For generations now, the business jargon book has been filled with various commandments such as ‘the customer is always right’ and ‘the consumer is king’. But how cemented are these phrases in a company’s business policy? Is the consumer really king when it comes to the products and services that they receive?
Streaming website Spotify has recently been cast in the spotlight over the removal of singer Taylor Swift’s entire back catalogue. Of course, this was due to her own beliefs and concerns (particularly when it comes to the sales of newly released album, ‘1989’), but it still hasn’t prevented fans, and Spotify itself, begging for her return.
It seems that, to use the classic Adam Smith analogy, excess demand hasn’t been met with excess supply. Better yet, the consumer has been teased with it, only for the carrot at the end of the string to be yanked away. But what happens when supply and demand are flipped?
To cast back even further in time, take the recent controversy surrounding U2’s recent album, ‘Songs of Innocence’. The band collaborated with industry leader, Apple, to release their LP to all user accounts of Apple product, iTunes. Whilst some saw this as a stunt to increase their album sales (considering their last album sold five million records in its first five months, the band may not need a stunt), most users were frustrated that the band presumed all iTunes users liked U2.
Here, excess supply wasn’t welcomed by a warm embrace of excess demand – quite the opposite, in fact. As elementary as the economics of these examples may seem, they both work together to pose a question – what power does the consumer really have when it comes to the products that they buy?
Arguably, as much as the consumer drives the market through their consumption and use of products and services, the control that they have over it is only so much. Individuals and companies have vested interests and beliefs that, in some circumstances, are naturally placed above the consumer.
Take free websites such as Facebook. Whilst the social media platform works to connect friends and family, it takes the foremost stance of being a business that, much to its users’ dismay, has to create revenue. After all, it doesn’t keep quiet about the popular social media platform being an essential business tool in regards to advertising.
Ultimately, the consumer can’t shift the needs of a business or an individual – if they want to reap the benefits of being king, then they may need to move their royalty elsewhere. On the bright side, Taylor Swift’s back catalogue is still available for the likes of YouTubers, if fans of the singer want to take something positive away from this article.