, though, are ahead of radio programmers in a few instances. The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” is #5 on BigChampagne.com but down at #16 on Billboard’s chart. Jennifer Lopez’ “Get Right” is #2 at BigChampagne but way down at #44 on Billboard.
Why the differences? Maybe it’s video play, which also drives P2P demand. Video is, in some cases, ahead of radio play. “Mr. Brightside” was MTV’s seventh-most-played video last week, according to
its Top 20 chart. Jennifer Lopez’s “Get Right” was one better, at #6, even though it’s not nearly as in-demand on P2P. (Better to see than to hear?)
AOL Music’s video chart shares much with all other charts. All the same names are there: 50 Cent, Ciara, Green Day, and Mario. It does, though, have a few artists not seen at the top of the other charts, such as Lisa Marie Presley, Frankie J, and Jesse McCartney.
Then there’s the iTunes chart. The top purchased singles are somewhat similar, but the iTunes chart shows the most deviation from the other charts. Why? There’s less of a cause-and-effect relationship because online stores are able to pull consumers toward certain music (whereas with P2P the consumer is more likely to be pushed toward certain music by media exposure). iTunes and other stores have exclusives, special sections, pre-release singles, and other customized content that create an entirely new market for music. Where P2P is passive in what it offers, iTunes is active in selling music.
iTunes does have some overlap though. The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” is at #4, Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is at #6, 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” is currently #9 on iTunes. Usher’s “Caught Up,” the top P2P track, is down at #18 at iTunes. Kelly Clarkson and Gwen Stefani are on a few other charts as well as iTunes’ Top 10.
And that’s pretty much where most overlap ends. The iTunes top selling singles chart isn’t as driven by MTV and radio play as other charts. The digital world is one in which TV commercials and online exclusivity get a song on the chart. iTunes’ top song is, at the time of this writing, Nine Inch Nails’ “The Hand That Feeds,” an exclusive pre-release track found at no other online or physical store. At #8 is “Cry Baby/Piece of My Heart” by Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone, an exclusive from the Grammy telecast. Rob Thomas’ “Lonely No More,” another pre-release, is at #11. At #12 is “Jerk It Out” by The Caesars, a song made famous by the iPod Shuffle commercial. Green Day’s “I Fought the Law,” an iTunes exclusive that appeared in a Super Bowl commercial over a year ago, sits at #40.
The online world is also one where nostalgia plays an important part in demand. Why else would Heart’s 1987 power ballad “Alone” be iTunes’ #31 single? Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is at #51. And nowhere else but the iTunes chart would you find MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.” But it’s there, at #94.
It’s Grokster Week, the intellectual property and technology camps’ equivalent to the Super Bowl. The Supreme Court began hearing the Grokster case on Tuesday. Each side is doing its best to appear confident, but I’d bet there will be quite a few ulcers-in-the-making before the Court delivers its decision in June.
Yesterday’s NY Times’ had a surprisingly balanced editorial titled
“When David Steals Goliath’s Music” (subscription required)—I don’t recall ever reading such a fair, reasonable take on the issue in any of the New York publications. In it, the Times recognized the need to balance technological innovation with the need for compensation of copyright holders and songwriters.
“Technological devices are useless without content, and content is pointless without means of delivery. The circuit court lost sight of the equally vital consumer interest in protecting content. … At issue here is the defendants’ business model. They profit through sales of advertising, and to attract eyeballs for those ads, they encourage unauthorized transfers of copyrighted works. The Court should focus on this infringement-dependent business model, not on the technology.”
Glenn works in the music industry in New York City. He writes about the industry and music in general at his blog,