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The Death of the CD

The NY Times focuses on the death of the CD (creative drought, copying of store-bought music among friends named as the major problems), reinforced by news that Sam the Record Man is closing up shop (music downloads and competition from Wal-Mart cited as the problems here).

14 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    I personally believe that the music industry killed itself.

    What is the true cost to manufacture a CD and how much of the retail price goes to manufacturing, record companies, distributors, retailers, artists etc.

    How can one artists CD sell for $12.99 (new release) while an older CD by the same artist still sells for $18.99

    Downloading is a cheaper way to obtain music.

    In addition 20-30 years ago there were so many bands. Those same bands still exist today, along with new artists and re-issues – there is so many genre’s of music to stock, how can a music store properly cater to the entire music industry.

    I believe that the internet may have had a factor in the decline of CD sales, but also the retail price and in some cases availability of music has killed the CD.

    There are so many singles and CDs I would like to buy but stores do not stock them. Generally they are imports and are very expensive to purchase.

  2. Xetheriel says:

    Now sleep in it!
    I agree.

    The music industry made its own bed on this one. They had a choice. When Napster was at the peek of popularity, they had a choice to make, as an industry:

    A: Treat Napster like a friend, take them over, and rake in the potential for ad revenue. The music downloading scene was focused on one thing, Napster. That was the source for all music downloads, so think of it as superbowl sunday every day of the year.

    B: Treat Napster like a poison to the music industry, a cancer so to speak. Cut it out, destroy it, and hope it never comes back.

    The music industry chose Option B… but instead of destroying it, when they cut out the cancer, they left a few little pieces behind, which spread and grew into a thousand separate networks, poisoning the whole industry. People will never forget what the music industry did to Napster. Many people still boycott buying CD’s for just that reason. Had they thought about their customers instead of their wallets, they might be in a much better position now.

    But alas, its always about dollars and cents now isn’t it? The music industry’s former customers will get the music in one way or another. People will always make music, thats guaranteed. We don’t need a corporation to sell it to us.

    They made their bed. Now they have to sleep in it, nails and all.

  3. CDs are Too Much Music
    I’ve noted that some people have discussed a point elsewhere about the move from purchasing CDs to purchasing downloads. Invariably, when you go to online buying, you are allowed to buy just one track.

    I think we would see a similar “death of CDs” even if the alternative were physical singles priced at $1 each. It’s not just “CD vs download” — it’s also “buy a whole album vs buy just the two tracks I want”.

    Viewed this way, there is NO protection for the major labels if their business depends on selling me eight tracks I don’t want for every two I do.

  4. Silverside says:

    I worked for Sam\’s for a few years, and while they did do a lot for Canadian music, my observation was that they ran themselves into the ground. Things were just not efficient – paper stock tags and a lack of a decent inventory tracking system come to mind.

    HMV is still running, Music World, CDplus… all still going. Sam\’s couldn\’t adapt – and they died.

    \”How can one artists CD sell for $12.99 (new release) while an older CD by the same artist still sells for $18.99? \”

    Easy – the labels say so. For them, it\’s all about money – don\’t ever forget that. Some retail reps will even outright lie about an artist\’s potential, just to get copies in the store.

    18.99 is cheap – we had to sell some old stuff for 26.99, because the cost on it was close to 18.00. Blame Warner Records for that one, and their \”Premium Artists\” designation. Other labels saw that, and jumped on the bandwagon.

    The newer stuff will get sold to the retailers for a really cheap cost price, with a \”return if unsold\” guarantee. That\’s why you\’ll see hundreds of copies – they don\’t have to sell them. Catalogue doesn\’t get that guarantee.

    The reduced prices are usually \”suggested\” by the labels, too. They can\’t enforce a price point, but they will make things uncomfortable or difficult later if you don\’t play their way.

  5. Bruce Walker says:

    Then what?
    Bob Lefsetz, an industry insider, analyzes what happens next after the CD dies. Excellent piece …

    [ link ]

  6. Anonymous says:

    So due to greed and $$$, the big guys killed music essentially …

    Not the internet.

    Corporate America/Canada/UK kills music.

    The music store of the future: buy a blank CD, insert CD into computer – select songs or albums, click record.
    Each CD will cost $.99/song or $12,99 and full length CD. It would be like a do-it-yourself operation. AND yes the store will sell some CDs for those who are in a rush. NO Warner, Capitol/EMI. Music will be uploaded to a server directly by the bands and the retailer will pay for the rights.

