Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stream Baby Stream

The death of the compact disc was inevitable.

"Everything dies baby, that's a fact."

During my heyday as a retailer, I did not see it coming. Maybe I didn't want to see it. This particular occupation was something I had planned on doing for many years to come. When it all began to go to hell in a handbasket, my business partner and I wrote about our woes. You can read that HERE.

It was easy to blame illegal downloading, but after spending 12 hours a day for 15 years talking to music lovers, very few stopped buying music because they were on a BitTorrent site grabbing the new Jessica Simpson CD. People stopped buying CDs because CDs became too expensive and to add insult to injury, the loyal music buyers began to feel betrayed when the labels began repackaging the same music over and over, with promises of "new and unreleased material" that had already been purchased.

Illegal downloading was the scapegoat for label greed. Maybe it turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. But fans who would sneak cassette players into concert halls to tape their favorite bands still bought every single release. No one was substituting a copy of "Led Zeppelin IV" with a fair sounding bootleg from a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970.

I'm thinking about this now in the wake of the Spotify backlash. You can read that HERE. The message is simple: Spotify does not pay out enough royalties to artists. "Streaming is killing the music industry."

Oh please! You cannot kill something twice.

Seven years after my shop shut its doors for good, I spend 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, searching for records, cleaning records, photographing records and listing records all with the hope of selling records. It is a far cry from owning a shop. People used to come to me. Now I have to find them. But through it all, through the everyday schlep and the disappointing returns, I still spend a portion of what little I make on music. I have to. Understand?

I love Spotify. I pay for Spotify. And as long as Scott Muni and Alison Steele remain dead, Spotify will serve as my radio. And if I get to hear the new Tommy Keene record on Spotify and I like it, I am buying it. I still believe that practice takes place.

Then there is the case of Robert Plant. And Neil Young. And so many other major artists who release their music on this new hot format called vinyl at $40 a clip. So in these instances, maybe I am just streaming, though I would have happily purchased the Robert Plant album if it didn't cost four times more than my average copay at my doctor.

A respected musician, a guitar player who is against Spotify and its business model, said this on a Facebook thread,  "If I had a dollar everytime I heard the word exposure..." He also mentions how as a session player and a writer, he has had close to a million streams but has only received an embarrassing payout.  When you read each individual story, and find out first hand just what goes into being a working musician and just how little compensation there is, you can sympathize. But with all due respect to this one musician and to this one story, his situation, with his status, would most likely have been exactly the same, less the one million hits.

I don't believe Spotify is the enemy.

What is the answer? Certainly not the circus that is Taylor Swift's principles.


William Repsher said...

I think you're wrong about illegal downloading. The MP3 and ability to have people share their MP3s for free over the internet represented a massive change in music -- almost as big as the birth of vinyl records. A cataclysmic shift -- the recording industry lost billions of dollars in profits in the fallout. Download culture, which I'm guessing is still huge, was absolutely massive and out of control through the 00's.

It changed how people consume music. I wouldn't put it in the context of pre-teens downloading recent pop star hits. Put it in the context of a kid downloading the entire Beatles or Led Zep catalogs in 15 minutes -- official releases, bootlegs, live shows, demos ... everything. I don't think most people are doing this for "sampling" purposes. They're doing it to have complete artist catalogs. That way we used to absorb songs and albums over the course of weeks and months? It's an alien concept to people raised in download culture. The concept is get everything a band or artist did, and listen to whatever grabs your fancy. With no historical context, with very little emotional connection to the music. (I know this because I recognize the same traits within myself since this stuff rolled around!)

Streaming is nice, but I don't see it as replacing digital or physical product. Data caps and the inability to stream all the time anywhere seem like huge drawbacks to me ... but then again, most people completely into streaming don't seem to be hard-core music fans. It works for them, to have that Spotify level of access at home, or occasionally on their phone or at work. If you're like me you want access to ALL your music ALL THE TIME. That's not streaming -- if you don't believe me, try streaming on a subway or moving vehicle.

I don't know what the answer is. In my mind, it's a patch work of what everyone is doing now. Streaming for those who want to stream. Downloading digital music for those who want to do so. Buying CD's and vinyl for those who want to do so. It seems like an incredibly fruitful and great time to be a music fan in terms of options ... I just get the impression record companies are not happy feeling this spread out and want to put all their money on one horse ... Streaming. And that would be a disaster in my mind.

