Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Compact Disc Verses Digital

I read an interesting news item released today which reports that the American NPD's Consumer Tracking Of Consumers, aged 13 years and over in the USA, has released their findings on music buying habits. In the research, only physical Product and Digital Downloads not from Subscription Deals are included so this is looking at the war being waged by Compact Discs and Vinyl against the Internet driven Digital Downloads.

The Compact Disc represented 65% of all music purchases, the remaining 35% taken by the Digital Delivery System. Now that suggests at a glance that the CD is fighting back but the reality is that Digital Sales are increasing at between 15% and 20% while CD sales are falling by the same percentages, meaning in a year or two, both will hold 50% of the total music market.

Having been in the Industry (in New Zealand) a long time, I have a greater over-all view of things and I feel that the demise of the CD was a pre-determined fate. When Vinyl ruled, the Industry resisted the move from the 10" 78rpm Records to the then new, 7" 45rpm format. It took a very long time for the Industry to all be on the same page in relation to the disc size to use.

The Compact Disc, designed for Videos (DVD's) and increased Data Storage, was embraced by the Music Industry very rapidly. In New Zealand the change across the whole Industry was just one Weekend. Last week their released on Vinyl, the following Monday, all New Zealand Record Companies issued all new titles on CD and Cassette Tapes only.

Now look at the Industry's views and resistance to the Digital Format. They hate it, they are still fighting it and yet they ensured it's arrival by switching from Vinyl to CD. A CD could be placed in a Computer and copied, a Vinyl Record could not. Of course now there are Turntables with USB Plugs readily available at a reasonable price.

Instead of fighting it, the Music Industry should embrace it fully as it does have some excellent advantages like eliminating the need to manufacture thousands of Discs for unproven Artists. By signing a new Artist and recording them for Digital Delivery, the Companies can promote the Artist on the Internet and if, and when, the Song (Single) or Album reaches a pre-determined sales level, issue the Hard Copies, knowing the Artist is already known and liked by the General Publc and hence, the CD will sell well.

Imagine the cost saving for EMI alone who introduced a swag of new artists a few years ago to have just 13% actually succeed, saleswise. That's an 87% manufacturing cost savings per year.

Personally, I hope EMI are successful with their return to Vinyl as it really is the best medium for music. The frequency range of sound is far greater, adding warmth, depth and 'colour' to the recording. The frequency range of a CD is almost half that of Vinyl so what you get is a cold, lifeless but clinically perfect performance. The simplest way to experience the difference is listen to the same recording on the two mediums, the CD first, then the Vinyl.

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