Want to Save the Music Industry? Then Find the Next CD

CDsales_comparison

Aggregated revenues from the Recording Industry of America (inflation-adjusted).  CD sales have dropped nearly 75 percent over the past 10 years.

47 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Everything you can hear can be copied — so you need to bypass conventional hearing.

    Which means we’re talking implants!

    —————————————
    🙂 The real Anonymous 🙂

    Reply
    • MNLAKER

      Why doesn’t someone just start making non-burnable specialized cds that can’t be copied?
      Then just allow previews of your songs online and police them. Only allow your songs to be heard in full on the disc that’s purchased! If your songs wind up online file class action lawsuits!

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        “specialized cds that can’t be copied”

        Again, everything you can hear can be copied.

        So we’re barking up the wrong tree…

        —————————————
        🙂 The real Anonymous 🙂

        Reply
  2. Anonymous

    You latch on to things like CDs and streaming – they’re just different formats, and focusing on that is an overly simplistic way of looking at this industry.

    It’s like you can’t comprehend what’s really going on, so you hone in on whatever you can easily see. The solution is in a different business model, not in a different format (though over time there will of course be different formats).

    Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      The CD was a controllable, reliable cash-cow for decades for the music industry; the part about it being a format is secondary. The point is what it represents from a revenue and sustainability perspective.

      Reply
      • Pie Rate

        Paul Resnikoff wrote:

        The CD was a controllable, reliable cash-cow for decades for the music industry…

        The controllability of the CD was already slipping by the late 1990s, as CD burners became common. Remember the Apple slogan “Rip Mix Burn?” Remember the Sony rootkit, an attempt to poison customer’s machines so CDs could not be ripped?

        In 2015, CDs are still the primary source for pirate audio files, so CDs have long ceased being “controllable.” Most pirate rips are now at 320K or FLAC standards, which means they exceed the audio quality of MOST legitimately-purchased digital audio. (I know there are some music file sellers who do quality right, but Amazon ain’t one of them.)

        The CD’s “controllability” was an artifact of technological history. The CD contained large digital files which were, in the 1980s, too big for home consumers to manipulate. Once computers and networks became more powerful, it was Game Over for the defensability of the compact disc.

        Reply
      • Pie Rate

        Another thing to note about those cumulative CD sales numbers 1984-2014 is that most of them were racked up in The Long Boom, which ran from about 1983 (roughly coincident with CD introduction) to somewhat after 2000.

        In the 1980s was the economic boom fueled by lower oil prices and the delivery of the original PCs to everyone. (Or, if you prefer, fueled by Reagan’s tax policy.)

        In the 1990s, the boom was fueled by the rollout of the Internet and the dot.com boom. (Or, if you prefer, fueled by Clinton’s balancing of the Federal budget.)

        In those 20 or so years, a lot of very prosperous people spent a lot of money on recorded music. (I had a 2-CD a week habit for much of this period, and a 4-CD a week habit for some of those years.)

        In 2005 or so (gas price surge due to Katrina) discretionary spending started wobbling for a lot of people, and then in 2008 came the Great Recession. Since then, for a lot of people, there simply is no longer any money for buying significant quantities of music. This is especially true for the younger people who have long been the core of the music audience. (It’s worse in Europe, where young-people unemployment numbers are around 20% overall.)

        Reply
    • LoveHertz

      … and, streaming trumped CDs because most people don’t perceive/care about the sound quality difference, so, no going back… there is no magic format that will recreate that.

      Reply
      • Name2

        Or convenience outweighs sound-quality issues to a segment of the market?

        Actually, convenience outweighs everything, including price. Yes, Virginia, convenience even competes with free.

        Reply
          • FarePlay

            #2 Convenience? That’s the way you see it. McDonalds is convenience. Is that the high point of your humanity? Your life? What does your life matter? Where’s your passion, your curiosity? Do you even live in the moment or are you like everyone else snapping selfies so you can prove you were there. Do you have a life? Does music mean anything to you?

            To me you sound like FU who cares? And I imagine that doesn’t just apply to music. It is who you are.

        • wallow-T

          There’s what I, personally, like, which is baby-audiophile levels of awareness of sound quality.

          And then there is what I can see the mass market demanding. As @name2 said, in the mass market for formats, convenience trumps sound quality. As @curtis jenkins said, the cassette boom was the clearest demonstration of this. Consumers have put up with tremendous sound quality compromises to put music in their cars, and later in their pockets.

          But most recordings don’t come close to a live concert experience. Since the beginnings of commercial recording, customers have accepted compromises to have music in their homes, away from the concert or the dance.

          In the LP and CD era, the same manufactured product fed both the mass-market and the niche audiophile market, In other times, not so much.

          Reply
    • Curtis Jenkins

      Cassettes we big in the early 80s, BIG (and CRAPPY). This starts in 1984.