I also think a huge part of the problem is that record companies are now being dragged around by computer companies like Apple and entities like Spotify. They don't control their own product ... which is exactly what happened with the MP3 revolution and possibly the largest problem that was created by all this. When it was just brick-and-mortar record stores, they had total control over how their product was distributed.

Don't kid yourself, Sal. Everything you said about record companies and their awful practices is true. But illegal downloading was a massive blow to the recording industry -- millions of people taking billions of dollars worth of product for free would be to any industry. I can assure you, you stopped seeing my face much less at NYCD right around 2001 or so when I got into downloading, legal and illegal. I hated seeing all these stores go and remember the old days of dozens of stores all over Manhattan, but downloading changed everything, forever.

Sal Nunziato said...

I am not so naive to think that illegal downloading did not cause problems for the industry, but I see it more along the lines of kicking someone when they are down. Or, how about eating something you already know isn't healthy--a chili dog--and then saying, "Fuck it! Put everything on it."

The decline in CD sales was already an epidemic before the adult buying public could even begin to understand how BitTorrents worked. Hundreds of customers who would regularly spend $100 every weekend, simply couldn't handle the $18 list price or another Who reissue.

I realize I am only talking about what I experienced in my store, but Napster was more of a puzzle when my store started to suffer.

I was as guilty as the next guy when it came to filling the holes with a complete discography via the click of a button and a few minutes, but I maintain, the records, CDs and boxed sets I was going to buy, I bought. I would never in a million years have purchased the entire Soft Machine discography, but to have it in my library was fun. I still bought the first two and still believe those who wanted physical product were unphased by "free" discographies.

Jon Springer said...

I just love the stream (strongly prefer Rdio to Spotify) and the secret is I'd pay twice as much as I do already given its value & the hope that artists could get paid more. And as long as you sync before you go, no issues in the car or the subway.

I worry that streamers are under pressure to meet expectations of the masses who believe it ought to be free, and that's ultimately what's hurting artists. $10 a month is a pittance but represents a lot more than I was spending on CDs before the stream came along, which was zero.

wardo said...

I only started playing around with Spotify within the last couple of weeks, and if anything, it will allow me to keep my blog going for at least another year, giving me the opportunity to hear things.

I've also had the misfortune in the past few weeks to actually go to a brick-and-mortar big box establishment to purchase new CDs on their release dates. Granted, these were reissues of Zeppelin and Wings, but the others included the new Neil and the Floyd. Each time I was not able to quickly find what I wanted without having to dig through the few racks they had, and finally asking a clerk where they were. (Then I come home to read that Neil's putting out another version of his new album, but that rant will have to wait.)

I spent the better part of 12 years in music retail, with a brief interlude in wholesale, and I absolutely LOVED street date. The boxes would come in, I'd get my hands on the new releases, put several aside for the people I knew would be coming in for them, and finally ripping one open to play it. These days, if I miss retail, it's either because I miss the people, or because I know I could still do it right.

William Repsher said...

Another way to look at it, especially for someone who owned a record store. Imagine one day you're at the front desk, hanging out, doing your thing. And in the span of a few minutes, a few dozen people walk into your store, start grabbing product off the shelves and walk out with one third of your inventory.

What would you have done? I think I can narrow it down to: flip out, call the cops, start grabbing the stragglers and trying to beat the shit out of them, feel righteous rage and anger.

All of which has occurred in one way or another with record companies after the advent of MP3s.

I'm not referring to people "filling holes" in their discography -- I'm talking about people creating their whole discography instantly, for free -- it's a culture we don't fully understand and grasp because we came before it. For the most part, I've always paid for my music, even in the dark days of full-on digital piracy. Downloaded plenty of hard-to-find stuff ... but would have gladly paid for it had it been made available to me. (That seems like another missed opportunity to me: artists taking control of their demos/live material and marketing it themselves.)

I think the slowing down of CD sales you saw back then was indicative of most older fans having all the reissues, having all the stuff they originally bought on vinyl and tape, and things slowing down in general -- it had to happen, sooner or later. And as you've seen, artists and record companies want to turn the past into a bottomless well of profit (re: Costello and Bowie reissues, among many others). This is probably pocket change in the big picture.

