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Apple sells more than 1 million songs


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#21 of 67 OFFLINE   Jeff Ulmer

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Posted May 05 2003 - 05:33 PM

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Last I checked it was a few dollars or less. But any kind of volume builds the total take quickly.

However, the artist will absorb the remastering and marketing costs, which means the breakeven point won't make smaller artists a dime, while the record company sees any profits. Same game, different court.

As for album oriented material, this may necessitate bands who create this kind of material (such as yours truly) selling their product direct to the fans. The volume doesn't need to be astronomical to still be viable, but you don't have the marketing force behind you either.

#22 of 67 OFFLINE   BrianB

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Posted May 06 2003 - 12:34 AM

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it costs you $13 to have a CD with only 2 good songs

I keep seeing this repeated as gospel, but I can't recall any CDs I've bought recently being this way.
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#23 of 67 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted May 06 2003 - 12:54 AM

The demise of the album and album based rock has been greatly exaggerated.

One problem with the advent of CDs has been the death of the single. Back in the 70s when I was a kid you could buy a 45 of your favorite song for a buck or less. In the 60s it was the same. Singles sold like hotcakes, people who liked individual songs instead of whole albums (or young people with limited incomes) bought singles.

Yes' "Close To The Edge" and Pink Floyd's "Animals" still sold in huge numbers.

The problem with the CD Age has been tha demise of the single. There is no longer a source for the casual music listener to get their single songs. MP3 is the vehicle for the new "single" listener. Back in the day, 45RPM singles were released on crappy quality vinyl, often very compressed sounding due to the real estate and the nature of vinyl. (much to the chagrin of those of us who bought singles for our favorite artists' B-Sides). If you wanted to hear the longer full version of the song, or hear it in better quality, or want to hear more by this band, you bought the LP (thus doubling the royalties on that song).

This is just the long-needed replacement for the 45RPM single. The companies tried Cassette singles and CD singles, but neither has caught on. The market will bear this, and I predict that it will not cause any significant dent in the CD album market.

Hopefully the record companies will realize this.

I know some people, particularly musicians, poo-poo pop music and the concept of the 3 minute single. I don't. There's nothing inherently superior in long form music. A finely crafted 3 minute pop song is a wonderful piece of music, and I would argue significantly more difficult to pull off both in writing and performing than a 50 minute rock oratorio.
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#24 of 67 OFFLINE   Marc Colella

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Posted May 06 2003 - 01:03 AM

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And this will mark the final nail in the coffin of decent music having any commercial viability. It's bad enough currently, with "single" minded execs pushing computers to analyze files for "hot worthiness"-- when the market then allows you to completely disregard an album as a work or "whole" we will see this single oriented industry get worse.

And bands with a more "album" oriented style will pretty much evaporate from popular consumption.

Not good, not good at all.

We've had one-hit wonders for a long time now, the labels may be trying to push more out - but you don't have to purchase it. The labels won't give up on selling you the whole CD worth of songs... too much money at stake.

Even the better bands today have a few songs on their discs that just aren't appealing. There are only a few CDs that I purchase nowadays which offer quality tracks from beginning to end - regardless of how good the CD or band is.

This may force the labels and the bands to raise their level of quality, since they will have a tougher time getting away with slipping in lesser quality tracks onto the CD.

Quote:
I keep seeing this repeated as gospel, but I can't recall any CDs I've bought recently being this way.


You may love every track on the CDs you purchase, but most consumers hate having to purchase a CD for only a few desired songs. It's not a coincidence that greatest hits and compilation CDs sell extremely well. This is one of the reasons why people stop purchasing CDs... too expensive for what you get.

#25 of 67 OFFLINE   Lee Scoggins

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Posted May 06 2003 - 01:35 AM

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And bands with a more "album" oriented style will pretty much evaporate from popular consumption.
Quote:
This may force the labels and the bands to raise their level of quality, since they will have a tougher time getting away with slipping in lesser quality tracks onto the CD.


I agree with both of these statements. On the one hand, Vince is right about the execs becoming more "singles" minded; on the other hand, Marc may be on to something that we have higher quality CD (or hirez as I suggest - dream?).

Quote:
This is one of the reasons why people stop purchasing CDs... too expensive for what you get.


As one familiar with the economics of a medium sized label I must agree that CDs are very expensive for the major's actual costs. What's more is there is not much price discount on older product. It all pretty much remains around $12-14, higher for classical. Seems like the price should drift far below $10 as discs age. Such discs have dated mastering and content, for example.

