The 6 common arguments why CD’s are needed and why they’re wrong
Let us all have a game of empathy shall we? Close your eyes and pretend that you’re Simon Douglas; CEO of a company with a rather “eh?” name that has just purchased the entertainment retail division of one of the world’s most recognisable brands. Despite Virgin Megastores losing £82 million in 2006 and an estimated £50 million in 2007 you state to the press that you believe “there is still very much a place on an increasingly homogenised high street for an independent entertainment specialist that puts customers, product, service and personality at the top of the agenda.”
Then the world’s economy goes tits up (and that is an official scientific term) but you think “hey, Christmas is around the corner, everyone will be spending more money than they actually have due to the ridiculous debt culture in this country so everything will be fine”.
Then your supplier goes into administration so you have to stop taking online orders during your busiest trading time of the year.
In the words of blogging/webby/techy geeks everywhere: EPIC FAIL.
Leaving the role play to one side, this week was especially bad for the world of tangible goods as both EUK and Pinnacle Entertainment went into administration affecting both sides of the music industry spectrum from plucky little indie labels to gargantuan pop lotharios and Marks & Spencer whores Take That.
This is big news for the music industry and could result in some interesting outcomes. Will it be the year of the MP3 gift? Will Grandparents around the country be buying their kids kids iTunes vouchers rather than HMV vouchers? Will Zavvi make it to Christmas 2009? Will Gary Barlow have to pretend to be married to that stunning woman who inexplicably only wears underwear 24 hours a day again in another M&S advert in order to make up the shortfall in album sales he’s missed out on?
To give you some scale on how big this is: EUK boasts on its website that it distributes over a quarter of the entire UK music and video market and it turns over around one and a half billion pounds a year (although you should always live by the business mantra “Turnover for vanity, profit for sanity”) and supplies such big guns as Tesco, Morrisons and WH Smith.
Pinnacle on the other hand was the distribution daddy of the UK’s independent music scene and its closure will affect over 400 labels including Rough Trade and One Little Indian. AIM (the Association of Independent Music) has stepped in to ‘have a word’ and according to Music Week the industry is ‘rallying to help those caught up’.
This news coupled with Billboard reporting that vinyl sales have decreased up to 60% really does reflect the sorry state that tangible music sales are currently in.
As this is at the same time that Amazon roles out its MP3 store in the UK offering DRM Free brand new releases from just £3 (three quid?!) the question that I’d like to put forward to you humble readers is just why would you buy a CD anymore?
I thought I’d ask JD who loves music and technology in equal measures the reasons he believes people would still buy tangible goods (you can follow him here on tumblr, blog and twitter; he’s rather clever you know):
Audio Quality – Amazon comes at twice the quality that iTunes delivers, yet still not as high as 7digital it should be noted and the majority of the market still listen to their MP3 players with the stereotypically sub standard headphones they receive with their MP3 players anyhow so I’d suggest that argument is pretty redundant.
Having something to hold and whatnot – fair enough if the difference in price is £2 between £7.99 on iTunes or £9.99 on play.com but if you can now buy the same album for £3 then is a bit of plastic, a pretty picture and some self indulgent sleeve notes thanking their god, parents, witch doctor, cat, homeopath, geography teacher, the music of Jim Morrison and their soon-to-be-parted other half really worth £6?
Helping out the artist so they can make more music in the future – buy a t-shirt, they’ll get more money from it. Next.
Can’t lose your music when your Hard Drive decides to die – 7digital and play.com offer a ‘Digital Locker’ where once you’ve purchased the track you can re-download it as many times as your little heart wishes.
Shows your personality when people visit your house and see your record collection – I would agree with this if people were honest, but they’re not and will only have a select few albums on show. I’ve known people to do this and I’d guess it happens quite regularly. Next time you go around someones flat look behind the Sgt Peppers, Clash, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jeff Buckley, Cure, Bon Ivor, Fleet Foxes and Smiths albums to find their limited edition CD single of Cleopatra’s infamous Jackson 5 cover of ABC with free postcards of the band. Anyway, just look at their last.fm profile first and that’ll give you everything you need to know. Anyway, soon enough we won’t even need to talk to each other anymore, especially if these things become popular. It’ll be; meet, nod, touch ‘USB Personality Generalisers’, go home, read new person’s info, judge them and never speak to them again.
One word: Artwork – again, now redundant as you can now download that when you download the album. Yes it’s not the same but you’re still looking at the same thing aren’t you? Granted seeing this painting on the computer doesn’t compare to seeing it in real life. Yeah that’s right, sP has been to the Tate and doesn’t just sit reading music industry news whilst creating various schemes on how to simultaneously end the careers of Hard Fi (who have been worryingly quiet for months now, too quiet) and Steve Jones at the same time. (I’m thinking framing Jones for attempted murder on Hard Fi’s Bass player; et voila). But we’re not talking about Picasso here are we? Just the Kings of Leon’s heads mixed with a massive eagle.
The death of tangible music has been written about a lot yet in the 2008 but this is a fairly big hurdle for the industry to jump and although I’m confident it will majestically leap over it so it can die a slow sorry death like most things in this industry do, I’d begin to teach your technologically inept friends how to use 7digital or Amazon sooner rather than later.
In other music industry news I have to mention the announcement made today by the Mail on Sunday regarding its intention to start a record label. Oh yes, you heard right: The Mail on Sunday is starting a record label rather brilliantly called Mail On Sunday Sounds. I envisage that the creatively bereft name they’ve given their label is somehow going to reflect their choice in artists to release and I just hope to whatever power that be that they restrain from doing a deal with someone whose music I enjoy.