Sal Nunziato said...

"And in the span of a few minutes, a few dozen people walk into your store, start grabbing product off the shelves and walk out with one third of your inventory."

It took longer than a few minutes, and though no one walked out with inventory, the result of higher list prices, reissues of reissues and the majors getting cozy with big boxes was the same for me. I still ended up at a loss.

I do see your point, William. But short of going back in time, what could be done to fix this at this point? Trying to recoup years of loss by charging three times the amount for a record than it should be?

There will always be artists who want their fans to hear the music under any circumstance. "Sure, tape all my concerts, put'em online, do what you want. Just buy my record when it comes out." I believe those people do.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Home taping didn't kill the music industry, and in a way file sharing isn't much different from a couple friends passing around albums and making cassette copies. What's killing the industry is a culture where music isn't that important. It's just another thing like a cappuccino, or an app. A lot of us remember when music was IT, which also happened to be a golden age.

I bought cd's until the beginning of 2007 when my life took a different path, which excluded any extra expenses.

In 2008(?)I was invited to get an initial free Spotify account. I figured, I already had one of the first Pandora accounts, also free, why not?
I've never spent time with either of them. It's funny that there is a controversy surrounding Spotify. About 3 days ago I decided I was sick of being invited to log in every time I booted up, so I deleted the program.
I download like a motherfucker. Since 2007 I've, er, acquired a Terabyte. I bought a hard drive just for this purpose. I've already downloaded a disc from Starless today.

A lot of it I never listen to. I've always had an insatiable appetite for unfamiliar music. I get FLAC whenever I can and I don't download anything under 320. I look for obscure gems and the next big thing. I only bothered to download Led Zeppelin lll, which I listened to twice. I have FLAC Sgt Pepper in mono, which I hear is great, and maybe someday soon, now that I've worn out The Flaming Lips version, I'll get to it.

The things that catch my attention get thrown into 16 gigs of memory in my phone where I play everything in shuffle. When something wears out it's welcome, it gets replaced. A lot of the time I don't know who I'm listening to without checking. It's WBBJ all the time around here.

A few years ago an old friend said he was getting rid of his vinyl and did I want it? Of course I said yes, as I'd just scored an amazing turntable at a yard sale.
They came via the slowest, cheapest method possible. I don't know how many there are, but it's a stack about 7 feet long. Half of them were once mine, and hadn't been seen since 1979.
Within a couple months my friends house burned down with everything in it. Lucky records.
I try to play them and except for the surface noise, they sound great.
The problem is my listening habits have evolved/devolved so that album sides are both too long and too short, and they don't play in shuffle.
I don't buy, and I don't stream. I'm a private pirate radio station.

Shriner said...

Don't get me started.

The list price of a Marvel Comic Book -- a COMIC BOOK(!) 20 Pages (down from 22) -- is now $4 an issue. $4. I still drop about $30/week at the local comic pusher, but I'm not above downloading a digital copy of something to try it out first and then deciding to buy it in trade later.

But I digress...

The price of CDs *should* have dropped to $10 (or *maybe* $12 max) over the years -- but they never did.

A "digital copy" of an album should *never* be above $10 (and I'm looking at you "Pink Floyd"). You want to buy a "single"? Fine, price that at $1 as a sampler, but then get the rest of the album for another $9.

I firmly believe pricing of physical media is what drove people to downloading/streaming more than anything else. (I think it will kill comic books, too, and that saddens me beyond words...)

Music streaming *should* be profitable for the artist -- I agree with that as a concept. But I have no idea what the elasticity of this would be in the "guns and butter" scale.

I watch my daughters in how they consume music these days They rip audio from YouTube and that's what goes on their iPhone/iPods these days. They rarely even wait for the local Library to get a copy of the CD and rip a better quality version. Do they buy things from iTunes? Yes. But not nearly as much as they did even a few years ago. And, yes, they are happy enough with the free-with-ads version of Spotify at this point.

The masses don't really give a shit about "audiophile" releases (or "vinyl"). The next generation is completely getting used to music (A) being always available and (B) being "free".

