Death of music retail -- or a reincarnation?

"Looks to me like the record companies are making out like bandits"

By Letters to the Editor

Published June 2, 2000 7:34PM (EDT)

The death of music retail as we know it? BY ERIC BOEHLERT (05/30/00)

The market can only support what consumers are willing to pay, right? For years, we (the consumers) have been complaining to the record industry that CDs are getting more expensive, that they shouldn't cost so much and that we'd like more customized recording options. I don't give a damn about business models, I didn't want to keep getting ripped off. Now we have a competitive solution. Had they only responded to our needs a few years ago, I might actually feel guilty about getting my product for free now.

It's not too late. Throw in some liner notes and cover art. I'd be willing to shell out five bucks for your CD.

-- E. Harris

The argument that "blank cassettes didn't gut the music industry, so Napster and CD-Rs won't either" is specious and stupid. I've participated in tape trees on the Net and through zines for a long time, but that's an entirely different beast. Napster and its clones put an unlimited supply of songs in a place where anyone in the world can get them immediately. No postage, no waiting, no bother. People don't normally trade widely-available songs through tape trees; the trees exist for fans to share obscure, usually unreleased material.

'N Sync can support their gel habit through T-shirt, poster and sticker sales. How are Sleater-Kinney supposed to feed themselves when their "biggest fans" are giving away the music? The smallest musicians have the most to lose.

You think the music scene sucks now? Just wait and see how much worse it can get.

-- Derek Donovan

There are obvious problems in taxing CD-Rs. It will screw the honest people who use CD-Rs for legitimate purposes like computer back-ups. Copying will probably increase, rather than decrease -- "Hey, I've already paid for it!" And the money goes to "copyright holders," i.e. the record companies. How will they know what is being copied? This will generate a big pool of cash that will get divided up according to politics. Prime opportunity for corruption.

The real solution is for the record companies to drop the price of a CD to something reasonable. At $9 for a CD, I suspect that copying would drop to those people who will steal everything just because they can, rather than those who really want the music. But I'm not holding my breath.

Topic for a future story -- where does that $16 for a CD really go? Manufacturing is less than $1. Retailer profit is $2.15, according to the story. Looks to me like the record companies are making out like bandits.

-- Steve Smith

Two words in response to this article and to all the whining going on in the recording industry: market efficiency. The record companies have, for years, kept the prices of compact discs artificially high and refused to pass on the savings of improved technology and economies of scale to the consumer.

I understand the concern of artists about being compensated for their work. I think it's wrong for people to copy their music without paying for it. In spite of all the flowery rhetoric from musicians about the integrity of their art, it comes down to one thing: money. Unfortunately, they are directing their efforts at the wrong group.

If the recording artist community had half a brain, they'd realize that they don't need the record companies to the extent they once did. The primary benefit to the artist is access to the distribution networks of the record companies. The Internet and conduits like Napster remove the record companies from the equation, and so remove a huge portion of the cost of music to consumers. The answer for the artist community is a Napster-like distribution network through which they would get compensated. Even at half of today's retail price for a CD, artists could make vastly more money by cutting out the record companies for the distribution that they no longer need. Basically, the consumer could pay less and get much, much more. It's only a matter of time before this happens and it's really up to the artists themselves whether they control their own destiny or if they're going to remain indentured servants to the record business.

-- Stephen Bozeman

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