State Of The Record Industry: Survey

I met with a friend of mine on Tuesday night who happens to be a semi-famous frontman from an 80’s British New Wave rock band. He had just been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony (as a guest, not an inductee), and he had spent the day meeting with his old friends from the record industry. The picture he painted of the current state of the industry was pretty bleak (but also totally in-line with what insiders have been saying for the past couple years):

-Mass layoffs at major labels either started or coming
-Retrenchment of radio back to “one hit wonders” with airplay paid for through independent promoter money-laundering
-Record companies milking catalogue sales of aging albums instead of developing and nutruring new artists.
-CDs rising costs

This aritist has had his own web site for almost 10 years now, and without any major label affiliation, has been selling his own CDs on his own label to a growing number of core fans. He might only sell 5000-10000 copies of a record, but he keeps nearly all of it. He is happy, has enough money to live and tour confomfortably, and says he has never been happier creatively in his life. He told me that all the record industry people that he had met with, who used to think of his operation as quite “quaint”, now told him they thought it was the wave of the future…

As a side note, I visited a couple major chains yesterday and noticed that CD prices were now $18.99 on the average for a 10-track, 40 minute album.

Ok, so having said all this, here are some questions I’s like to throw-out to this audience, who is roughly the same age and socio-economic level as myself:

  1. Do you think that “CD burning” is the real culprit in the destructive of the record industry, or is it the industry that is killing itself?

  2. Do you buy CDs for $18.99? Do you think raising the price so high will net companies (and retailers) enough incrmental income to overcome a downturn in sales, or should they instead start pricing CDs at $7.99 (or so) to sell at volume? What price would ge tyou to buy? Any price? Is quality a concern when you fork-over $18.99?

  3. Are there any artists that you guys/gals still follow from the 70’s, 80’s or even 90’s that have a D.I.Y. attitude and are successful despite the record industry?

Thanks,

Jupe

  1. The record industry itself is the culprit.

  2. I don’t buy CDs at $18.99, that’s just incredibly overpriced for maybe 1 or 2 good songs. At $7.99, I’d be much more inclined to not only buy CDs I know I’ll like, but I’d be more willing to “take a chance” and buy a CD I’m not too familiar with.

  3. Not really.

  1. Aimee Mann - She went indie, setup a web site, produced her own CD. Her latest was back in the record shops on an indie label - United Musicians/SuperEgo?

And no I won’t buy 20 dollars pieces of crap. DVD’s cost less then that and at least I know what ones suck there.

  1. The music industry is dying because their advertising hasn’t given me anything that I wanted to listen to in 5 years. I’m in a target demographic (18-24) and I can’t think of a single song I’ve heard on radio or my channel surfing through MTV that would make me want to buy the CD. I spend money though, buy plenty of computer and video games, for much more than the price of a CD. It’s simple cost/benefit analysis, really.

  2. No. I only buy CD’s if they hit around $12, and that’s only if I like more than 2 songs.

Layoffs at companies!?!? OH MY GOD!!! How can this be! I have never heard of such a thing! Our economy is doing so well, the record industry must be unique to actually be hit by Layoffs!!!

Correction, I just saw SBC laid off a bunch of people, I guess you can burn phone calls on your CD Burner?

Chet

Oh Chet, I was hoping to draw your ire. I guess I should have clarified. The layoffs are among people who used to think they are, or were once considered “untouchable” in the record industry, and they are now all running scared. It’s not like I feel sorry for them or anything, but its interesting that their castle walls have now been breached just like everyone elses.

CD prices are insane. I will pay full price for maybe 2 or 3 titles a year of artists I love. The rest of the time I purchase at sale prices or used.

Target, I have found, has great prices on many new artists. A lot are in the $6.99 to $9.99 range. I realize unknowns often start at a lower price point, but $7.99 seems nuts. How can they do that and the majority of other new releases go for $15.99 and up? The wild pricing differences confuse the hell out of me.