    Another thing that really pisses me off is – if you do not have a credit card it is next to impossible to buy music online.

    AND if you listen to electronic and industrial music, and enjoy extended remixes – you cannot just walk into any store and buy the latest remix by Apoptygma Berzerk (for example)

  7. The Final Irony
    The most amazing thing about the NY Times piece, is that in the discussion of what music companies should do to counter the collapsing CD market, NOWHERE does the thought come up of maybe PUTTING OUT A BETTER PRODUCT.

    The sad fact is that today’s pop music is 99% crap, crap, crap. Most of it is actually painful and annoying to listen to. The whole idea of songs with a TUNE is long gone, and the only performers putting out anything even remotely bearable are the same ones that have been getting older and grayer since the 1960s. Paul McCartney’s new album on the Starbucks label! How fitting…

    None of this stuff is even worth pirating. Maybe they should try charging us to NOT hear it.

    Either that, or hire some real musicians, who forgo ‘kewl’ looks and arrogant posturing, and instead substitute the same mix of talent, integrity, courage and technical proficiency that built the music boom of the 1960s.

    Naaahhh… that would never work.

  8. audiodaze says:

    COO
    On Sam’s in specific:

    How ironic they say the CD business is slip sliding awway, when all those other retailers are doing just fine with the product (crappy or otherwise, CDs are selling.)

    Title availability, general shopping ambience, etc could give them many excellent differentiators in the market.

    They have declared bankrupcy before, only to re-open in a matter of days (yes, the hallowed Yonge St. store).

    Short-sighted in the utmost, only a few retailers are now taking advantage of digitally-empowered customizable product sales, right on the show room floor – not iTunes, but SamTunes, for example.

    And, hopeless idealist that I am, the thought that they have created a wealthy, multi-generational empire off the backs of music fans, only to abondon the community at the earliest inkling of smaller margins is outrageous.

    They should keep it going for 40 years, cuz we kept them going for forty years!

  9. Death of Filler Tracks?
    I think an potentially interesting development of this will be what will happen to the way CDs are structured. That is, a couple high-profile singles with a bunch of other tracks.

    If music downloading per track really catches on, will bands just stop making the filler songs (assuming they don’t sell as well as others) and only concentrate on making “singles”?

  10. Dwight Williams says:

    On Sam’s
    I’d certainly hope that it would turn out to be a hoax this time as well.

    Looking back over the last year, I’ve been dividing my music acquisitions between legit freebies from the artists’ own websites and CD purchases from the smaller chains here in Ottawa(Compact, CD Warehouse) with a smaller portion of my cash going to the Big Chains. But for the most part, it’s still been CD purchases. Often, it’s lesser known, “midlist” or more obscure artists whose CDs I’ve been getting.

    I admit my own experience is strictly anecdotal, but I don’t seem to be alone in this practice. Hence my hope for a renewed future for the Sam’s operation.

  11. Blaise Alleyne says:

    I Still Buy CDs
    Although I think people should be allowed to share their music with others legally (ie. burning a CD for a friend), I still think there’s a place for CDs. I find downloading much more useful for sampling or getting to know an artist, but once I’m sold on a particular artist, I would much rather have a CD hard copy that just a digital download. There’s the artwork aspect, the ability of putting the album on a shelf with my other CDs and having a visible collection that people can browse through easily (out of interest, or to see if there are any albums they’d like to borrow)… And finally, buying a hard copy of music takes care of the backup process for you, in a way. If I buy an album, and then rip it to my computer, I already have two copies of the music. I’m much less likely to burn all my downloads onto CD as a backup than I am likely to rip all my CDs to a digital format. Plus, CDs are high-quality audio, and downloads are compressed. I am free to choose to rip my tracks into various file formats at various quality levels, etc…

    And from a independent musician’s perspective, having a CD is like having a business card in many ways. When fans come to a show to listen to your music, many of them are interesting in the opportunity of purchasing music directly from you afterwards. How would this be done efficiently digitally? A CD is the easiest format for distributing music in person like that.

    Sure, I believe that downloads will replace CDs in many ways, and create new recording schedules and forms of distribution, etc.. But I don’t believe that the CD is dead. Not unless there’s another hard copy form that comes along to replace it.

