Fan Memo to Music Industry: Lower Prices

I have a lot of digital media items queued up, but this one is so dead on with many of our prior comments on the subject that I couldn’t wait for tuneful Tuesday:  Music Prices Are Too High.

Here are the results of a recent Rolling Stone/AP poll:

"Music executives love to blame illegal downloading for their industry’s woes. But, based on the results of a new nationwide poll, they might want to look in the mirror.

Eighty percent of the respondents consider it stealing to download music for free without the copyright holder’s permission, and 92 percent say they’ve never done it, according to the poll conducted for The Associated Press and Rolling Stone magazine.

Meanwhile, three-quarters of music fans say compact discs are too expensive, and 58 percent say music in general is getting worse.

"Less talented people are able to get a song out there and make a quick million and you never hear from them again," said Kate Simkins, 30, of Cape Cod, Mass.

Ipsos’ telephone poll of 1,000 adults, including 963 music listeners, from all states except Alaska and Hawaii was conducted Jan. 23-25 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

While the industry has been quick to blame piracy, they have refused to accept blame for the generally mediocre quality of the music they have been pushing.

Additionally, consumers have long ago figured out that CDs are a poor value proposition. It makes little sense that 45 minutes of music retails for $16.98, while 2 plus hours of digital video goes for the same price, and often much less.  Its no surprise that 352.7 million tracks were sold digitally in 2005 — at an average price of 99 cents, while CD sales slid in albums sharply in 2005, down from the 762.8 million sold in 2001 to 618.9 million.

Here’s what consumers are saying:

"The industry would be wise to embrace downloading, said Greg Hoerger, 42, of Minneapolis, who suggested that customers could receive five or six free downloads from an artist when they buy a CD.

For fans like Hoerger and Simkins, buying a CD for about $20 is no bargain. They’d rather download one or two favorite songs to their iPods. The digital music revolution also has other benefits, Simkins said: with the iPod, she no longer has to have cassettes or CDs cluttering her car.

The last CD she bought, a few months ago, was by the Killers. "It was on sale," she said."

Its harder to blame the crappy music on the sales decline, as cumudgeons like myself have been bitching about lousy music since the days of Disco. Taht hasn’t stopped anyone from tryiing, however:

"Many fans also say they just don’t like what they’re hearing. It may not be surprising to hear older fans say music just isn’t what it used to be when they were growing up. But the poll also found that 49 percent of music fans ages 18-to-34 — the target audience for the music business — say music is getting worse.

"Even if our parents didn’t like how loud rock ‘n’ roll was, or that it was revolutionary, at least they could listen to some of it," said Christina Tjoelker, 49, from Snohomish, Wash. "It wasn’t gross. It wasn’t disgusting. It wasn’t about beating up women or shooting the police."

The last CD she bought was Neil Diamond’s new one, "because Oprah was raving about it," she said.

I was surprised to read that "Rock ‘n’ roll is the most popular style of music, cited by 26 percent of the fans. It runs neck-and-neck with country among fans ages 35 or over."

Go figure.


Fan Memo to Music Industry: Lower Prices
AP Entertainment Writer, Thu Feb 2, 4:45 AM ET

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. David Silb commented on Feb 16

    Yo Boyeeee!!!! Hip-Hop rule da day! that be why rock 26 per-sented. Not represented.

    Cause if you ain’t Rymin you ain’t Sh*t.

    At least that what’s being pushed. I, myself, can not stand listening to Rappers brag about what they have and where they go, or what’s in their glass.

    I would love just once to ask them.

    What are the varibles or factors that can affect market demand for consumers?

    A. Money income of consumers
    B. prices of related goods
    C. Consumer Expectations
    D. Consumer Tastes
    E. Number of Consumers in the Market
    F. None of the Above
    G. All of the Above

    Let’s see if they can rhyme out of this one.

    When I taught Economics I loved the “Gansta wannabees” floating in the back of the room.

    “Who can tell me all about the theory of Productivity and Growth as it relates to the Production Possibilities Frontier? You sir, in the back with the baggie jeans and the ‘I could care less look’ on your face, why don’t you tell me all about the PPF.” “Don’t be shy if you make a mistake I’ll help you.” :^)

  2. lola commented on Feb 16

    My new favorite is watched old Patti Smith, Television, T Rex videos yesterday.

  3. Robert Cote commented on Feb 16

    Wow, where to begin? Music is overpriced. Good music is probably fairly priced. The barriers to entry are now so low that “publication” is no longer serving a gatekeeping function against total crap. At the same time there are deliberate barriers to dissemination of either useful reviews or categorization. Too much choice in a too flat and too opaque market? Nearly every “classic” album from 1965 to 1985 was “sold” on the basis of tracks that have proven less important than the “other” songs along for the ride. Think of all the great music that would never sell in a per track only world.