  1. My CD purchases are down, but it has nothing to do with burning/MP3. It has to do with the dearth of interesting artists today doing music that I enjoy. (Could be age – I’m 37 – but I doubt it. In my early 30s I like a lot of “new music;” I’ve just heard little recently that interested me.)

  2. I’d never spend $18.99 on a CD unless there were two discs in there. When I do buy CDs, I watch for sales or use online sellers that sell discs in the $12 range.

IMHO they should just offer 192K VBR MP3s (darned close to CD quality) for a buck a download, piracy protection be damned. The anti-piracy stuff just makes songs too hard to deal with.

Hell, if I could download guaranteed-quality, no-file-sharing-hassle copies of my favorite songs in “universal” MP3 format for a $1 a pop, the record companies would probably make more off me TONIGHT than they’ve made in the past 4 or 5 years.

The layoffs are among people who used to think they are, or were once considered “untouchable” in the record industry, and they are now all running scared.

And how does this differ from any other industry?

My ire? You requested feedback, I provided feedback, sorry it did not agree your predrawn conclusion.

Chet

You also trolled.

Edit: I meant Chet, actually. :D

In a way, I guess you are right. I wasn’t necessarily trying to “troll”, but I did expect that I would get some flack, and I got it. However, I wasn’t necessarily think if Chet. I did have my own pre-drawn conclusions (like most people) , but I hoped for an interesting conversation anyway. Really, I was just shocked at $18.99 list price for new CDs, and was wondering who, if anyone, is willing to pay that.

There is no difference between the record industry and any others in an economic downturn. That’s the point. We are in an economic downturn, they are struggling, demand is low but they put a premium price on their product. I’m not sure why that industry thinks that the economic pinciples of elastic demand (in this case, inelastic) don’t apply.

I’m a little bitter about having to pay $13.50 for a new CD on Amazon, much less $18.99. WTF? I agree, new CDs should be ten bucks, not just the “Super Saver” series.

-wumpus

I won’t pay 20 bucks for a CD, but I do try to own the music I like. I generally will buy CDs at Best Buy where they sell them for 12-14 dollars upon release. However, I won’t buy a CD for one song and would like to get at least an hours worth of music. I was pissed when I bought Weezer’s green album only to find out it had 30 minutes worth of music on it. Along with that, I appreciated Guns n’ Roses Illusion albums running in at just over 70 minutes each.
Out of the 4gb of mp3s I have, I’d say about 98% are from my own CDs. The rest are a mix of a few singles I like or live versions of some of my favorite songs.

I think the problem with the music industry is that it’s too pre-packaged, everyone tends to sound the same these days. Radio is extremely crappy, the same songs get played over and over. If they had more diversity in what the public was exposed to and had a price point between 10-12 dollars for a CD I think they would be better off. Unfortunately the music industry is facing the same thing as every other entertainment business is facing: the breadth of things to do keeps growing everyday. There are hundreds of television stations to watch, the internet has come into it’s own, video games keep expanding their user base, etc.

I’m sure piracy has had something to do with the declining revenue in the music industry, but it also seems like there’s nothing new to get people energized about the music scene. Hell, rap’s nearly 25 years old if you can believe it.

If the music industry wanted to get my money, they’d let me download and burn individual songs at a reasonable cost. I’d pay $0.50 a track, maybe a bit more, and agree to buy, say, 10 tracks at a time. I’m not spending more than $10 on a music CD at Target, though, much less $18.99. They’re insane if they really are pricing new CDs at that price.

I’m starting to think that this $1.00 a track thing that DennyA
suggested might be a good idea. It would have to be high quality .mp3 files or .wav files, with no security or DRM. Maybe $1.00, but you’d get 1 free track for every 5 purchased or something like that. I’d use it right now…

I think the record industry’s (when people say that I assume we’re talking about the mega-huge, pissy, RIAA type companies) problem is that they stopped selling good music a while back. Some where along the line they decided it would be better to sell lame music and make up for the difference with marketing. The saddest thing is they probably think it really is MP3s that’s killing them. They are soooooo stupid this way.

There is still good new music and stuff, it just all comes from outside of “the system”.