One thing we should keep in mind...I do work as a business strategy consultant Posted Image ....is that we are only talking the revenue side with these singles sales. The other major factor is the high costs of the current "artist development" effort. Whether you like my idea that a new breed of smaller music producers/venture capitalists could bring value, there are clearly some improvements that must be made. Getting away from mega-contracts for just a handful of artists that fade out must be dealt with. Also, there seems to be a trend toward more local musician support among many music fans. Why not have smaller teams of managers do local talent and as the band's following grows, the labels can bid on their future work.

From my standpoint, it seems to me that the whole "risk sharing" dimension is out of whack. You now have a situation where really popular bands have a lot of freedom and their huge compensation is not really tied that well to performance since they are given huge advances. Many young stars cannot handle the responsibility of huge amounts of dough and agents/handlers often steal.

Why not do the following...Simplify recording contracts so that artists share in the equity of their profits. They get paid as the album sells. They could still get a loan from a bank against their equity if they need some advance money, but they get better control of the record label's accounting and have the constant pressure to produce results for their own bank account. That would seem to improve the productivity and quality of the output for us consumers. Maybe every star gets an "advisory board" with one representative each from (a) the label, (b) the musician themselves, and © the musician's accountant. The board decides what music-related ventures are undertaken while providing artistic control to the musician.

What do you think?
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#26 of 67 OFFLINE   Lee Scoggins

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Posted May 06 2003 - 01:47 AM

Here's a cool story on Madonna...

http://www.foxnews.c...3,86059,00.html

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#27 of 67 OFFLINE   BrianB

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Posted May 06 2003 - 01:54 AM

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You may love every track on the CDs you purchase

I didn't say that. I said that I don't find there's only 1 or 2 songs I like on the CDs I buy. Can't you see the difference?
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#28 of 67 OFFLINE   Brian Perry

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Posted May 06 2003 - 02:00 AM

It's no wonder sales of Madonna's new album are dropping...it sucks (IMHO).

As for Apple's service, I think $9.99 is way too high for an album. Chances are the album will have fewer than ten songs, chances are even greater that all ten songs won't be desirable, and chances are 100% that the sound quality will be inferior to CD. And with no artwork, etc.

I think $5.99 for an MP3 album would be more reasonable.

#29 of 67 OFFLINE   Jeff Ulmer

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Posted May 06 2003 - 02:20 AM

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Simplify recording contracts so that artists share in the equity of their profits. They get paid as the album sells. They could still get a loan from a bank against their equity if they need some advance money

Banks will not lend based on equity in a nonexistent product and have no visible income, that I can assure you of. Huge advances are in place to cover the high costs of producing (financing) a world class album, which banks will not touch with a ten foot poll. Depending on the nature of the artist, it can take months to years to make a great record, and limiting any financial support to after the product is at market would mean even longer development times, and a high probability it never gets to market at all. If the artist is worried about supporting themselves during this development, their focus is not going to be on the music.

#30 of 67 OFFLINE   MarkHastings

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Posted May 06 2003 - 03:15 AM

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The problem with the CD Age has been tha demise of the single.
You've never heard of CD singles? Granted, they're not as popular as they used to be, but you can still find them.

#31 of 67 OFFLINE   Brian Perry

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Posted May 06 2003 - 03:38 AM

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You've never heard of CD singles? Granted, they're not as popular as they used to be, but you can still find them.

My impression is that CD singles were always like $5 (and up) and not really priced at the same ratio to full albums as 45s were.

#32 of 67 OFFLINE   MarkHastings

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Posted May 06 2003 - 04:25 AM

I remember CD singles used to only be $3 tops, but then they started adding additional tracks (i.e. 4 different dance mixes of the same song) which bumped the price up. I think the CD single would have done better if they just sold you the one version of the song for a few bucks.

This is probably dating myself, but does anyone remember the stores that had the service where you could make a mixed-tape of a bunch of songs? I forget exactly how it worked (and I never did it because I never had the cash), but for like $10 or $15 bucks, you picked out 10 songs and they'd make a cassette for you.

My point is, the idea of selling single songs is nothing new. Hopefully (if Apples service gains momentum) it won't harm the industry. I think most bands can only benefit from it.

There are a lot of bands that I want to get into to, but I'm not about to buy an entire CD for the chance that I might like them. The idea of purchasing/downloading a few songs and then eventually buying the whole album or CD is great! Posted Image


p.s. And the whole concept of "A Full Album" is pretty much lost on me (and most others) because I rip all my CD's to my MP3 player and the order becomes obsolete. Just like anything, bands are going to have to adapt to this ideology and break free from the "Album" concept.

