Imperfect markets

IE Focus | By Enrique Dans, Professor at IE Business School

The barriers to entry that have plagued the music industry for decades have made it the perfect example of an imperfect market. The internet can put an end to this situation, but there are plenty of people who don’t want it to happen.An imperfect market is when the supply and demand are conditioned or altered so as to prevent normal development. Imperfect markets are often the result of monopolies, exclusivity, obstacles, blocks, etc. caused by many situations that usually lead to inefficiency.

One typical example is the music market. For many years the supply was conditioned by the “selection” process that a small number of leading record companies applied to talent. You could be a genius, propose something that was original and interesting or sound incredibly good, but if you did not pass through the record company´s filter, it was more or less impossible to access the market. The filter could depend on the mood of the person listening to your demo, your sponsors, all kinds of commercial criteria or even what you were willing to do to pass the first stage of the selection process, but if you did not pass it, your possibilities were very low indeed. The capacity for self-production was minimal, the capacity for distribution was almost zero and for promotion it was just pie in the sky: demand was also controlled and manipulated through access to the media.