How Digital Subscriptions are Changing Our Behaviour…


Anyone watch The True Cost recently?

It’s on Netflix, you totally need to check it out…

One of the things I love about Netflix is that, while there is an awful lot of fluff on there, we are occasionally gifted with a little gem of a documentary, series or movie that otherwise may not be widely viewed. I love seeing quality Irish film on the US and UK Netflix menus – receiving four or five stars. It gives you a sense of unwarranted pride that hundred of thousands of Americans are settling down to view something they otherwise might never have even heard of. Choosing something on Netflix is a relatively risk-free experience from a consumer perspective – much like listening to a new band on Spotify – because the choice itself is essentially ‘free’. And for all our complaints about Netflix being ‘having every film except the one you want to watch‘ and how the likes of Spotify is ruining the music industry, we have to admit, that there is a hell of a lot of content out there that otherwise, wouldn’t make the cut with consumers at all.

Think about the last thing you watched on Netflix or the last album you played on Spotify… would you have paid €20  to do so if a digital subscription service was not available? How about €10? €2?

Or would you have opted to spend that money on a ‘safer’ tried and tested option – such as the new album from a band you already like, that you mate says is really good, or the blockbuster with two famous gorgeous actors in it.

Digital content subscriptions limit or risk of choice, and thus, are not just changing how we consume video and music, but what.

Back in 2008, the average young adults ipod contained 928 legally obtained tracks (and another 842 illegally downloaded). Yet 55% of young adults say they are happy not to pirate if offered a ‘free’ legal alternative, such as Spotify. Over the last few years, the number of songs being illegally downloaded have actually significantly decreased in the US, UK and a number of EU countries surveyed. But there is something more important going on here far more important that digital subscriptions just being the lesser of two evils…

Because the number of artists being listened to appears to have massively increased. After some quick maths, I found that as there was about 1.5 billion playlists on Spotify, so there is on average, 20 playlists per user. The average amount of songs on any shared playlist is 170. If we were to say even just half of these playlists were ‘completed’, that would mean a totally of 1,7000 legally listened to songs per Spotify user… and that’s just the playlists. It doesn’t include the whole albums we listen to or other playlists we didn’t create ourselves.

So the variation of content we are listening to is broadening. I strongly suspect this is the same for viewing.

The Middle-Classing of Music

What it means for these industries is much like what has happened in society over the last few decades – more and more people in the middle, and less people in the ‘upper’ and lower strata. We are witnessing the ‘middle-classing’ of music artists.

So, sure, plenty of artists are struggling and the ‘big’ stars aren’t making as much as they would have ten years ago… but there are also thousands of artists and films who would probably would never have achieved anything like the success or exposure they have if it wasn’t for the digital revolution.

Now, there is the argument that if you follow the class system, these things tend to be in cycles. So the rich continue to get fantastically richer and the nice plump middle class slowly deflates until we are all essentially in the bottom rung and the whole thing repeats itself in the never ending chaos that is capitalism…

But we won’t get into that one… but The True Cost has a lot to say on it.

What do you think? Have you noticed a shift in what you listen to, read or view because of digital subscriptions?


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