      Reply
  3. T. Cooke

    I am working on what I call a “Music Book”. It consists of a studio mix album of tracks. The segmentation is by chapters. So, there will be no identifiable song titles. And to clarify, no visuals. This serves a number of purposes; 1) I can feature tracks that have meaning and add a particular feel, but do not work stand alone 2) A final editing is offered, albeit on the two track. 3) A grander story can be told, as with the LP or Dj compilation, or other forms of entertainment such as movies, plays, operas, or symphonies. And finally 4) Marketing: presenting my music in an elegant format with a new content-driven format, the “Music Book”. This format should interest listeners and compete with other forms of entertainment. The listener has the option to be fully engaged, or listen passively while doing something else. It is long enough, run time about an hour and twenty minutes, and is a single piece of entertainment to warrant the purchase of, or to have streamed on demand in a high quality format.
    Thanks

    Reply
  4. Roy Smith

    The concept of putting music into a “container of commerce” and then selling it only began when Edison invented and popularized the wax cylinder. The entire “music industry” was built on the fundamental concept of selling containers. Digital music and the Internet ended the requirement for those containers (and for the numerous middlemen of RIAA). This is all progress!.

    Why would anyone want to “save the music industry”? To take artists back to 3% royalty rates, with discounts for radio station promos, record club sales, and “new technology” containers? No thanks.

    Reply
    • Troglite

      I believe the point DMN is trying to raise is that one of the fundamental challenges with digital media is the inability to control access. The industry had established imperfect, but reasonable levels of control over physical media. They’ve failed to maintain or replace that level of control over digital media.

      I think it may be helpful to compare music distribution and software distribution for a moment. Both are digital products. Both may be delivered on physical media or downloaded on demand. But, if I attempt to use an unlicensed copy of the software, a system of control that is embedded into the software itself forces me to either register my copy or prevents me from using it. Conversely, if I gain access to a DRM-free mp3 file, there is no system of control embedded into the recording to prevent unlicensed usage. The only opportunity for control is to prevent unlicenses copies from being created and downloaded. The very nature of digital media makes it incredibly easy to copy and distribute unlicensed copies.

      This is the role of DRM. In blunt terms, the quality of DRM technologies to date has been very poor. There are lots of reasons, but one of the dynamics that is often overlooked is that if DRM effectively limited abuse, some popular business models would suffer. Even if that’s the correction that is needed in the market, it creates resistance and balkanization.

      There have been some recent efforts to incorporate DRM into the HTML standard itself. I think this would be helpful in that it could help establish a consistent implementation of DRM that could work across different browsers and distributors.

      Another way to think about this is creating a new standard to replace MP3’s. One where licensing is baked into the file format itself. Essentially, when the file is opened, a check for a valid license file can be performed. If the user cannot supply a valid license file, then the song won’t play. The license files would be encrypted to prevent tampering and redistribution of the licenses themselves. Upon registration, it could be cached locally on the device to allow offline playback. This could even be combined with the type of blockchain technology that has been widely discussed to create a centralized, trusted accounting of all usage on a global scale (the same location that holds the licenses records each play). Its ambitious, but technically feasible.

      Reply
      • Tim Wood

        Good explanation; if only the artistic content vs. software distinction were that simple. Software licensing gets broken all the time; copies with hacked or captured license keys live on so-called “warez” sites (usually darknet these days, but they do show up on Google). However, the BSA (Business Software Alliance) and the FBI have had much more success in closing down warez sites, finding their operators, and even busting businesses that infringe, than the music industry has had with its problem. The growing revenues for packaged software attest to that.

        Incentives are different; more software users are businesses that make the economic decision to pay rather than risk an infringement bust. Whereas the incremental risk of nicking a song (or even a lot of songs) is much lower. Streaming beats downloads for income protection, in that access control is built in; we can stop obsessing over copies (not) sold (kooky streaming royalty models notwithstanding). The hassle for a listener to switch among streaming sites, that may not have your playlist or profiles and that may disappear, discourages pirate streaming, in addition to the existing prohibitions.

        DRM in HTML will work until it degrades lawful user experience (which DRM on content tends to do*), and gets broken. Then it becomes a waste of time and space. There are already tools to intercept content in the clear as it passes through hardware video and audio adapters; when all else fails, take an analog round-trip and accept the quality hit. I am not advocating infringement here, just giving my POV on the actual strength & value of DRM.

        (*) http://www.howtogeek.com/208917/htg-explains-how-hdcp-breaks-your-hdtv-and-how-to-fix-it/

        Reply
        • Troglite

          @Tim Wood. I agree with everything you wrote. But, I may disagree with how it should inform and shape our actions as participants within the recording industry. Piracy cannot be eliminated. It can only be discouraged. And that shouldn’t stop the industry from enforcing control over the content that they own.

