Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Duff Thoughts: File Sharing Killed the Record Store

Popmatters' has an interesting article on how "Brick-and-Mortar Record Stores Are Trying to Get Their Groove Back," as they are being battered by the recession-depression-whatever you want to call it and continue to be shunned by a generation of kids (and ethically-challenged adults) who believe they're entitled to music (or movies) for free via illegal file sharing.

The drop in CD sales, which has been bemoaned since the rise of Napster in the late 90s, still has the power to shock when you look at the numbers:
"The music business is in a free fall. Sales of new albums have dropped more than 45 percent the last eight years. In 2000 consumers in the United States bought 785 million albums. In 2008 they bought 428 million.

In 2000 the 10 best-selling albums sold 60 million units. In 2008 that figure was 18.8 million."
Hmm...people still like music and everybody in the Western world seems to be walking around with an iPod. Have they simply stopped buying and listening to new music? Of course not, a few people buy the CDs and put them up on the file sharing sites for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other people to download for free.

(Perhaps we could somehow make it a patriotic duty for people to stop their habit of illegal file sharing and actually buy CDs again, so CD pressing plants, distributors, music publicists, and record stores, etc. could expand their payrolls and hire more people--kind of like a pop culture stimulus plan? Whaddaya think, President Obama?)

There is one tiny spot of sunshine in this music industry death watch:
"According to Nielsen SoundScan, sales of vinyl records nearly doubled nationwide in 2008, from just less than 1 million in 2007 to almost 1.9 million. More vinyl records were sold last year than in any year since SoundScan started tracking music sales in 1991.

That 1.9 million represents less than half of 1 percent of all the albums sold in 2008, but these days any upward trend in sales is going to be noticed and explored by both labels and record stores."
In the last two years, I've probably bought more vinyl than in the previous eight--largely because there is more of it being released, plus I'm from a generation of music fans that actually grew up with records (and cassettes!). Whatever the reasons are behind this micro-trend, I hope it continues and helps to save indie labels and mom-and-pop record stores from oblivion.

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Here is another interesting piece about the resurgence of vinyl and its impact on NYC record stores from AM New York.

5 comments:

musicobsession said...

i think people will have enough of file sharing deals.

Jeremy Toaster said...

While I was in NYC this weekend I bought 8 vinyl records and 2 cds...that doesn't include the vinyl records I won on eBay while I was away from home!
My thoughts behind buying records are really 2 main reasons. 1 being that, there are lots of songs that were put on 12inch singles and such that have never made it to cd or digital download form (for sale that is). So I want these special live, extended, dance, remix tunes for my own listening pleasure.
2, which relates to 1 a bit, there are entire albums and more that, again, have never made it to any other format, and knowing bands on a personal basis, I know that master reels and original tapes are some times lost for ever. Picking these items up on vinyl can, one day, possibly be the only way to ever hear that music again, and if a band ever wanted to release that into the digital world, then having a copy of it on vinyl is a great place to start with the restoration and preservation process.

Steve from Moon said...

Jeremy:

Thanks! What did you pick up in NYC and from where? (I'm nosy.)

Once you sort through all of your e-mail and crap, you'll see that I've ordered two LPs from Megalith because I love vinyl and I want those alternate Toasters tracks!

Back in me youth, I loved to track down and buy 12" re-mixes of tracks from my favorite bands. This is a pre-internet era joy that is lost in today's world.

Hey, Megalith should release a few re-mixes on like 10" vinyl from like RiceRokit or perhaps some rare/alternate tracks from The Toasters! (Hint, hint!) If anything from the NYCs comes through, that would be great, too!

Good point about how sometimes an LP is the only thing left to use as a master when re-releasing an older recording on CD. I have a bunch of CDs that were created this way (including some of the Japanese Rock-A-Shacka Prince Buster collections, which used cleaned-up vinyl singles as the masters, since the magnetic tapes were long gone).

Take care,

Steve

ReadJunk said...

Am I the only one that freakin' hates vinyl and glad there's other ways of listening to music than that? I could never find the right spot to get to the beginning of the song. And no, it doesn't sound better haha.

Steve from Moon said...

RJ:

Vinyl is not for everyone. I happen to have grown up with it--for most of high school we only had LPs and cassettes, and I didn't have a CD player until college, when they started to become affordable.

Don't get me wrong, I love CDs, I have an iPod and LPs have lots of shortcomings. But I like the warmth of sound that LPs capture, as well as how you have to really sit down and listen to music when you put on an LP--the music is central to what you are doing, not something in the background.

And we can work with you on how to properly place the needle on the record! ;-)

Later.

Steve