What I Learned About the Record Industry by Carsharing with a Millennial

A couple of days ago I shared a car over a 250 miles trip back home after a family reunion week-end. I logged onto a French popular car-sharing portal and picked a ride home.

Riding with a Millennial

My ride happened to be 21 year old student driving back to Toulouse and college after a week-end with his folks. 
The kid appears to be the average 20 something youngster. Drives a second hand car but flashes a shiny iPhone 5. 
Looks and sounds educated. Average student kid, with a countryside background (yes, I do spend my week-ends in the French evergreen farmland). 
As soon as we hit the road I cannot take my eyes off the car stereo’s dashboard. The thing is stuck in some kind of a demo mode. Flashing features on its LCD screen on carousel mode. Featuring grand LED display. I wonder if my guy will turn the thing on, and what sound will come out of that thing.

After 50 miles driving on a winding road through fields and woods, we hit the highway. My driver relaxes, turns on speed regulator and offers to play some music.
“Wanna plug in your phone?” he says. I pass as my old thing of a phone’s got a broken jack socket and I instantly wish I hadn’t disposed my backpack in the trunk, enclosing my other phone along with other road trip best companions: books and sandwiches.
 The kid grabs a jack cord, plugs it in, reaches for his phone and launches a random playlist off his library.

“So, you don’t buy CDs, I guess?
No. I don’t.”

While the iPod app is in control, the stereo is still running its LCD overdrive. Keeps sending these obsessive stimuli to my eyes, grabbing most of my attention. This thing is obviously crying out for help. My help. 
So I ask: “do you ever play some CDs in that thing?”
 — No I don’t. Sometimes some friends ride along and bring their own CD-r comps, but that’s pretty much it. 
— So, you don’t buy CDs, i guess? 
— No. I don’t. 
— Did you ever buy some? 
— No. no. Never did. 
And then he adds: 
— I have this mate, he’s into music. He’s got this huge library. Like gigabyte of it. So whenever I need new music I just go to this guy
 — Oh I see. 
— With every device operating a jack or USB connector, there’s no point in using CDs, really.

I try then to figure out which legit music source he may rely on. 
— Yeah, this and streaming services, they’re killing the CD business. Do you ever use any of those? Deezer, Spotify? 
— No, I don’t. Some on my friends, they’re into music, like hardcore, they do. but I don’t, no. 
— So, how do you tune into new music, fresh sounds?
 — Oh, I just go online on Youtube and browse stuff.

There it is. Loud and clear. You can ditch all the fancy reports and studies about millennials’ music consumption habits. I have one of them sitting next to me in the car. And he’s a living proof of this generation’s global adoption of the digital age of music.

This generation never paid for music

As he mentions it, there’s a fringe of these kids keeping up with music, digging new sounds over legit streaming services, but most of his generation mates act just like he does.

This generation never paid for music. That’s a fact. They were raised while MP3 rampaged the industry — remember those Naptster days? — and now they’re adults it’s free streaming time, Youtube and my-guy-with-shit-load-of-mp3 dealer of a friend. 
Then, how will we ever be able to bring them to spend money over music?

Furthermore, they’re another thing about those kids on my mind. They’ve always been living is a music saturated world. Music everywhere. 
Shopping malls, underground parking lots, elevators, telephone services… everywhere. 
It’s music non stop and it’s free of charge. So how would they figure that listening to music comes with price?
 When you look at it, in this generation’s perspective paying for a streaming service isn’t purchasing music but buying access to a convenient service. Not paying for the music but for reliable library sync between desktop and mobile, or offline use. Etc.

This generation’s been raised to pay for apps and features, but not for a piece of art. 
And this, is our biggest failure.

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