That lightning is well out of the bottle.

*Probably* the only thing that could bring it back -- which would suck -- would be the reintroduction of DRM. Which will never fly.

All that said -- I don't know if I'm angry about any of this or not. I'm angry about the price of Comic Books, I'll tell you that. But it's my crack. I can't stop...

William Repsher said...

Sal, another thing I forgot ... if people burst into your store and swiped 30% of the discs on the shelves of NYCD ... they'd be getting empty CD cases with liner notes! I remember how I used to have to go up to the front desk and have your or whoever was up there, fish out the CD from the library to insert into the case. But even that would have screwed you up terribly!

As noted, genie's out of the bottle. Music is devalued because so many consumers place no monetary value on it ... it's a pretty simple equation.

BBJ, think about how you grew into a band like Led Zep. Getting the first album, liking it, the second, blows your mind when you see how much Page has grown as a guitarist, third album, nice detour, the acoustic stuff shows another side of the band, IV comes out and changes everything, Stairway to Heaven takes over the world, Houses of the Holy treads water, but sounds great over passing time, Physical Graffiti bring it all back home, probably blows your mind from the second you break the vinyl out of the cellophane. ALL these steps take place over the course of years, with each album representing weeks or more likely months of absorbing each over that time, and your sense of the band growing over that time.

You have that context. A kid downloading the whole shebang in 20 minutes has none of that context or emotional connection to the music. We need to recognize that connection you have as a fan in real time is another value that has been lost in the digital age -- and it's no joke, because it's what keeps you here, what keeps us writing and thinking about this music. That's no monetary value -- that's something sewn into your musical DNA, your past, who you are, how you got to here. That's not something you download in 20 minutes and feel cool about!

Noam Sane said...

I love this: "I'm a private pirate radio station."

It's exactly what I do. Download whatever I want (newsgroups are still fantastic sources) and put it in my shuffle. I have a 30W USB transmitter for my home, it broadcasts my shuffle to 100.9 FM. I can control iTunes from my phone, so i can skip, replay, or find out what I'm listening to that way. It's like the progressive FM station that I grew up listening to, minus the stoned jocks (which i very much miss) including stuff I've never heard before - I often download stuff that sounds interesting due to song or band names, or that touches a distant memory of something I heard or read.

I've given up lamenting the way things used to be, whether it's music or the AL East or back when I was healthy.

Sal Nunziato said...

Okay, so far we have all admitted to embracing the download, legally or otherwise. But since the subject of Spotify was part of this post and has only so far been mentioned briefly in the comments, what do you say to the major and not so major artists, who are bitching about royalties?

Suck it up? The good days are long behind you?

mpjedi2 said...

Here's the deal...if the smaller artists who are REALLY getting fucked by Spotify did this, no one would care. So, bravo to an artist who has the clout (Ms. Swift) to make the statement mean something.

How much different is this from a union going on strike for better wadges? I'm sure that some members of that union are integral employees already living very, very well, but they strike because their absence means something, over a lower-rung employee who might be easily replaced.

How much different is our reaction because, bottom line, this is about US paying more for the service/product we desire?

And, you're right, downloads alone didn't kill the industry, but mindset they engendered did. It was through the press around Napster, and the artists who tried to stop a tidal wave, that a whole generation grew up believing that music is and should be free. That an artist asking for money for their work was ridiculous to outright greedy. Part of the problem with the streaming services is that they reinforce the same mindset. The consumer doesn't see it as paying the artist, but for the convenience.

I always love how these arguments, eventually, always come around to "but, but...RECORD COMPANIES!!!" Well, that's fine..but they're going broke, and it's rapidly becoming a world of artists self-distributing. So, that's really not all that much of a realistic issue. Even leaving that aside, it's using the fact that they (usually) don't give artists the best deal to justify screwing the artist completely.

Until we can make music fans understand that, unless you can make some profit as a musician, you can't make music forever, the problem will continue. When the audience makes it a "take what we give you and thank us for it" (and I have heard THAT EXACT PHRASE levied at artists who simply want to be paid fairly for their work) transaction, the audience is no longer respecting the art, or the artist.

There are good, mid-level, recognized bands calling it a day because they can't make music AND work full-time day jobs to pay for having a music "career."

