When is the last time you bought a compact disc? As an avid ipod user, I rather download tracks than purchase the physical media. So it comes as no surprise to learn that digital purchases are beginning to exceed compact disc. "Atlantic, a unit of Warner Music Group, says it has reached a milestone that no other major record label has hit: more than half of its music sales in the United States are now from digital products, like downloads on iTunes and ring tones for cellphones." Listeners have changed their music habits and are consuming differently.
What is also interesting to note is that digital purchases are not simply for the music track, but that revenue is coming in from additional usages like ring tones. It reminds me of the old story about baking soda. How do you get more sales of the product; more uses and more usage. You don't just cook with it, you put it in the back of your refrigerator to make it smell better. With digital downloads, you add it to gaming and other applications and music finds more uses and usage as well.
Obviously, the fear of digital downloading is content rights and protection. With perfect copies made accessible, the technical challenge to eliminate free file swapping is a challenge. Technical innovation and marketing efficiencies will move consumers to prefer legal means to download for better content and better results versus inferior copies and less desirable experiences.