  12. Michael Greenberg says:

    The Problem & How To Fx It
    Walk into a “music store” and half the shelf space is now MOVIES…and the music the retailers are pushing on potential customers is
    mostly ghastly garbage and promotional “hype” from the
    record companies and Much Music music video “star” machines telling the public who they should be buying …
    On the other hand it is difficult to get great music from truely talented artists especially if they are not from Canada or the U.S.A. and either not in stock in the stores or available only by delayed order as an import CD or
    if they do get canadian distribution –still not stocked in volumes large enough that you still have a hard time purchasing them in some cities,or sold outand never re-stocked again.

    THE SOLUTION –should be
    rather than going through the long process and cost of importing such hard to get CD’s,that here be a CENTRAL system of digital downloading on a WORLD-WIDE basis so that retailers in any country can get any artists music from any other country downloaded onto a pristine CD at any of their store locations
    (with a guarantee of flawless quality and a return/replacement policy if such digital quality is not delivered flawlessly–ie, the SAME STANDARDS they have in offering an artist’s CDs in their stores);the technology could load singles from diferent artists onto a CD if the customer wants that instead of 1 complete album from the same artist–or combine several songs from different relese dates from 1 single artist..the the digital format is flexible.
    Well why have any RETAILERS at all -if you can download right off your own computer?
    Then burn your own CD.

    3 answers:
    1. QUALITY CONTROL …perhaps some flaws in one’s own computer
    prevent a guaratee of top-notch quality;this problem might be either from the sending or the receiving computers. Teenagers might care less about top grade quality–but more discerning music lovers might care a lot.
    So having the correct machines and settings to do this AND the retailer replacement guarantee if there is a flawed download on their part-provides assurance of quality control.

    2.Perhaps issues with credit card and identity theft bother some potential customers who feel still uneasy about paying for products online.
    Certainly dealing with well-known retailers may alleviate these peoples’ fears on this issue (though as we know even big corporations can have data and personal client information stolen.

    3. IF “music” retailers focused on their primary alleged business (MUSIC) not MOVIES–they would hireknowledgeable staff faimilaiar with different genres of music–and like sommeliers with wine,could “advise” cutomers who come to the store on who they might like to buy even if they never heard of those artits yet (this after telling the experts what kind of music and other atrits they like). The customer could then go to special listening stations in the store to “sample” a download of such music (these would be free downloads to the retailer for such purposes. Many people who do go to stores to buy CD’d in stores where they have such sampling stations -do in fact purchase CD’s from unfamiliar artists they do sample this way–the difference being that they have to rely on the store management (or H.O. management) for decisions of which cD’s to physically load into the listening stations..thus a long trial and error process to find CD’s that may please..sometimes you do,sometimes not…BETTER if the sampolescould be downloaded to suit the customer’s liking tendencies.

    What I propose is admittedly a costly make-over for music retailing -BUT what they spend on new technology to enable the process,THEY SAVE IN NOT HAVING ANY PHYSICAL STOCK OF CD’s in the stores.

    Let me give 1 tiny example of my current frustration and hope for a better way.

    Right now–I would like to buy the CD’s of Israeli singer JASMIN LEVY…I cannot find her CD’s anywhere in music stores in Ottawa. I cannot order her online through the Amazon.ca website and their affiliation with HMV–they are not “listed” ;however her CD’s are listed on amazon.co.uk –and so figuring in the exchange rate and shipping AND DELAY plus customs hold-up and duties–I can order them that way–but this is a lot of wait and expense and unease in the process …how much better IF if could just walk into an HMV store here in Ottawa and buy a dowloaded copy of the CD —NO LONG WAIT,NO SHIPPING & CUSTOMS charges;CHEAPER retail cost because of no physical inventory…ok–GST+PST still give Feds +Ontario their tax cut of my total purchase but they get that anyway on the import method (tough if retail cost down the taxes less)…BUT what I propose is not a download from HMV UK to HMV Canada
    -but rather from some CENTRAL WORLD BANK OF RECORDED MUSIC..essentially all artists no matter what country of origin of the recording could download the master to the CENTRAL registry from which downloaded digital copies get sent to the requesting retail outlet of various retailer companies.
    OBVIOUSLY such a dream process would require massive computer request handling capability from the Central Registry to handle millions of requests daily from around the world. Perhaps some sub-Registry stations could be used to dvide the work by setting up in each country or on a regional basis.
    So a proper network to handle all this would be rquired. It would require a huge investment -BUT still miniscule in comparison to the MASSIVE INVENTORY and PROPDUCTION costs associated with the current distribution system.

