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Grey Manrod
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9,227 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't know why, but for some time now I've been interested in how the music industry has come to grips with the downloadable, digital music format. And before you go there, my "interest" is not the result of gigs upon gigs of pirated music. Recently, we have seen the RIAA announce that they will stop prosecuting illegal downloaders, iTunes raise its prices, and a few artists (Trent Reznor, Radiohead) release its music for free on the internet.

I am genuinely interested in where the industry goes from here. As a consumer, I really like downloadable music: the days of scrounging around in record stores are over. Yes, it was fun when I was a teenager, but I don't have time for that now. It's just too easy and convenient to get it off the internet. That said, it dawned on me the other day that unlike tapes, cd's or vinyl….I have no tangible product. It is something that could be reproduced and distributed ad infinitum with no significant cost (that I am aware of) to the industry. I understand that it costs something to produce the music, but it seems a big part of the cost is slowly vanishing into thin air.

Which leads me to ask, what is a reasonable price for music these days? Of course, the industry will say that a fair price is whatever the market will bear. Apparently, Amazon and others have also raised their prices as a result of the iTunes increase, and labels are watching customer responses closely. The industry is afraid that it will push more people to pirate music, or just buy the cheaper music. Should those who download music illegally be considered part of the market response? How many of those would honestly answer that they due it because they feel the prices are outrageous (other than simply being lured to getting free music)? How many of those people would pay for music if the price were lower?

It's an interesting time. Music radio is dying, and seems only to play bankable/big-name artists. Mtv no longer shows music videos. Record stores are practically extinct. On top of that, I think one could argue that there has been such a massive proliferation in the number of artists, labels, and general outlets in the last 20 years, that the profit-side of the industry has become dliuted. Instead of 10 big-name acts, you now have 50, and of course, a limited pool of potential costumers and their money. And of course, music is arguably consumed in a way that is entirely different than it was 20 years ago.

Then you get into the whole argument about whether or not unknown artists can really produce their own music. My guess is no - that works for Radiohead or NIN because they've already established themselves. That said, I think technology has probably made it possible to produce music at a lower cost, and again, that would be a benefit to the artist, but still, producers and engineers exist for a reason. And like it or not, you need someone to promote the artists music. As you add it all together, it seems unlikely that most artists will be able to manage the process start to finish.

I have my own predictions as to what will happen and what I would like to see happen. For one, I see no reason for buying an album without having heard it first - I think you ought to be able to stream an album in its entirety over the internet. Alternatively, I could see a "rental" model like Rhapsody, but only if the price comes down - paying $150.00 per year for music I don't get to keep is too expensive. I also think that the price per track will have to come down - I envision about $5.00 per album - because there's just too much competition out there, not too mention the ease of obtaining free music.

Anyhow…….this turned out way longer than I anticipated. I'm curious as to your thoughts, Loungers. How do you buy (or otherwise, ahem, obtain) your music? Why? What would you like to see, and how much would you pay for it?

On a final note, let's try to stay away from the "illegal downloading is stealing" discussion. I think most people agree that it is wrong and is stealing, but I'd like to hear from those who do it and whether or not there is anything the industry could do to make them stop.
 

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For president!
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7,802 Posts
Just wanted to respond to a couple of your points.
Brick Tamland said:
Then you get into the whole argument about whether or not unknown artists can really produce their own music. My guess is no - that works for Radiohead or NIN because they've already established themselves. That said, I think technology has probably made it possible to produce music at a lower cost, and again, that would be a benefit to the artist, but still, producers and engineers exist for a reason. And like it or not, you need someone to promote the artists music. As you add it all together, it seems unlikely that most artists will be able to manage the process start to finish.
I think the future success of up and coming musical acts will depend much more on their ability to create their own music with little help from producers and their ability to promote themselves. We saw it a couple years ago when every up and coming band put up a myspace page with a few free songs and all their tour information. Bands will have to continue to put out free music to try and find new fans, and will have to find new ways to promote themselves online. I'm interested to see what direction this goes in.

Brick Tamland said:
I have my own predictions as to what will happen and what I would like to see happen. For one, I see no reason for buying an album without having heard it first - I think you ought to be able to stream an album in its entirety over the internet. Alternatively, I could see a "rental" model like Rhapsody, but only if the price comes down - paying $150.00 per year for music I don't get to keep is too expensive. I also think that the price per track will have to come down - I envision about $5.00 per album - because there's just too much competition out there, not too mention the ease of obtaining free music.
I think we will see much more of a quality and timeliness based pricing model. People are probably willing to pay $10 for the new Radiohead the week it comes out, so they should charge more for that album. People are probably willing to pay $3 for a copy of The Bends that came out 15 years ago, because it is widely available for free (pirated) and they could also easily rip it from a friend's copy. Same goes for outdated pop music, any value that Britney's first album had is pretty much gone, but if you were a fan who lost the CD, maybe you would pay 2-3 bucks for a new copy.

