Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

First Page



Setting aside commodities of necessity like food and clothing, perhaps no other product is as universal and popular as music. It is no surprise that millions of dollars are spent trying to package and harness it into a marketable form. Perhaps it is that same quality of universality, its "primal nature," that makes music such an untamable and unruly beast these days. The question of how to sell music effectively (and for some, whether or not it should be sold in the first place) is one that has been hashed and rehashed by those inside and outside of the industry. While the plausible solutions currently being employed or contemplated have not, as of yet, struck gold, or even silver (maybe iTunes deserves bronze credentials), they have told us some valuable things about the state of the American music consumer. Perhaps we have not recognized just how valuable this information really is. Instead of jumping straight to an answer of "what model works," we need to recognize that this market, like any other, is controlled by the consumer, not the manufacturer. There are certain expectations that music-lovers have adopted, and they will not easily be divorced from them. What is required is not a top-down approach in which the industry sets the standard for what they will offer the customer and expect them to be satisfied, but rather a bottom-up approach where we consider what customer demands are and try to accommodate them in a fashion that is monetarily feasible. This may sound daunting, but winning back customers is exactly what the industry has to do if it wants to combat the losses to piracy. By "surveying" some of the models tested or proposed for solving the industry's woes and gleaning from their successes and failures what they teach us about music consumers, we can begin to create a framework in which a new model should and must operate to succeed. As this framework emerges, this article will argue for what is currently the most feasible model for both meeting consumer demands and pumping money into a flailing industry: the socialization of music.