Silent night for music sales

Wall Street Journal – Silent Night for Music Sales – I’m so sick of this shit. I’m fed up with the music industry blaming everyone except themselves for the downturn they’re “suffering”, even when the reasons why are staring them in the face. From the article:

Sales of individual digital tracks on services like Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Music Store have increased — but not nearly enough to offset the slide in CD sales.

This is your first clue. People are buying more individual tracks off iTunes (a service approved and endorsed by the music industry). This is because people are tired of being forced to buy an entire CD when it only contains perhaps two or three tracks that are any good; the rest being filler rubbish. It’s just not an economical way of buying music any more and now that people have a way of avoiding it, they’re taking full advantage. This may well be a can of worms for the record companies, but it’s what consumers have been crying out for for decades.

The article also cites competition for consumer dollars from videogames and DVDs. This is bang on. I can’t actually remember the last time I bought a CD, and that’s not because I indulge in illegal downloads, because I don’t. The simple fact of the matter is that I’ve not had cause to buy any new music, whether on CD or through iTunes, because nothing has taken my fancy. I do however spend lots of money on DVDs and computer games, and I actually do, I don’t download them off the Internet. I spend money on these things in preference to CDs because they are fundamentally better products and offer me far greater value for money than any crummy CD can.

Enjoyment and satisfaction levels aside, I can prove this with simple maths and statistics. A full price chart CD costs £14, whereas a full price chart DVD costs £20. I never actually pay £20 for a DVD, I always wait a few months for it to drop off the chart and then pick it up for £15 or so (something, incidentally, that doesn’t seem to happen with CDs, they seem to stay expensive forever). But let’s assume we’re paying full prices here. My £14 CD gives me at most an hour of music, often less. Per minute, this works out to be just over 23p per minute for my entertainment. The film on the DVD, excluding any special features (which I don’t watch because they’re usually boring as hell) is probably an hour and 45 minutes, working out to be 19p per minute for my entertainment, which is both cheaper and more satisfyng than a CD because it’s a film; it costs far more to produce than an album and you get sound and vision, making the value for money astronomically better than the CD. This is why a DVD is a better product than a CD, and that’s why the movie studios get my money instead of the record companies.

The same applies to video (computer) games. A decent game for the PC costs £40 (Grand Theft Auto and Quake 4 being two notable recent purchases). Now I know that computer games are a slightly different beast because their entertainment isn’t in the same linear format as a CD or a DVD, but let’s apply the same maths in any case. I bought Grand Theft Auto San Andreas in June, a game which I absolutely love and I still play, even though I completed it months ago. My computer claims that I’ve spent over 100 hours playing it since I installed it, and I’ve not finished playing with it yet. So far, my entertainment from GTA:SA has cost me just over half a pence per minute.

Remind me again why a CD is a better product and why I should buy one over a DVD or a computer game? Seriously, let’s have some sales spiel on it. Sell me your product. Convince me why I should purchase it in preference to a DVD or computer game. Work for your living for heavens’ sake. I don’t simply assume that people will automatically buy my products, and I don’t get all hissy and litigious when they don’t; I have to go out and sell them, and jolly hard work it is too. Why should you, Mr. Record Label, be any different?

Granted, nobody can deny that online piracy and CD burning have had an effect on music sales, but it’s hard to believe that it’s the main reason and I think that the music industry are hiding behind it in order to deflect attention away from their own shortcomings, whether they’re doing this conciously or not. Piracy is a red herring, it’s always been around in one form or another and the music industry is still around today to tell the tale. One might even suggest that it’s an occupational hazard and that the record labels should be building in a certain amount of “wastage” into their business plans, just like a supermarket has to do with spoiled stock or indeed any high street retailer has to do with shoplifting and so on.

If the music industry wants me to start buying their wares again then they need to change the product, and not simply assume that because I’m not buying their crappy manufactured output that I must be a criminal, and how dare I question the creative wisdom of the record labels and how dare I deprive them of their profit targets, etc. They’re selling entertainment. If what they sell doesn’t entertain me, then I’m not going to buy it. It’s as simple as that.