    IMO lower prices are the only possible response to the alternative of no prices for the music industry. Is it fair? Excuse me but we are talking about the music industry here, “fair?” might as well try to enforce the Treaty of Versailles.

  4. trader75 commented on Feb 16

    From the perspective of a young guy who loves music (I buy 30 or 40 CDs a year) but doesn’t keep close track of the music industry, it would seem to me that RIAA has no future. At all. They are the classic middle man, waiting to be disintermediated.

    The whole reason the recording industry came into existence, as far as I can tell, was so that bands could get their music out to the fans. Back in the day there was no easy or inexpensive way to reach millions of listeners, so you had to have big budget radio and big budget promotions and the inevitable corporate leeches and pinhead suits that came with.

    But now it’s possible for a band with no money and no real promotional budget to gather critical acclaim through word of mouth. The technological distribution channels and the audience savvy required to make this happen are evolving side by side. We haven’t reached the point where the recording industry is completely obsolete in terms of promotion yet, but we’re inexorably heading that way.

    When the transition is complete, the business model of the music business will have radically changed for the better — great bands will distribute their music at low cost or even free to fans, and make their real money from concerts and touring. The album becomes a breakeven position, with the goal of generating enough buzz and fan loyalty to sell a slew of $40 concert tickets. The best music is created by musicians who love to play it, so they will embrace this model wholeheartedly. And fans will be able to fill up their iPods with good tunes at minimal cost. And RIAA will be in the dumpster along with braindead commercial radio.

  5. Mike S. commented on Feb 16

    I’m one of “Gansta wannabees” floating in the back of the room. Just because someone doesn’t care about economics doesn’t make them an idiot. I’d like to see one of you “shirt and tie economics types” have a crack at the Navier-Stokes equations. Dolphins aren’t so intelligent when bring them on land are they?

  6. Bynocerus commented on Feb 16

    First Gangstas. Then Wankstas. Now we have “Ganstas.” Hey Barry, maybe you wanna ask Jeff Cooper about “Ganstas”, as I’m sure he’s one of the OGs (Original Gan(n)stas).

    BTW Mike, I’m one of those shirt and tie economics types, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what fluid mechanics is (we Econ guys took vector calculus too, ya know).

    Trying to stay on point, I think Rock has been gettting progressively shittier for about thirty years. In fact, I find the current state of rock to be unlistenable. There were times when I would hear a Creed song on the radio and think about driving my car into a telephone pole. Sure, there are some good bands, but you’re not going to hear Flaming Lips, Wilco or Turbonegro on your FM dial anytime soon. The fact that A Perfect Circle and Weezer get played at all is astonishing to me.

    On the flip side, I am amazed at how R&B/hip-hop stay so fresh. Yes, every Nelly song sounds like every other Nelly song, but I’ll go on record as saying that Mos Def is as good as Rakim, Nas is as good as Chuck D and Luda is even better than Cube in his prime. Oh, and did I mention HOVA, Em or Kanye? And those are just the rappers.

    What we need to do is convince “artists” such as Nickleback, Staind, Papa Roach, etc. that they should join their Moonie brothers and sisters. Failing that, I think I’ll have to resign myself to the fact that there aren’t any more Neil Young/Bob Dylan/Bruce Springsteen singer-songwriters, and that the geriatric Stones’ performance during the Superbowl was still better than
    any other concert I can go to right now

  7. David Silb commented on Feb 16

    Mike S.,

    You missed my point. Or maybe you prove my point. The brashness “Gansta Wannabees” display is what I was commenting on.

    The Arrogance of Igorance. Is my point.

    Your right I’d probably not be able to do your Navier-Stokes equations, (actually I probably could) but I know enough and am humble enough to ask for help.

    Are you the type to pound your chest and stand above others with indignation at suffering their presense.

    Or are you the type who is thankful for the gifts you have and are willing to demonstrate compassion.

    Afterall if it wasn’t for the audience who would care for the music? If no ones appreciates the talent then is there a talent.

    You may think your worshipped for your math skills. You might be surprised to find a lot of people can do what you do. Your not worshipped in any sense of the word.

    Question: Do you really go around “wanting to be a gangsta”? Really!! Cause you say “I’m one of “Gansta wannabees” floating in the back of the room.” Really cause that’s what you wrote.

    Okay for the sake of arguement I challenge you to a math off. I’ll be in New York in two weeks lets say we meet at Trump plaza have lunch and crunch numbers?

    BTW You are right, Dolphins wouldn’t do well on dry land but you don’t see them swimming around pumping their chests out at sloths for being poor swimmers do you?

  8. Bobby commented on Feb 16

    Two industries that are highly inefficient: Real Estate (MLS) and Music (RIAA) . Both use strongarm tactics to maintain their monopolies. Both are completely unneccssary thanks to “the Internet”. Someday soon someone with a brain will figure out how to sink these overbloated vessels.

