Originally Posted by Substance
That was the quote that leapt out at me too. Looks like it did for several others here, before this thread descended into political bickering.
I somewhat disagree. What torpedoed CD sales was greed on the part of the RIAA and the corporate retail giants they struck deals with. Even though CDs were cheaper to produce than tape or vinyl, offered superior sound quality to the former, the same portability as the former, and was more durable than the latter. Yet after a while, CD prices climbed such that the average CD was $13 to $14. What happened?
Well the big box stores like Circuit City and Best Buy made a deal with the RIAA. Let us sell your CDs cheaper than our competition. They sold/bought the RIAA on this and the big box stores were able to drive the small music stores - who actually catered to music fans and not just top 40 listen-in-their-car folds - out of business. Once the competition was out of the way, the big box stores slowly could demand their own price until most older material was normally priced in that $13-$14 range.
People, of course, weren't going to tolerate this forever. Especially for the top 40 listeners who only wanted the latest radio hit and not all the fluff that constitutes most of your normal album.
About the same time as the big box stores had solidified their monopoly of CD sales, Napster hit the scene. Right away it attracted two distinct groups of music listener - the aforementioned top 40 listener who wanted only wanted a song or two off an album, and the music affacionados who wanted out-of-print material or import stuff that the RIAA wouldn't release in to all countries.
So what really killed CDs wasn't digital downloads, it was the greed of the RIAA and the big music retailers who built up public apathy to the point that when digital downloads became available to the masses, they flocked to it and never looked back.
Yes it's a concern but CD sales were slowing well before iTMS, maybe even before Napster came along.
I could also make the case that the changes to way we get our music - namely radio - has changed too. Thanks in large part to corporate monoloplies of our radio airwaves, we have more radio stations than before but they play less and less variety of music. Everything is some slice of adult contemporary, classic rock, or modern country, often with very narrowly defined playlists compared to just 20 years ago. Jazz and classical tend to only exist on public radio, and any other format (indie rock, folk, bluegrass, etc.) is not available except in the largest of markets.
This means that many of bands and music formats that specialized in the album format don't get widespread attention. The acts that do get the radio airplay are - wait for it - tailored for the radio and its 4 minute pop format.
The sales of the blank CD suprassing music CDs is new to me but it makes perfect sense. I agree completely that iTMS saved the music industry from complete piracy. The RIAA wanted to live on their CD monopoly forever and the public wasn't going to sustain it. Even if digital distribution over the Internet was delayed a few years it would have been more apparant that CD sales would have plummeted on their own. The emergence of Napster gave the RIAA a scapegoat. Instead of giving up their old-wolrd monopoly and embracing digital distribution before it destroyed them, the RIAA tried to sue their way back to the status quo. Before they had time to watch that fail, in came Apple with iTMS which embraced the new world while still making a profit off of it and the rest is history.
The TV and film industry are just starting to hit the growing pains that the music industry has hit. While TV and film are not as easily consumed as music, they are still commodity items that people buy faster than they can consume. Note that no one bought whole seasons of shows on VHS (which would fill a row on your bookshelf each year) but they became popular with the DVD format. Few wants the same mountain of DVDs at home like that they had with CDs and of course with the emergence of mobile devices, digital video has greater portability than DVD.
And more and more people that their montly cable or satellite bill, which just keeps growin, is just not sustainable.
In comes Apple again, offering these old-world industries a chance to jump into the new world quickly and profitably. But they all want the same lofty pre-recession profits they once had when money was flowing freely (and arguable, irresponsibly and unsustainably) even though all the predictions and guidance suggest they will lose more and more if they don't change with the times.
Agreed wholeheartedly Crusty. It will be an intereting 5 years. And whoever can get the content people want in the way people want will win the spoils.