Is There Big Trouble Brewing?

It seems there is some trouble in the recorded music industry. Sales of recorded music has fallen 5% in 2001, 9% in 2002 and the global forecast is for a drop of 12-14% in the year 2003.

Regulators, especially in Europe have blocked mergers between companies including Universal, Sony, Warner, EMI and BMG, and seem to be holding firm on their positions. The music industry feels that consolidation may be the answer to many of their woes. I don't know if I can agree with this.

Do you remember when you purchased an album that contained 12 or so songs? Usually 70-80% of those songs were great recordings with quality content. Now if you find 10-20% of the recorded content to be of any quality you are doing well.

The recorded music industry likes to blame piracy and the world economy to be the culprit. Could it be the lack of quality in conjunction with out of proportion pricing? Many companies feel that format changes may provide the diversity for multiple income streams. Is that why they continue to introduce recycled music in the new formats?

I myself feel a great resentment towards the music industry. I am sick and tired of paying high prices for low quality and I'm sure many of you feel the same way. If the industry would like to see the new formats have a higher acceptance factor, don't you think they would do so by releasing new material on the newer formats?

I don't get it. Is there anyone out there willing to embrace the new formats so that they may listen to recordings that they have been listening to for the last 30 years? Will the industry ever wake up and realize that the consumer is disgusted with the bill of goods we are presently being sold?
Just to be clear, I like much of the music today just as I like much of the music of yesterday. Part of the fun of the hobby is to find new music -- whether it's another great 50's jazz recording or Audio Slave. My comment on quality was referring to Sean's earlier astute observation that, for any artist of any time, it is more difficult to record 70 great minutes on cd than 40 great minutes on vinyl.

Regarding the relative cost of the product over time, that's not as easy as it seems. On the one hand, the $3 album in the 70's had at least a buck in pure product cost behind it (pressing and packaging vinyl is expensive). The cd costs less than a dime to physically produce (from all I've read). Considering that alone, the cd should cost about $10 today. But, nobody can just consider that alone. There are too many variables, such as recovering video costs, to draw an easy conclusion. What I have read is that the markups on cd's are very, very large. My personal belief is that illegal (and immoral IMO) widespread copying of intellectual property would be diminished if cd's cost less -- much less. Further, I believe that the increase in sales would compensate for the decrease in margins. If I'm wrong, then we're stuck where we are. If I'm right, this will all take care of itself as more companies start experimenting with price cuts.

Whatever happens, there will be great local studios who will record great artists. These artists might make more money if they could sell to those who illegally copy. But these artists will make some money from those who buy the cd's at their concerts. Support your favorite artists by watching them live and buying their music.

At the end of the day, I don't care if any of the major labels survive or not. That's up to them -- they can improve the pricing and they can improve the format. That should allow them to make it. If they don't, music might be more difficult to find in a retail store but it will be available via the net. Good and great musical artists will always survive and produce new wonders for us.

Lugnut, you are correct that two wrongs don't make a right. If the music industry powerhouses do find a way to block pirating through heavy handed approaches, that hurts us all. Plus, that reduces whatever limited pressures exist to lower prices. It does help to write your local senator or representative. I would urge all to do so.
I think apple is on to something with its ITunes site ( . They sold one million songs at $.99/ea in their first week of operation. A buck a song seems reasonable to me. If the technology gets even more hifi I would spend a fortune at a site like this.
Ozfly, I ditto the first 2 paragraphs of your last statement. And I mean, to the letter. I really don't want you to all think that I feel the only good music was from years ago. That's just not the case.

As a matter of fact, if I was to look back over the last 100 music purchases that I have made, I would bet that at least 80 were releases post 1995. And probably 25 or 30 were releases from the last 2 year period. There is some wonderful and innovative new music and musicians out there.

My tastes are diverse. I listen to a lot of different styles of music. So that adds to the joy of making new music purchases and experiencing new musical presentations.

So why do I always feel so "victimized".

Example; My very last music purchase was a 2003 release, Peter Cincotti on CD. Absolutely phenomenal musician. Pristine recording with incredible sonics. Overall fantastic performance.... Borders, $17.99. Come on... Give me a break. Is that cost because of the extensive amount of promotion provided for this talented new musician?

Have any of you even heard of Peter Cincotti?
Sean: On second thought (with your latest wrinkles), I really like your lending library idea. The Apple iTunes store offers free, 30-second previews. As another current thread notes, however, 30 secs. isn't enough to really hear the song. I wonder if, as bandwidth increases, we'll get closer to your "all but the last 30 seconds" approach--the advantage of which is that, unlike software copy protection, it can't be cracked. (OTOH, I can imagine a lot of teenyboppers who decide they'd rather miss out on the last 30 secs. than pay a buck for the whole thing, so maybe it won't fly after all.)
the downturn in the music industry is an effect caused by a cultural change. the last three decades of youth have been conditioned into believing that music is no different than any disposable commodity you can name. classic rock is nothing but fodder for tv commercials...classical music is all generic backround noise that deseves its spot on the bargain rack at walmart next to the candybars... new music that has any link to r&b or gospel is corny..and c&w is a fashion show of funny talking,flag waiving yahoos with hats that don't ever come off ,even in the wind. there is more talk radio today than ever and all their commercials tell you you're an idiot for listening to a music station....this isn't about bad business(the music guys have been through that many times)...this is about music being a more fringe entertainment now and in the future."its the end of the world as we know it,and i feel fine".