          Piracy is theft. Every community in the world experiences theft. But, it doesn’t prevent them from enacting and enforcing laws to discourage it. Same with just about any other crime you can think of (rape, murder, etc).

          I felt this point was important enough to post about because the logic you outlined is often used by the pirates themselves to confuse and discourage any effort to establish reasonable enforcement measures by painting them as “useless” because such actions cannot eliminate all piracy. Its a false choice because the goal should have never been to “eliminate” piracy. That’s effectively the same as eliminating free will. Discouragement can be achieved by raising awareness and exacting a cost when the violation meets a certain threshold (e.g. commercial attempts to monetize the pirated works). And that doesn’t even have to be limited to legal actions. Market-driven actions can also be effective (e.g. boycott the sites that systemically post pirated works, the ad networks those sites use to make $, and boycott the brands that allow their ads to be placed on those site and networks).

          I’ll also share one of my own thought experiments on this topic. Its not hard to imagine a future where there are two distinct and clearly understood (meaning they are consistently measured) audiences for music.. those who are willing to pay and those who choose to steal. I would personally embrace that future because I believe that will be the tipping point where consumers actually understand the stakes, use their power by voting with their $’s, and socially punish those who choose to steal instead.

          Reply
          • Pie Rate

            ” and socially punish those who choose to steal instead. ”

            There’s the conflict on which so much anti-pirate planning founders.

            Piracy cannot be both socially aberrant, and at the same time so common that it is a mortal threat.

            Australian polls from 2014 say “29% of Australian adults admitting to being active pirates.”

          • Troglite

            @Pie Rate. Interesting thought. The best exception I can think of would be masturbation. Everyone does it but no one admits it.

          • Tim Wood

            I’m comfortable with DRM when it doesn’t serve as a means for grasping rightsholders to limit fair use and invade customers’ privacy. The right DRM will prevent distribution of a unit of purchased content (or access) to 3rd parties, and only that.

            I think you still run into a transduction (ie. analog hole) problem even using a blockchain scheme. The value of music is in sensory experience, which can be shared without transferring ownership. Whereas Bitcoins are registered monetary tender; they only render value when transferred or pledged among parties, etc. in auditible transactions. I’d be surprised if anyone successfully fields a similar standard for human-intelligible content.

          • Me2

            If anything, digital banking and cryptocurrency are proof positive that a human construct (money) which is entirely transferrable by digital means CAN be controlled. The only thing preventing people from ‘copying’ money is social convention enforced by laws, protected by security and monitored through accounting.

      • renon

        “Another way to think about this is creating a new standard to replace MP3’s. One where licensing is baked into the file format itself.”

        this is easily accomplished as the technology has been around for a decade (using a blockchain). I never understood why the industry does not create a new format and go after anyone who is illegally sharing in any other format. you could even use technology to police the internet (shazzam).

        artists have the power to keep there songs off of streaming services like Spotify. have them sign a contract to use that power essentially putting those streaming services out of business… all they could be good for is finding new music and for artists to get exposure.

        maybe Im missing something but why is there not an organization that aggressively goes after piracy. the normal person is not going to risk being caught and does not mind paying for music anyway. just fear will keep people from listening to free music.

        …you often get youtube videos that are not playable because of copwriting. why is there not more of this? I am very confused. Maybe I need to hang out here more.

        Reply
        • observation

          maybe Im missing something but why is there not an organization that aggressively goes after piracy.

          you mean like the mpaa and riaa? the guys who sued dead grandmothers and dying kids?

          yeah they really help you with popular support…

          Reply
      • Tim Wood

        Good explanation; if only the artistic content vs. software distinction were that simple. Software licensing gets broken all the time; copies + hacked or captured license keys live on so-called “warez” sites (usually darknet). However, the BSA (Business Software Alliance) and the FBI have had much more success in closing down warez sites, finding their operators, and even busting businesses that infringe, than the music industry has. The growing revenues for packaged software attest to that. Incentives are different; more software users are businesses that make the economic decision to pay rather than risk an infringement bust. Whereas the incremental risk of nicking a song (or even a lot of songs) is much lower.

        DRM in HTML will work until it degrades lawful user experience (which DRM on content tends to do*), and gets broken. Then it becomes a waste of time and space. There are already tools to intercept content in the clear as it passes through the hardware video and audio adapters.

        Good explanation; if only the artistic content vs. software distinction were that simple. Software licensing gets broken all the time; copies with hacked or captured license keys live on so-called “warez” sites (usually darknet these days, but they do show up on Google). However, the BSA (Business Software Alliance) and the FBI have had much more success in closing down warez sites, finding their operators, and even busting businesses that infringe, than the music industry has had with its problem. The growing revenues for packaged software attest to that.