In short, I think the idea that any album should cost X is an outdated idea that we will see falling to the wayside.
 

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Captain Obvious
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11,876 Posts
the cost of making actual cd's is a minimal part of a cd's retail price.
 

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Lets Go Hokies!!!
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I just paid $9.49 for a whole album download from Amazon last night. It would cost me at least $15 to go purchase that album at FYE or Borders, assuming they even had it.

I was in college at the very beginning of Napster and I saw a lot of the bad that went along with digital music. We could access each others computers through the network and take whatever was desired without the other person even knowing. It definately was not the right way. Current systems, ITunes or Amazon, are better because presumably the artist gets something out of the transaction, but is it comparable to the old way? I don't know.

I think new artists will have to rely on word of mouth and local radio stations to get by now. Brick, I'm sure you've tuned into DC101 once in a while, and while most of their music is the same Clear Channel stuff heard throughout the country, they offer new music programs for local bands and sponsor events with/for local bands. I'm not sure which situation would be more difficult, trying to get onto a record label as a up and comer, or trying to get people to download your music without someone to publicize for you.

One of my friends from HS is in a band in Pgh that does gigs around the city, but they do all their own advertising and most is word of mouth. Will he ever "make it big" and be heard on the radio? Who knows. Will the radio even be "making it" in 10 years?

One thing that I do miss is having a physical item to go with my music. There is something comforting about liner notes that is noticably absent in the digital medium. I wonder how long artists will continue to create album art of any kind.
 

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Captain Obvious
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most of the last several cd's i have purchased, i probably downloaded many of the song free prior to buying it. Iif i like it, i buy it. if i don't, it gets deleted. cd quality still sounds better and my car doesn't have adapters for mp3 players. i think silas is on to something with old cds/albums have significantly less value and should be steeply discounted. i assume that eventually everything will just get downloaded and higher qualities. until then, i don't think cd's disappear.
 

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Gruntled
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3,737 Posts
The old music industry provided three things of value:
1. Access to expensive recording equipment and skilled engineers,
2. Production and distribution of the physical media,
3. Promotion and marketing.

Of these, only #3 is still relevant. You can make a very high quality multi-track recording on a laptop computer these days, and as noted in the OP, there is no longer any need for physical media.

My view is that the industry will survive, but it will be much smaller, and based on a very few hugely popular artists. There will be Miley Cyrus, the latest American Idol winner, and ... garage bands. Nothing in between. Everyone except the mega-stars will record, produce, and distribute their own music, and it will be very cheap or free. Fans will get more variety to listen to, at lower prices, but less commonality to discuss with other fans. Artists will have more freedom but will mostly need to have daytime jobs.
 

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Slightly Opinionated
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10,231 Posts
In regards to small artists being able to produce their own music, I think there will always be an audience for the "undiscovered" little guy. And not to mention, public exposure will be fantastic for them as well. A couple months ago I was at a local cafe on a Saturday morning, enjoying a latte and an excellent breakfast burrito while surfing and doing some work, and I happened to catch a performance by a musician who came up from NYC. He was actually quite good, and he actually caused me to go and download his CD from CDBaby. Sure, he only may have played to about 30 people, but even if he speaks to one or two, they will spread the word.

Really, I think music will end up returning to a very old school notion where word of mouth will be a major player in distribution and discovery. The difference will be the ability to instantly get any music you want using the web.

Or, I could be completely off base here.
 

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Alien Musician
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4,537 Posts
As a music listener, fan and musician I miss liner notes and the tangible product.

You could really tell when a CD or record was MORE than just the music.
Some artists had compelling graphic design as part of the package.

Examples: Pink Floyd or Tangerine Dream were easily about the cover art as well as
the music, there was something about it that set up an atmosphere that related to the
music.

Steely Dan's Aja had a big gatefold, the LP cover was finished in a luxurious liquid
lamb process (expensive) with a gloss to it like a National Geographic insert, the
inner liner was photos and an essay. I loved reading that stuff.

"Anonymous song 37" from "download site xyz" with no associated liner notes can
be just as dispiriting as getting a CD with no liner notes or notes that are too small
to read or nonexistent. For me it was part of the experience.

So I still buy CDs but I also download from the itunes store. For me, the radio has
become a irrelevant curiosity for the most part. The local AOR station long ago froze
its playlist back in 1991 or something and you never hear anything new. We have a
local station that's interesting as part of the local NPR station, "The Current" but it's
hit or miss. There are others but it's so dominated by Clear Channel garbage that the
only station you can tolerate is "The Current" or the the University of Minnesota's
station which plays new music being college radio.