The problem is not that making a living in music (or any form of artistic expression, really) is supposed to be easy. Any realistic human being who enters this type of vocation is going to understand that. It's that, at a certain point, if you are having "success," you shouldn't have to continue living as if you are in a garage band.

Anonymous said...

I love this fucking website! Randy

Anonymous said...

I read the blog posting that Spotify founder wrote in response to Taylor's abrupt departure from Spotify and her allegations of payment issues. His post is a good read. It spells out what his motivation is for launching Spotify (getting musicians some payment for their music), and quantifies how much Spotify has paid out to the labels and publishers. 2 Billion dollars.
1 Billion in the last year. Where is that $ going? I think the labels etc need to be WAY more transparent in how and who is getting that revenue. The music world has certainly changed, and streaming will be one of the main revenue streams for musicians in the future, and is becoming that before our very eyes. Not saying its good or bad, just that is the way things are going/evolving these days. I still buy music, a little vinyl once in a while (still have a good turntable and 'old school' stereo) a couple CD's once in a while, a few iTunes downloads once in a while, and the occasional download (free) of stuff I have copies of already but lack the 'bonus track' treatment. AND I stream too. Not nearly like my kids do though. Top them physical product is a hassle, and trouble to keep track of, takes up way too much space, and can be damaged…but not streaming, they always tell me.

Bombshelter Slim said...

Well, like BBJ told my life story... sort of... I seem to be into archiving now, because files are SOOOO passe, and I have yet to embrace streaming...don't have an iPhone, hate phones period!! I still buy a CD at a gig if the artist/band is decent, don't trust the cloud, yet... here's the deal: music never goes out of style, you'll always be able to find it in an affordable fashion, I guess I'm really waiting for free random atmospheric molecular storage accessible anywhere... and William, it was the MUSIC INDUSTRY that fucked it all up, jeez... suing their best customers and all. Today's (non-music lover) kids don't give a hoot about complete discographies, it's a new world out there...

Sal Nunziato said...

I woke up this morning with this thought:

If as BBJ says,

"What's killing the industry is a culture where music isn't that important. It's just another thing like a cappuccino, or an app. A lot of us remember when music was IT, which also happened to be a golden age,"

who exactly then are the labels catering to by charging exorbitant prices still for product?

If people "our age" still look for physical product, doesn't it seem like the industry is punishing the wrong group?

Has the cost of making a record or a CD risen so much that the average price for a new LP is $25, or a 4 CD boxed set with a book is $100?

Yeah, it may be easy to always blame the industry, but that's because it's easy.

William Repsher said...

We're not the right group. Age wise? Most people our age are buying no music. They're getting on Spotify and other services sporadically. We are not driving the market. Yes, there are sizable numbers of us still buying music in some format. But we're very small compared to the overall market of people spending money on music. The Top 40 is pretty instructive. A lot of older artists will have pretty good numbers, even Top 10, sometimes even #1 (with sales that would have been anemic in the pre-digital age), the release week of their album ... and then the album will disappear from the Top 40. Most aren't that lucky: the album comes out and promptly disappears, doesn't even scrape the Top 40.

The industry is trying to make as much money as it can where it can because it knows physical product is now a side market and they have to push it hard. And all they're left with after the holocaust of mass file sharing is the radically diminished financial return of streaming. They'll survive, but not on the level of pre-digital days. I've also noticed the prices of digital tracks creep up over the past few years so that most Amazon tracks for new releases are now $1.29 ... because they know most people don't buy whole albums anymore and they need to get as much money as they can from what they see as a shrinking market.

I don't like this any more than you do! But I can see why they're doing what they're doing. My advice? Stop buying reissues! I'm assuming you already have these recordings in some format, and those bonus tracks, we've learned, just aren't that big a deal, nor the remastering. Pono? Will that be another solution? (Of course not ... another option, but it's not going to change anything.)

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that in a culture where music has been devalued to the point of free for millions of people and a minor monthly fee for what will be the majority of consumer to rent their music rather than own it ... then music will simply be less important. Nothing's being "killed" -- the recording industry will be around forever. But the quality and value is and will be greatly diminished. That's a given.

Sal Nunziato said...