        Incentives are different; more software users are businesses that make the economic decision to pay rather than risk an infringement bust. Whereas the incremental risk of nicking a song (or even a lot of songs) is much lower. Streaming beats downloads for income protection, in that access control is built in; we can stop obsessing over copies (not) sold (kooky streaming royalty models notwithstanding). The hassle for a listener to switch among streaming sites, that may not have your playlist or profiles and that may disappear, discourages pirate streaming, in addition to the existing prohibitions.

        DRM in HTML will work until it degrades lawful user experience (which DRM on content tends to do), and gets broken. Then it becomes a waste of time and space. There are already tools to intercept content in the clear as it passes through the hardware video and audio adapters; when all else fails, go analog and accept the quality hit. I am not advocating infringement here, just giving my POV on the actual strength & value of DRM.

        Reply
    • Versus

      Not true. The first “container of commerce” was printed music scores.

      Reply
  5. Irving Mindreader

    Apples / oranges. Formats mattered when physical ruled. The barrier now is experiential and streaming is a bridge, not a destination. (Don’t get me started.)

    The issue is simple. Ignore this at your continued collective peril : AUDIO ALONE does not, and never will again, trigger the same dopamine response as it did for fans a generation ago. Fans are mobile and ubiquitously connected to any stimulus on demand. Listening to music without engaging other senses feels like a sensory deprivation chamber by comparison.

    No dopamine, no value. Stop wasting your time deliberating how to deliver something of no value.

    If there is a growing economic future for music, it is visual and interactive.

    Those are the only new standards that matter.

    Reply
    • Minneapolis Musician

      Yes.

      Before the Internet and digital delivery of music, the opportunities for hearing music you desired to hear were limited.

      You waited for the radio to play it, or you spent a considerable amount of money to BUY it, to play on your at-home phonograph.

      Fidelity was limited. Live music provided BASS and a drum thump. It was exciting, and live bands were special.

      Today, there is “good enough” audio fidelity of most anything you like, anytime, and not just at home or in the car listening to radio. And mostly FREE.

      You want money, you have to deliver something more than what is available easily for free.

      — Glenn
      https://www.reverbnation.com/glenngalen/song/2044976-traveling-by-night-twang-guitar

      Reply
      • Irving Mindreader

        “Can you provide at least one hyperlink to an accredited study backing up your statements?”

        Not of the academic variety, and not that’s been published. There is some research underway.

        Let’s just say, I’m not going out on a limb.

        Change is occurring. The only questions are how much, or how fast.

        Reply
  6. Musicservices4less

    The next CD is already here. It is called subscription as opposed to ad-based. Ad based does not and for just music, will not generate a sufficient return to content owners. We all have discussed the how and why that happened and we know it basically comes down to the devaluation of music. It was caused by the “forced” iTunes pricing of $0.99, the un-bundling of the album format and of course, massive piracy. So here we are today. The past is not going to change. But we certainly can now recognize what and who the major contributor is to ad-based use of copyrighted material . . .it is as simple as ABC. The Alphabet of all alphabets, the king of lobbying in Washington DC, the biggest monopoly in the world in the greatest technological development of the 21st century, I give you GOOGLE and its baby monster, Youtube.

    Ta Dah!! Notice how the creation of Alphabet can be seen as a preemptive move to “divest” itself of some of its businesses. This is being done to limited any movement in the DOJ to investigate the Alphabet/Google monopoly. Just watch.

    Reply
    • Me2

      Biggest infringement racket in history. Even the legit stuff is the lowest payout of all. Soon all the letters of the alphabet will be hopscotch for the various investigations.

      Reply
  7. Musicservices4less

    By the way, did you all read about the music industry villain Larry Lessig running for president on just one issue? He may be right on that issue (campaign finance reform) but wouldn’t it be great if everywhere he appears, protesters heckle him about his position on copyright or should I say lack of copyright. Great fun.

    Reply
    • Me2

      ‘Hack the System’. Laughable. Yet sad that people are buying it. They also invented their smartphone and are proud to be a ‘part of the revolution’ as they hand over the last of their rights and freedoms.

      Reply
  8. Versus

    Piracy is the rout of all these problems. A combination of legislation and education can change everything.

    Teach and show the consequences of piracy on livelihoods. Appeal to conscience. At the same time, enforce the laws against those with weak conscience. We need stronger laws than DMCA.

    “Everybody does it”? Not everybody, but many. That can change. Everybody smoked in bars in New York. No more. Everybody expected TV to be free. Now they pay for cable, Netflix, etc. In some cities, jaywalking is accepted as harmless law-breaking; in others, the jaywalking laws are strictly enforced and people do not jaywalk.

    Reply
    • observation

      Appeal to conscience.

      yes appeal to everyone’s conscience about how suing dead grandmothers families and kids with leukemia is saving the industry.

      Reply

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