    Thus the future: EITHER switch to the centralized distribution system but using retail outlets I am proposing–OR the alternative of record companies or artists themselves selling online (assuming quality,cost of imports,time delays,quality issues,and security issues are not a barrier to widespread adoption;if not this should lower some other costs due to cutting out the margins of middlement retailers or even wholesalers if sold directly by the artists).
    Still,if it is the latter system that prevails,it probably is going to be more difficult to discover new artits in the first place. FOR INSTANCE– I first heard Jasmin Levy off a compilation album of Israeli music of various Israeli artits that was distributed and in stock on the shelves of some HMV stores in Canada..so unless I found out about her on that CD,I would never know that I wanted to hear more of her CD’s..but I am frustrated at the trouble I have to go through to get her CD’s underthe current system. How much better if HMV had that compilation album at a listening station–then I immediately ordered a download from that store of her CD’s onto copy CDs -just asif they had been on the shelf.

    How this shakes out–I do not nknow–just that the current system we have is more severely flawed and does not serve the music buying potential customer well.

  13. electr0hed says:

    CD’s
    I walked into my local record store recently and noticed that they no longer sell cassetes or 8 track tapes. Those particular mediums are obsolete. It seems that technology dictates the medium.
    Records are still being made. For those of us old enough to remember, know why vinyl is still a great format- The sound. There is a particular warmth and sound you don’t get from CD’s. I grew up listening to records, and bands that knew how to make albums as opposed to “singles” and “filler”. (not to mention their use in electronic & rap music)
    I beleieve that the CD medium is becoming obsolete. Look at the consistent decline of CD sales, and the steady rise of digital sales like itunes over the past 3 years. For storage purposes you can backup and store more data on a DVD-r than a CD-r.
    For those who take the fast food aproach to music, itunes is great. You preview a snippet of songs and buy the ones you like. I agree that most pop music right now is crap. Style, Fashion, and Window dressing has taken precedence over content.
    Record companies no longer develop artists. They are strictly looking for making the $$ and if sales are not up to par, regardless of the band’s potential, poof they’re gone.
    There are some of us that enjoy listening to albums in their entirety. I like music with layers of depth and not necessarily easily accessible. There are still artists that put a great deal of time in the sequencing of an album and how it flows. The internet is allowing better access to discovering great music.
    There are going to be some big shifts in technology and memory in the next few years. I’m willing to bet the CD will soon be a dinosaur like the 8-track or casette. More & More artists are cutting out the record companies- radiohead, NIN, Madonna, Jay-z, etc, etc.
    Fuck the CD! I love my ipod!

  14. electr0hed says:

    CD\s
    I walked into my local record store recently and noticed that they no longer sell cassetes or 8 track tapes. Those particular mediums are obsolete. It seems that technology dictates the medium.
    Records are still being made. For those of us old enough to remember, know why vinyl is still a great format- The sound. There is a particular warmth and sound you don\’t get from CD\’s. I grew up listening to records, and bands that knew how to make albums as opposed to \”singles\” and \”filler\”. (not to mention their use in electronic & rap music)
    I beleieve that the CD medium is becoming obsolete. Look at the consistent decline of CD sales, and the steady rise of digital sales like itunes over the past 3 years. For storage purposes you can backup and store more data on a DVD-r than a CD-r.
    For those who take the fast food aproach to music, itunes is great. You preview a snippet of songs and buy the ones you like. I agree that most pop music right now is crap. Style, Fashion, and Window dressing has taken precedence over content.
    Record companies no longer develop artists. They are strictly looking for making the $$ and if sales are not up to par, regardless of the band\’s potential, poof they\’re gone.
    There are some of us that enjoy listening to albums in their entirety. I like music with layers of depth and not necessarily easily accessible. There are still artists that put a great deal of time in the sequencing of an album and how it flows. The internet is allowing better access to discovering great music.
    There are going to be some big shifts in technology and memory in the next few years. I\’m willing to bet the CD will soon be a dinosaur like the 8-track or casette. More & More artists are cutting out the record companies- radiohead, NIN, Madonna, Jay-z, etc, etc.
    Fuck the CD! I love my ipod!