  9. sheriff commented on Feb 16

    Bynocerus, is right There probably won’t be anymore Neil Young’s around much longer. Basically all I listen to is Neil Young, Stones, and Mott the Hoople(Ian Hunter). Lately I have drifted to Big Country, DepecheMode,and New Order. I missed the Rap era, I like the old Curtis Blow, Houdini, Naughty by Nature, and L.L. Cool J.. New music mostly does suck.

  10. Rdub9000 commented on Feb 16

    All this talk of music is refreshing.

    Speaking of new venues for distributing music.
    Here is my distribution point.

    I have no idea who I sound like.
    Let me know what y’all think.

  11. Norman commented on Feb 16

    Here’s an old guy’s thoughts: How about getting singers, whatever their genre (including Broadway), to enunciate the words to their songs. Singers are just too sloppy and I think it hurts their sales.

  12. Sebastian commented on Feb 16

    Every time I hear the lamentation “Current music sucks” I have to ask the lamenter to qualify. If you listen to FM radio, or buy off the Billboard charts, then yes, perhaps current music does suck. What I’ve noticed is that it takes more work to find good music now, but its out there.

    Here’s a perfect example: I’m on an economics blog, and to the right of this comments box I see the new Death Cab listed under MP3s Spinning. I like that. I like some of the other choices here, too. I have not heard the Clap Your Hands CD, but I’ve read about it, so I’m going to make a note to check it out because there’s a good chance I might like it based on these other selections.

    I attended Coachella last year, befriended a lawyer and politician. (This is not the setup to a joke.) The only bands they knew were the headliners. What’s good, they asked? Let’s go check out Kasabian, I said. They’ve got that Stone Roses british-white-boy-playing-funky-drummer thing going on. Then let’s go check out Ben Watt, the other half of Everything But The Girl. I don’t listen to a lot of dance music, but I like what Ben Watt plays. And so did my new friends.

    But to comment on the original article, yup, CDs are painfully over-priced. For me, the magic line is $10. I wish someone would do a study on sales for new bands who put out their CD at $9.99. I wonder if the lower price resulted in more sales. I know I’ve tried some new bands just because the price was $8.99 or $9.99.

    Unfortunately, I think that recorded music could be on the way to becoming value-less as it becomes less tangible (from vinyl to cd to mp3). It could become just an advertising cost. Maybe individual downloads or portions of subscription-based services will create revenue, but I’m worried bands will only be able to recoup recording costs through ticket and merchandise sales, or sponsorships, and where will that leave the underground?

    It’s hard to make much money headlining your home town at 11:30 PM on a Tuesday night when you live on the West Coast and a fair amount of your audience has to be at their desks when the market opens. Believe me, I know. That was my band on that stage, Tuesday two weeks ago. “Sorry, man, wish I could stay to see you play, but I gotta get to sleep. The market, man. The market.”

    Thank God for the unemployed. They stay late.

    Anyone want to buy a t-shirt?

  13. jay commented on Feb 17

    I’ve moved on almost exclusively to foreign music. Brazilian being my favorite. Samba, Pagode, Axe, Forro, you don’t need to speak Portuguese to appreciate the rhythms. If the American recording industry thinks pirating is a big problem in the US, they should check out Brazil (maybe they own the distributors down there too, I don’t know). Everyone buys pirated CD’s for 5 reais which would be about $2.40 right now. In the stores, CD’s go for between 25-40 reais (up to 50 in the Sao Paulo airport!). No one would pay that kind of money for a CD when they’re lucky to make 25 reais in a day.

  14. Dean commented on Feb 17

    The good music is out there, you just have to find it. I’ve been using both and to find new music – both have their strengths, both great ways to find new bands. Things like this have to give the RIAA and record companies fits as it’s outside their traditional promotional channels, but it’s the future.

  15. SJGMoney commented on Feb 17

    Two words: Satellite Radio

    Since my wife bought me the Sirius Sportster for Christmas I have rediscovered my love of new music. There are so many channels, new music has to be exposed and you can hear more new music in one hour than you would from conventional radio in a week.

  16. Jack commented on Feb 17

    The future of music is something like Yahoo’s Launchcast where you rank what you like and it plays those artists and songs and genres that you rank highly. Its nice to know that the music you hear is cultivated from your preferences without influence of the radio industy.

  17. druce commented on Feb 18

    go to, search for The Last Waltz.

    DVD: $9.99
    CD: $22.99 (boxed set $53.99)

    ’nuff said.

    There was a time when VHS tapes were $50-$75, and CD prices were similar to what they are now. Today every DVD comes with outtakes, commentary etc. But CDs actually offer less in the way of cover art, liner notes that LPs did, unless you shell out for the ‘boxed set’.

    It just seems other media segments have adjusted more to new economics.

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