scarcity in the marketplace

Much has been made of the decline of the record industry over the past few years, particularly the major labels.  And a lot of this discussion revolves around the impact of online music downloads, both legal and illegal.  But I think there’s another limiting factor at work.

I consider myself a pretty avid music listener, and buyer.  I spend $50-100/month on recorded music – I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s over $1000/year.  But honestly, I could afford to spend more.  My limiting factor isn’t budget.  Rather, it’s how much time I have available to listen to music! 

There are a couple of factors at play here.  First, I don’t like to buy music and not listen to it.  Although I’m a big music fan, I’m not at all a record collector in the classic sense.  I like the content far more than the physical object.  So I don’t buy records for the sake of buying records… I want to LISTEN to them after I buy them.  Second, I own a large and constantly growing collection of music, the result of 30 years of avid music purchasing.  Over those years, I’ve found many of what I call “lifetime albums” – pieces of music I will be listening to for the rest of my life, at least off and on.  So new music listening time must be shared with lifetime music listening time. 

Because of these two things, there is a real, practical limit on how much money I will spend on new music, no matter what its price is or how much I like it.  So in economics terms, my time is the scarce resource, not my budget or the supply of music available.  There’s far, far more music available that I want to hear than I will ever have time to hear.


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