Posted 26 February 2009 - 05:12 PM
I have posted a long reply on the Australian Macworld blog, so I won't do it again here but will try to summary my position.
Most of the post are talking about the superior quality of the cd compare to compressed files, other rightly suggest that changes in habits are more likely to have an influence on the sale's number of cds. I don't think quality is such an important factor, otherwise the sacd would have been more of a success, as well as audio dvd (let's see what will happen for the blue-ray) ? I don't like audio dvd, because I find annoying to have to go through a video menu to listen to music and I like the fact that sacd can still be played on regular cd players?
but let's go back to the matter, maybe this lack of concern for quality is explained by a lack of music education, or because people spend more time in front of their computer so its easier to listen to music on their computer rather than on their stereo. Some people listen to music as they would look at a painting, as a work of art, an aesthetic experience, others are plugged constantly to their headphones to master their sonic environment. Habits, perception, faculty to differentiate between the quality of cds and mp3 are great topics for researchers in music psychology, but music is an industry and the diminution of cds sales is perhaps more a consequence of the industry's behaviour.
I don't know about the situation in USA but in France (where I lived) and in Australia (where I live now), independent retailers have disappeared, faster than before in the last few years because cd sales are down, but that was a disappearance that started years ago when chains of retailers specialised in cultural goods started to dominate the market, and supermarkets started to sell music and books as they were selling carrots and donuts. As the majority of the music market is made by consumers of mainstream music (this is not a judgement of value, you could find Suzanne Vega, as well as Prince, Britney Spears, Anthony Braxton and Pierre Boulez in my collection, I have eclectic taste), small retailers lost their clients, those who made their business possible. Now that digital sales are increasing, you will certainly see in the future HMV, Tower, FNAC in France or Virgin closing down or selling more DVD and technological goods.
The consequences are that not only the cd market shrinks but also is the catalogue. There are less references sold online, as well as there are less references sold by big cultural goods retailers. An Australian example, Birdland a retailer specialised in jazz in Sydney, has decided recently to go online exclusively, not because the business wasn't successful but because the sales couldn't meet the rent increase. I guess jazz fan will follow, but not all of them, particularly the older ones. Music is a business but it is also our cultural heritage. The music industry failed to understand that, they claimed to have released their back-catalogue, but it's false, and when they will decide to stop producing cds, they certainly won't digitise and put online albums they haven't released in cd before. Why would they? they never did.
I don't think the cd is dead yet, because there is still a market for that. And I will still buy cd, and sacd, and Lps until it won't be possible, because quality is important to me, because I like the physical support and the art work that goes with it and because I can buy it at the end of a concert and many other reasons. There are many ways to enjoy music, and we should have the possibility to get it in the format that suits each one of us. The market will shrink and physical support for music will become a niche market, but paradoxically the web is a chance for those niche market to keep going, and for us to enjoy the music that we won't be able to find in local stores anymore.
finally this post is quite long too : ) , and sorry for my clumsy English.