I’m starting to think that this $1.00 a track thing that DennyA
suggested might be a good idea. It would have to be high quality .mp3 files or .wav files, with no security or DRM. Maybe $1.00, but you’d get 1 free track for every 5 purchased or something like that. I’d use it right now…[/quote]

Something like it’s either in place already or will be in place. It might be at Napster when it relaunches. The $1 a track figure is what I read.

Sure, burning has an effect. People would rather spend $0 versus $12-$18. And the industry has always been in trouble; it’s often said it died in the 80s, but CDs came around and suddenly everyone needed to buy “Led Zeppelin IV” again.

Everyone can throw out that “music sucks” argument until the cows come home, but it’s always been like that. Pop music is disposable, and every decade is full of crap one-hit wonder bands. There’s just as much compelling, interesting music today as there was 20 years ago, it’s just different when you’re 15 versus 35. I buy fewer CDs today not because “music sucks!” or “CDs are too expensive,” it’s because my tastes have narrowed. I don’t have as much desire to seek out every new band as I did when I was in college, or I buy the new CDs of bands I’ve always liked.

  1. Do you buy CDs for $18.99? Do you think raising the price so high will net companies (and retailers) enough incrmental income to overcome a downturn in sales, or should they instead start pricing CDs at $7.99 (or so) to sell at volume? What price would ge tyou to buy? Any price? Is quality a concern when you fork-over $18.99?

If I want a CD, I pay whatever it’s on sale for. $18 versus $12? (I rarely, if ever, pay that much because I typically buy CDs right when they come out.) But really, a $6 difference? That’s a dinner at McDonalds.

I buy duds, and I get over it. I don’t actually expect to absolutely adore any creative work I purchase. I’ve purchased bad books, bad CDs, bad movies, blah blah blah. When did all of these purchases become absolutes, that there has to be no chance we won’t like what we buy? Nowadays, people use this to justify downloading music and movies and games. “Gotta sample them first.” How did we survive before this was even possible? Why did anyone ever buy and records or tapes in the 60s-90s? I used to just read a review, and if they said, “Hey, they sound like Big Star meets KISS,” I’d run out and buy the tape or CD.

  1. Are there any artists that you guys/gals still follow from the 70’s, 80’s or even 90’s that have a D.I.Y. attitude and are successful despite the record industry?

I could really care less about the music business; I just dig the tunes. I don’t care if you’re on Universal or Kill Rock Stars or your own label.

I’m starting to think that this $1.00 a track thing that DennyA
suggested might be a good idea. It would have to be high quality .mp3 files or .wav files, with no security or DRM. Maybe $1.00, but you’d get 1 free track for every 5 purchased or something like that. I’d use it right now…

I agree, but I’ve NEVER seen any download service offer what I consider ‘high quality’, eg, 160kbps (average) variable bit rate MP3 or equivalent. And the chances of them offering that without any security, digital rights management, or in some insane format they can control? Practically nil.

But I would like to see that for $1 a track, however comically unlikely it actually is.

-wumpus

Everyone can throw out that “music sucks” argument until the cows come home, but it’s always been like that. Pop music is disposable, and every decade is full of crap one-hit wonder bands. There’s just as much compelling, interesting music today as there was 20 years ago, it’s just different when you’re 15 versus 35. I buy fewer CDs today not because “music sucks!” or “CDs are too expensive,” it’s because my tastes have narrowed. I don’t have as much desire to seek out every new band as I did when I was in college, or I buy the new CDs of bands I’ve always liked.

Steve (or should I say steve) is right about this. I don’t know why people, as they get older, begin complaining about how “everything sucks now” and how “everything was better in the good old days”. It’s like nostalgia uber alles. I mean, come on. People were probably saying the same damn thing in the 1800s. The ratio of crap to good stuff has always been 10 to 1, whether you’re talking about 1938, 1988, or today.

I’m sure some crotchety old man will be complaining about this ten or twenty years from now, because you know-- back in 2003, those were the good old days when everything ROCKED. Now it’s all shit!

-wumpus