#33 of 67 OFFLINE   Brian-W

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Posted May 06 2003 - 04:27 AM

I've purchased quite a few songs the other day from Apple for my iPod. I'm happy to drop $1 for songs I like vs. $8-$18 for a CD with one or two songs (even a used CD).

Yep, it ain't uncompressed PCM, nor is it SACD/DVD-A, but for traveling (and in the car), it's more than adequate.
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#34 of 67 OFFLINE   Lee Scoggins

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Posted May 06 2003 - 05:15 AM

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Depending on the nature of the artist, it can take months to years to make a great record, and limiting any financial support to after the product is at market would mean even longer development times, and a high probability it never gets to market at all. If the artist is worried about supporting themselves during this development, their focus is not going to be on the music.


It does not take more than weeks for the first album from a new artist. I know because I have worked on a few. You are thinking Jeff under the current mindset where there is a lot of overproducing. In any event, banks would lend to the artist if that artist was supported by the label. In fact, the label could use its credit rating to guarantee the loan. Maybe they get some extra equity for that. Maybe the label would give them a stipend for expenses incurred (hotel, meals, transportation) while in the studio and waiting for the release proceeds.

I have worked in the industry and the fact is that most record advances are completely blown. The costs of recording are often miniscule versus the advance some young stars receive. I am just saying we need to restore some sanity and give them some advance but not the millions of dollars (or hundreds of thousands) some now receive. If they are established, then many entertainment banks will lend against it.

Remember, David Bowie essentially did a deal in the structured finance market where he got an advance of future royaltees from his catalog.

The other point is that artists need an "equity stake" in what they produce. Psychically this creates a connection and meaning with their work output and restores some control. They also should not have to play the time and energy consuming shell game of record label accounting where all sorts of unethical expenses and manipulations are conducted. The simpler, the better, the fairer. Posted Image

This should also lead to lower music prices since the financial cost accounting will be more accurate and profits will be divided up after the disc sells.
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#35 of 67 OFFLINE   Patrick Larkin

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Posted May 06 2003 - 06:05 AM

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Really? I haven't seen that yet. Can you site some examples?
I've seen several incomplete albums but I have yet to see an example of them listing songs that can only be purchased by buying the whole album.

Camp - yes this is true. Look at Steely Dan - Aja. You can only get tracks Aja and Deacon Blues by buying the album. They have to do that if they still want $9.99 for the whole album or else one would just download all 7 tracks for $6.93.

#36 of 67 OFFLINE   Patrick Larkin

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Posted May 06 2003 - 06:13 AM

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As for Apple's service, I think $9.99 is way too high for an album. Chances are the album will have fewer than ten songs, chances are even greater that all ten songs won't be desirable, and chances are 100% that the sound quality will be inferior to CD. And with no artwork, etc.


Its not 9.99 across the board. In some cases, you pay $9.99 for an album of 7 songs (Steely Dan - Aja) but you could also pay $8.91 for 9 tracks (Steely Dan - Royal Scam). In other cases, you could pay $9.99 for 20 tracks (They Might Be Giants - John Henry).

Plus, who's going to download a whole album if not all tracks are "desireable?" I only download whole albums because I like everything the artist does.

#37 of 67 OFFLINE   Neil Weinstock

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Posted May 06 2003 - 06:19 AM

Some comments on all this stuff.

First, regarding the notion that Apple's new service signals that MP3's (well, AAC in Apple's case) are the future: This has already been well-established, as far as I'm concerned. Apple didn't just suddenly invent the concept. Their goal is simply to establish a legal means for people to pursue this (and therefore funnel money into both theirs and the labels' pockets), as opposed to the rampant piracy on the peer-to-peer networks. Admittedly, offering a very nice service (which it is) may suddenly legitimize it for all the masses who didn't participate in the P2P services, but it was happening one way or another.

Second, regarding the notion of the album vs. the song: this is something I worry about as well. Here's a quote from the Apple story:

Quote:
More than half the songs were purchased and downloaded as albums, allaying concerns by some that selling music on a per- track basis would hurt album sales, Apple said.

That's reassuring on one hand, but on the other, it may be a side effect of the fact that most of the initial buyers grew up on albums, but as we move to the future those who grow up on services like this won't think so much in terms of "the album".

