Experiments with digital products and business models may not have produced many winners, but it was clear from the discussions at the first day of the Leadership Music Digital Summit, that some people felt progress has been made.

The event began yesterday in Nashville and runs through Sat. (Oct. 2).

Loeb & Loeb's Barry Slotnick, for example, did not express sadness that companies are making digital dimes instead of analog dollars. "Five or six years ago," he reminded the audience, "digital dimes didn't even exist."

NPD's Russ Crupnick started off the day with a presentation. Among the key thoughts:

-- The big problem, he said, was industry confused price and value. The result has been a repeating cycle of consumer disinterest and retail reaction - a "death spiral" for the CD. In the mid-2000s, according to Crupnick, consumers were saying they wanted a good shopping experience, not download cards, digital kiosks or other digital products forced onto them by people with a very different relationship with technology.

-- The "death spiral" has resulted in consumers dropping out of music buying by the droves. In 2006, Crupnick said, there were 115 million CD buyers. That number fell to 95 million in 2008 and 80 million in 2009.

-- Most consumers leaving the CD aren't going digital. Sixty three million people buy CDs only, nearly twice the number of iTunes buyers, Crupnick said. Further, NPD data shows that two-thirds of non-buyers have no interest in buying digital (they prefer to own CDs, listen to AM/FM radio, are satisfied with their collection, etc.).

-- Not even young consumers are becoming digital buyers. About three-fourths of 13 to 25-year-olds didn't buy a digital download in 2009, Crupnick said.

-- Crupnick has a number of reasons for optimism. He is bullish on connected devices such as Internet-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players, and he says "music is central to the connected experience."

-- NPD sees great potential in subscription models -- $1 billion to $3 billion from iTunes alone if Apple offered a subscription service ($10 per month is the sweet spot, he said).

Elsewhere at the conference:

-- The big question of the day wasn't even answered. Responding to an audience question about when Spotify will launch here in the states, GM of US operations Ken Parks stuck to the company line. "We've said publicly that we'll launch by the end of the year," he said.

-- Lee Parsons of Ditto Music summed up the feelings of the panel ("Measurement & Metrics") when he said, "Charts aren't as important (as they used to be). Now, who looks at the charts?" Instead of backward-looking charts that tracked just recorded music sales, the panelists favor tracking metrics (streams, social media metrics) that show what can be monetized. Such a forward-thinking chart would show the potential that might be captured based on the activity being tracked.

-- MySpace Music's Sam Wick summed up well the challenges of ad-supported music and showed the resolve of the company that monetizes music through ads. "We're in a transitional period...we're all committed to it and will continue to test various monetization methods looking for the big win."

-- Ariel Hyatt said artists need a "re-education" and needed to learn how to connect with consumers and use the tools at their disposal. This was a common theme of the day, actually. Artists as well as industry professionals need to better understand the basics (Circle C and Circle P, for starters) and how they impact their careers and companies.

-- Loeb & Loeb's Barry Slotnick has noticed two improvements recently. First, Slotnick says the law is starting to better define itself. That means less uncertainty for businesses that want to delve into business models that used to have dangerous questions models hanging over them. Second, he says the industry is starting to work with companies that have something to lose from litigation. That means better cooperation on new business models.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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