As a musician who has distributed his music internationally via the web and also
via itunes (recently) I can say that while I haven't made it big, gotten rich or the like
but I have gotten a lot of listeners. I've even got fans of a sort but it's not like I'm
known at all outside of a certain narrow subset.

I can safely say that tunes that would have had the ears of myself and selected
friends now have been heard all over the planet including areas I've never visited
and am likely to never visit.

Ironically, it appears those are the places my music has had the most reception.
 

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Grey Manrod
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9,227 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
HokieRider said:
I just paid $9.49 for a whole album download from Amazon last night. It would cost me at least $15 to go purchase that album at FYE or Borders, assuming they even had it.
See? That's what I love. If you have the "one-click" ordering set up on your computer, it's waaaay too easy. I call it the "empty your wallet" function.

HokieRider said:
I was in college at the very beginning of Napster and I saw a lot of the bad that went along with digital music. We could access each others computers through the network and take whatever was desired without the other person even knowing. It definately was not the right way. Current systems, ITunes or Amazon, are better because presumably the artist gets something out of the transaction, but is it comparable to the old way? I don't know.
There are some artists are saying that they still aren't getting crap. The current pricing scheme was a deal between iTunes and the record labels. So, pricing/profit wise, I think it's modeled upon the same sales-structure.

HokieRider said:
I think new artists will have to rely on word of mouth and local radio stations to get by now. Brick, I'm sure you've tuned into DC101 once in a while, and while most of their music is the same Clear Channel stuff heard throughout the country, they offer new music programs for local bands and sponsor events with/for local bands. I'm not sure which situation would be more difficult, trying to get onto a record label as a up and comer, or trying to get people to download your music without someone to publicize for you.
Yeah, but when are those shows on the radio? 1 am on Sunday morning? Word of mouth still works, but the only place I hear new, different stuff is on the internet.

HokieRider said:
One thing that I do miss is having a physical item to go with my music. There is something comforting about liner notes that is noticably absent in the digital medium. I wonder how long artists will continue to create album art of any kind.
Agreed - I miss liner notes and all that jazz, but I'm glad to let it go in exchange for convenience, portability and accessibility.
 

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Grey Manrod
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9,227 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
SilasCL said:
In short, I think the idea that any album should cost X is an outdated idea that we will see falling to the wayside.
The new iTunes price structure is supposedly a step in this direction, but we shall see....I don't see it happening so long as the labels still plan on making huge profits from sales.
 

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Grey Manrod
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9,227 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
aliensporebomb said:
As a music listener, fan and musician I miss liner notes and the tangible product.

You could really tell when a CD or record was MORE than just the music.
Some artists had compelling graphic design as part of the package.

Examples: Pink Floyd or Tangerine Dream were easily about the cover art as well as
the music, there was something about it that set up an atmosphere that related to the
music.

Steely Dan's Aja had a big gatefold, the LP cover was finished in a luxurious liquid
lamb process (expensive) with a gloss to it like a National Geographic insert, the
inner liner was photos and an essay. I loved reading that stuff.

"Anonymous song 37" from "download site xyz" with no associated liner notes can
be just as dispiriting as getting a CD with no liner notes or notes that are too small
to read or nonexistent. For me it was part of the experience.

So I still buy CDs but I also download from the itunes store. For me, the radio has
become a irrelevant curiosity for the most part. The local AOR station long ago froze
its playlist back in 1991 or something and you never hear anything new. We have a
local station that's interesting as part of the local NPR station, "The Current" but it's
hit or miss. There are others but it's so dominated by Clear Channel garbage that the
only station you can tolerate is "The Current" or the the University of Minnesota's
station which plays new music being college radio.

As a musician who has distributed his music internationally via the web and also
via itunes (recently) I can say that while I haven't made it big, gotten rich or the like
but I have gotten a lot of listeners. I've even got fans of a sort but it's not like I'm
known at all outside of a certain narrow subset.

I can safely say that tunes that would have had the ears of myself and selected
friends now have been heard all over the planet including areas I've never visited
and am likely to never visit.

Ironically, it appears those are the places my music has had the most reception.
So.......the groupies, are they hot?

J/k. Interesting perspective - thanks.
 

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Registered
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800 Posts
Its funny, in the old method of music distribution there were so many peoples hands in the pot trying to get a share and prices for media skyrocketed. Now, I think a bunch of the same people are still trying to get their share, but unfortunately do not contribute much anymore.
 

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Lets Go Hokies!!!
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5,930 Posts
Brick Tamland said:
There are some artists are saying that they still aren't getting crap. The current pricing scheme was a deal between iTunes and the record labels. So, pricing/profit wise, I think it's modeled upon the same sales-structure.