The store does seem to at least be aware of the album concept. If you look at Rush's "A Farewell to Kings", you'll find all six tracks available on the store. However, the two longest tracks, "Xanadu" and "Cygnus X-1" are not purchasable on their own, but only as part of the whole album for $9.99. That makes pretty good sense to me. One would imagine something like "Close to the Edge" being handled similarly, with (probably) all three tracks only available as part of the whole album, which'll be $9.99 (it's not available yet, just speculating.) So the store doesn't reduce music purely to a collection of singles.

I'm a little confused about when people talk about an album only having two songs they want. How do they know until they buy the album and listen? I sure can't tell which songs I like best until I've listened for a while. For me, if I were to use the service a lot, I would: (a) buy in album form the albums I would otherwise typically buy in the store, and (b) buy singles of songs I like but know that no way would I want the album. I would not normally buy CD singles for $3-$5, but I would pay $.99 for downloads of an assortment of (for instance) old 70's or 80's singles that I remember from growing up, and would like to have.

Finally, I don't know if it will happen or not, but this kind of service should elevate the EP as a viable form. If an artists wants to put out a 5-song suite, this is a perfect way to do it. No need to be constrained to 60-minute chunks, which works well enough but really is artificial.

I don't know exactly where this is all going to end up, but it should be interesting. I'm not buying the doomsday predictions just yet.

#38 of 67 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted May 06 2003 - 06:20 AM

I'll make myself extra popular with this post Posted Image.

1) Getting rid of the "album concept" isn't a good idea. Many artists take great care to place certain tracks in a particular order to obtain a cohesive or story-like feel to their album. Why would one mix up the order of an album's tracks anyway--is this a result of using an MP3 encoder?

2) Paying for one track at a time does seems like a good idea (though 99 cents per track seems too high for me: no disc, no case, no artwork, no lyrics?). I realize not everyone likes EVERY track on every album but I think this is another reason freebie (i.e. illegal) downloads are popular. In the past someone would have to buy the entire CD just for that song--sucky, but at least the artist would get paid for his/her work. Nowadays I wonder how much this happens anymore.

I'll say this: if the record companies ever drop the prices of CD's to a regular everyday price of $10 (LP's average price in 1983: $8) and illegal downloading continues at the same pace I will then believe a lot of people are simply common thieves. So many say they download to "teach the recording industry a lesson" but if they continue when music is only ten bucks (for a disc that essentially lasts a lifetime) then they are simply two-faced jerks & all their clever rationalizing is just a cover for their shallowness & selfishness. That may sound all high and mighty, but there was no way I could phrase this so it sounded "nice"--some things are just plain wrong and can't be sugarcoated.

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#39 of 67 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted May 06 2003 - 06:33 AM

Neil: your point about the 2 songs bothers me too. Much of the best music on an album is stuff that radio stations DON'T play because it's too long or too "deep" for a commercial station to make money from. But the thing is, many of my favorite songs ARE those types of songs.

I think many people are unknowingly cheating themselves out of a lot of great music.

LJ

#40 of 67 OFFLINE   Neil Weinstock

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Posted May 06 2003 - 06:46 AM

LanceJ wrote:
Quote:
1) Getting rid of the "album concept" isn't a good idea. Many artists take great care to place certain tracks in a particular order to obtain a cohesive or story-like feel to their album. Why would one mix up the order of an album's tracks anyway--is this a result of using an MP3 encoder?

Well, once the album is ripped and stored on your computer or MP3 player, you can rearrange the tracks however you want. This is something people already do. The order of tracks on an album is generally preserved, but what people like to do is make their own playlists, and with an MP3 library it's easy to do so, drawing from your entire music library.

Quote:
2) Paying for one track at a time does seems like a good idea (though 99 cents per track seems too high for me: no disc, no case, no artwork, no lyrics?).

You do get cover art, and hopefully liner notes and such will be added later on (I'm sure they're working on it.) As far as the disc and case: many folks only use them to rip the tracks onto their computer, and if they do use discs, it's ones they've burned themselves with custom playlists on them. It costs an extra 50 cents or so to burn your own disc if you really want it. The quality will unfortunately be below that of a purchased redbook disc.

Quote:
I think many people are unknowingly cheating themselves out of a lot of great music.

I agree, but this is already true. At least this kind of service gives you the ability to try out new artists inexpensively by buying a track or two, then you can choose whether to dive in and buy whole albums. I'm normally reluctant to blow $12 on an album by a band I've never heard, but if I can invest smaller chunks to experiment I might be more inclined to do so.


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