Different keyboards, same economics

Paul Resnikoff from Digital Music News agrees with a suspicion I’ve had for a while, that the markets for music and mobile apps are quite similar. In both cases, there’s a huge mismatch of supply and demand, with lots of developers/musicians chasing a small number of consumers, resulting in a market with a few very profitable hits and many producers earning next to nothing.

Resnikoff reached this conclusion after reading testimony before the UK Parliament about the difficulties of commercializing research. The testimony mentioned the economics of the Apple App Store as an example of how the revenue generated by technology often does not cover the cost of development, and does not necessarily value the creativity and innovation of the inventors.

I would add two points to this proposition:

1. The lack of reliable revenue and small chance for real success, don’t seem to stop either musicians or developers from playing or writing apps. There are still  thousands of musicians playing in coffee shops for tips and a free latte, and thousands of developers writing free or 99-cent apps for the various app stores. What they share is the dream of being discovered and hitting it big.

2. There are other options for developers (and musicians) who want to earn a living rather than shoot for the stars, For developers, the best way to make money is to get a job with a company that pays you to write code. True, there’s less chance of making a mint (unless you got a job with Instagram), but at least it’s a living. For musicians, the options are perhaps less lucrative, but there are ways to earn steady pay from music. As the Future of Music Coalition found in its recent survey of musicians’ incomemany musicians earn a living from multiple roles, including session work, teaching, and other pursuits. Again, it’s a tradeoff of stability vs. the dream of fame and fortune.

Photo by Gloson from flickr


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