"We're not the right group. Age wise? Most people our age are buying no music"

I should have said this:

People our age had still been buying music during the transition from physical product to digital and streaming. As we had written in the Op-Ed, "The major labels wanted to kill the single. Instead they killed the album. The association wanted to kill Napster. Instead it killed the compact disc."

This pattern has not changed.

I keep using Robert Plant's new one as the example. The list price is the same as the 3 LP reissue of Led Zeppelin I. If only I had some magical power to see how many more copies of Plant's new one would have sold up until this point if the record was $19.99 instead of $39.99.

buzzbabyjesus said...

The notion that music should be free has a long history.
I keep thinking about the "Freedom Express". It's a terrific documentary about a 1970 cross country train tour with The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and a host of others.
It was a financial disaster in large part due to hippies thinking concerts should be free. That was the takeaway of Woodstock. It wasn't intended as a free concert, but it turned out to be for many.
In "Please Kill Me" Wayne Kramer describes a Fillmore East gig ruined by The Motherfuckers, East Village loudmouths who insisted the show be free or else.
People like getting something for nothing especially if the crime can be rationalized as "victimless".

William Repsher said...

I keep seeing the word "kill" not just in your descriptions, but in just about every article or discussion on the music industry. One format must "kill" another.

Why must anything be killed?! I realize I sound like a hippie, man, but when I see how most people live with music, their lives are an odd assortment of radio, tertiary and sometimes satellite, old albums on shelves, CDs bought in the 90s and onwards, sometimes even cassettes, iPods and Phones of varying sorts, computers. It seems to me like we all have different and multiple ways of consuming, yet we're constantly being pushed to "kill" one format over another.

And you know this was way before the digital age. I remember how hard record companies pushed to phase out vinyl BEFORE CDs were around -- that weird time in the early/mid 80s when they were trying to make cassettes the dominant format. (My copy of Kinks State of Confusion, on cassette, had bonus tracks you couldn't get on the vinyl version, in this case Ray's great Dylan imitation "Long Distance.")

I remember that time in the 00s when first the major record chains and then small stores like yours started going under. Almost to the very end, Tower was charging $18.99 for most catalog CDs ... it was outrageous to me, and I'd been noticing it for the past few years when Napster and such were just beating the hell out of the recording industry. NOT ONCE did they lower list prices.

It seemed stupid to me then, and still does now. But back then they were running on the assumption that their product had so much value that they could get away with charging higher prices. That concept truly backfired on them over those few years and no longer exists in their minds, save to murder fans like you on vinyl prices and such. Those prices you quoted are outrageous ... but someone is thinking, this is a small, hip market of people who must have money to spend, let's shake the money tree as hard as we can and see what falls down. They're not looking to "grow" this market -- they're looking to get as much as they can from the relatively small number of people who are willing to pay those prices.

I have to admit, when I shopped at NYCD, at least 80% of my purchases were used CDs - because your used section was great, must have had a lot of music critics piling in their free demo discs, because there was always a vast array of solid new releases in there. And we remember the stink over used CDs at the time -- but I saw that as serving retailers like you as opposed to the record companies themselves. Many of those discs had already been sold once, and this was a nice double dip for people trying to make rent on their stores each month.

I realize a lot of what I write here is sympathy for the devil, but after seeing how the gas/oil, cable and real estate markets work in my adult life, the recording industry seems pretty tame and typical.

Shriner said...

So, I keep coming back to comic books -- but I think it's a valid example when comparing to Vinyl records.

One of the Editors of Marvel Comics frequently defends the business decision on price increases (most Marvel comics jumped from $3 to $4 with no increase in page content over the past year.)

He has said outright that -- because of a shrinking market and what it takes to produce books -- that all of their research shows that *decreasing* the price of a book (or starting a new series at a lower price) will not increase readership.

They sell X copies of a book at $4 and they would probably sell Y copies at $3 -- but Y copies would not be significantly greater than X to bring in the same amount of money that they receive by charging the higher $4 rate. They are in the business to create content people will enjoy (so they say) and bring in as much money as possible to keep doing it.

Increasing the price has an elasticity such that their customers (who are aging) are hooked on the art form and have more disposable income and while some will drop books because of the price increase, most will not.