Yeah, but when are those shows on the radio? 1 am on Sunday morning? Word of mouth still works, but the only place I hear new, different stuff is on the internet.
I have no idea what artists were paid when things just went on the radio, but I'm sure there were plenty saying they weren't getting crap then either. Now its just them not getting money from someone else.

DC101 has local licks on at 10 on Sundays. Sure its not prime radio time, but if new music is something you're into, its not that hard to tune in. And its way, way better than listening to Flounder mash a bunch of crap together. Crap in = crap out, which he has yet to figure out.
 

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Alien Musician
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4,537 Posts
Groupies. I would always get the drunk guy who smashed his thumb with a hammer in
an industrial accident going "Oy, I used to play guitar mate" and going on and on while
the drummer would bask in female attention. I could never figure it out. Oh well.
 

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jaded bitter joy crusher
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19,723 Posts
Brick Tamland said:
I am genuinely interested in where the industry goes from here.
I was talking with a musician I met the other day---a really big name in the small world of avant-garde free-improvisation. He's got a big catalog of solo work and has recorded with some reasonably well-known folks, including Bill Frisell, Herbie Hancock, David Lindley, and Richard Thompson.

He was saying he wants to transition to putting all his music on the web free and letting people make voluntary donations. He figures he could make 10 times what he does now, where he gets one penny for every 99-cent song of his that someone buys from Amazon.
 

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still shedding season
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8,849 Posts
aliensporebomb said:
As a music listener, fan and musician I miss liner notes and the tangible product..........."Anonymous song 37" from "download site xyz" with no associated liner notes can be just as dispiriting as getting a CD with no liner notes or notes that are too small to read or nonexistent. For me it was part of the experience.
I agree with that, and then there's the experience of listening to the album from start to finish in the order the group intended rather than leaving out a song or two that aren't your favorites. Kind of like going to a great restaurant and asking for a substitution of part of your dinner. Still possible to get that full experience, just maybe not as likely.

The world of wedding/portrait/event photography changed quickly when digital took over. Photographers quickly learned not to rely on income from print sales and worked their "living wage" into the price of the shoot. Reproducing their copyrighted work is still illegal, but impossible to enforce. With music, there are a lot more layers from consumer to musician so the change will take longer.
 

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Windrider (Stubborn)
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22,021 Posts
Eventually, the big record companies will go the way of the dinasour.........unless they can find a value add.,,,and discovery & promotion is all they have left.

For a big artist, the money is made on the live concerts, not on the records. The downloads build the audience.

I think the $1.00/song is a pretty reasonable threshold.

I've bought more music in the last year from ITunes and tried more new bands, than I spent in the previous 10 yrs. on CD's. (I do believe downloading is stealing so that wasn't an option for me).

Eventually, the studios will be a conduit...a marketing apparatus only.

IMO

Len
 

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eminence grease
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18,538 Posts
I've gone from being a relatively big consumer (at least from my financial position) over the course of my life with 1000's of LPs and many hundreds of CDs. I played around a small bit with Napster when it was in vogue and stopped downloading illegally when I had satisfied my urge cover all the individual songs I liked when I was younger.

These days, 100% of my listening is limited to XM radio and what I already own and have ripped to my computer/iPod. I literally can't remember the last time I put a CD in a machine and listened to it. I do burn things for my wife to use in her car.

So what does the industry do for me? I used to be a very eclectic listener, alternative in the car, classical in the house, jazz when sitting around. The "rock" music business has lost me entirely, I'm just no longer interested. I still listen to classic jazz but most of the newer releases are more in line with what I listened to in college - free form, atonal and aggressive - I'm just not there any more. These days I listen to pre-80's rock on my iPod (at work) and a lot of classical the rest of the time.

So how do I buy - the process these days it pretty simple - I hear something on XM, I check out iTunes and I listen to the clips. I rarely buy an entire "album", choosing rather the songs I like. This I think is the major improvement over the olden days, you don't have to pay for what you don't like.

I suppose my vision is multiple download sites with richer offerings, allowances for more than 30 second sampling clips and a reasonable price. A buck a song, no problem. A discount for the whole album, nice. I think if the record companies had been smart in the first place they would have co-opted iTunes and Amazon and offered direct purchases from the get-go. But they were too busy suing housewives to see the writing on the wall. Frankly, given the shift in my taste they could all disappear (except for Deutsche Grammaphone, ECM, Blue Note and a couple of obscure labels) and I would be happy as a clam.
 

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Registered
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Heard a record exec give a presentation on this issue about 18 months ago, so it's probably way outdated by now, but her take was that the music sales = profit for record industry model is dead. She saw the industry future as brand marketing, where artists completely sell their souls and the record co gets a piece of concert proceeds, clothing sales, endorsements, etc... think Hanna Montana.
 
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