What this *doesn't do* -- is bring in a lot of new readers. Overall readership of comics is down and continues to drop year-over-year (though hit movies have helped somewhat...)

I suspect the exact same thing is true if you substitute the above where it says "comics" with "vinyl records". People who can't live without vinyl will pay whatever price is charged. Companies want your money and will price it at what the market will bear.

And they will not sell more copies of the latest Robert Plant vinyl version if it was priced at $20 instead of $40 to make up what they believe they will earn by initially pricing it at $40.

And, in the comics example above, "new readers" can find things easily for free. "Free" is better than $4 to them.

Sal Nunziato said...

In yet one more example of backwards behavior...the industry people who would get on my case for the terrific selection of "used" CDs, with their complaints about how stores like us take money out of the pockets of the labels and artists by selling this stuff, were the very same people who would not only frequent the shop every day, but supply us with the goods.

I was taken to task specifically over a young new artist named Jessica Simpson and the fact that I was selling a sealed promo for $8.99. (I had a lot more than one in stock.) A gentleman claimed to be her manager, mentioned something about what I was doing was illegal(it wasn't)and went on to tell me how his client wouldn't make any money if stores like mine continued this practice.

My reply: that CD's list price is $18.99. Who is dropping almost $20 for a new artist? No one. Maybe I move a few of these at $9 and those that bought it, play it for friends and the friends like it and they spend $18.99. I was good at this and the guy changed his tone.

I don't recall how the conversation ended, but he left quietly.

Sal Nunziato said...

Apropos of something-

Uncut Magazine's new Ultimate Music Guide features Elvis Costello. It contains new reviews of his entore catalogue, as well as archive interviews. Highly recommended. This stood out, from a 1982 interview:

UNCUT: Do you still feel disgusted by the music business as you used to?

EC: Yeah, I do. What I find really amusing at the moment is this "Home taping is killing music" campaign. Bad music is killing music, or lack of imagination is killng it. Whether you give the bloody records away in the street has nothing do with it. People are always making excuses for the massive waste of money. The situation where companies have to hype--and if you don't, you get pushed right out of the picture--has got completely out of hand. It's got like controlled corruption.

William Repsher said...

I had hundreds of home tapes, made hundreds, too. Loved the process, loved hearing them, loved making them. A vast majority were various artist collections on a theme or to give as presents. Still do the same with CD's.

But I never got a homemade cassette tape with 300 full albums on it, the way I have with DVD-R's from various sharing friends! I gave a friend a DVD-R with three volumes of Stax Volt singles and that massive box of Motown singles through the early 70s.

I never could have imagined stuff like this when I was growing up in the 70's ... it's beyond belief. Of course, paradise for a music fan, but a nightmare for record companies!

It's ironic that Elvis who hated the recording industry back then, somehow managed to reissue his music at least three (maybe more?) times on various labels to his financial gain. Hats off to him, but in his shoes, he should be having more of a love/hate relationship, or at least I'm not aware of historical recording industry screwing happening to him, as happened to the Beatles, Springsteen, Beach Boys, etc.

A walk in the woods said...

Hm... I am probably too late to jump in this one, but why not!

I defy all the stats, I guess. Because I only download what isn't available any other way (live concert bootlegs), music I'd never buy because I'd never heard of it otherwise (stuff from Willard's Wormholes and such), and benign small mixes of officially released tracks, which is Burning Wood.

And I STILL BUY. I buy hardcopy music all the time. In fact, I think I spend more on it than ever, a) out of slight guilt for the above and b) because I loooove the hardcopies. The digital just isn't enough.

An example. I've already bought two bootlegs of the Dylan Basement Tapes, plus I have the 1975 album on vinyl and CD, and I've downloaded 3-4 versions of it.

But I still just paid $147 a couple days ago for the new moster box set.

So - I download what I can't get otherwise, until it's legally put out, then I buy it. Simple as that.

And I have zero interest in Spotify and all the streamers. Like William said, I make my own mixes - tweaking them almost every day. I want to listen to my arrangements of songs, not tweak them on Spotify's website or app or whatever. I like to have the physical files, even if it's just MP3s, and arrange them at will - and make mix CDs for people.

Yep, I still do that too.