I’ve recently spent an abnormal amount of time browsing the iTunes store. An artist I’m working with did an exclusive pre-release with the digital music retailer, so I’ve been scouring the iTunes charts several times daily. The album happened to be classified as Pop. I started to notice how many of the top Pop singles were priced at $1.29 instead of the traditional $0.99, and it reminded me that back in April, iTunes unveiled its variable pricing structure. Although I do purchase most of my music from iTunes, evidently I’m not probing the store for Katy Perry or Black Eyed Peas because if I had I would have been outraged in April, not July.
Now the original plan that iTunes unveiled months prior to April’s launch included a $0.69 price option for older songs, $0.99 for standard songs and $1.29 for top tier songs. They tried to spin it that this variable pricing was actually a cost benefit to the consumer. I dare you to try and find a song on there for $0.69 because I couldn’t. I know Steve Jobs and Apple tried to stay strong on the $0.99 prices for all music, and I commend them for that. But the major labels twisted their arms enough, and they finally caved. Shame on them. What makes Linkin Park and Lady GaGa more valuable than Metric or even Miles Davis? It’s art and every person has different taste. What makes them think people should pay more for one artist than another? If one artist is more popular, then he/she will sell more tracks and generate more money for iTunes and the record label. Simple as that. This is art, and because of the digital era, you can purchase this art a million times over at the exact same quality. I understand an original Picasso being priced higher, but that’s because there’s only one. If you buy the first mp3 of the new Linkin Park song, it has the same quality and value as the 1,000,000th track purchased. And don’t try to play the supply and demand card. The supply is unlimited when it’s in digital form, and there are no manufacturing or shipping costs involved. The cost of putting one song on iTunes that sells one copy is the same as putting one song on iTunes that sells a million copies. The way I see it, music is art and everyone has a different taste. iTunes shouldn’t tell us which songs have more value than others -- the sales and the consumers will decide that.
The other and more important issue is why are the major record labels trying to cash in this quarter on digital sales? With the economy the way it is, and more importantly the record business the way it is, we need a long term solution. Music is going digital, and it's inevitable that most music transactions (and I use the term loosely) will be done on the internet. However, it will be sometime in the future before the industry can sufficiently run on digital sales alone. CD sales are on the decline, but unfortunately the rise in digital sales isn’t enough to compensate yet. Most new releases are selling in the neighborhood of 30% digital, 70% physical. We’re in a phase where we still need to teach consumers to purchase music online.
It is common knowledge that the music industry is hurting because not only has it not adapted to changes in consumer behavior, but it has resisted it all together. Slowly things are changing, due largely in part to iTunes. We’re finally making progress with more digital sales than ever. So I ask, why on earth are you trying to mess with this!? Consumers are slowly changing to iTunes and Amazon to purchase music. The industry has had to work to convince people to purchase music for $0.99 in iTunes instead of downloading it for free elsewhere. Now we’re going to raise it 30% this early in the game? As mentioned before record labels can make more money from digital sales because there are fewer costs associated with distributing the music. Why get greedy and raise the prices this early in the model? What they’ve seen is fewer sales, as you can imagine. They may be generating slightly more revenue this quarter, but over the long haul, we’re still trying to bring people over to the digital world. Why scare them away so early? Are the major labels really still concerned with the bottom line this quarter? Is there anybody in this music business that is looking ahead to the future? Is there any record executive that has the balls to make a decision that might hurt their bottom line for 2009, but save their company in 2012? Apparently not.
Music has the very unique ability to transcend generations, cultures, and continents. And none have done so with the success that The Beatles have. Beginning in late 1963 and extending through today The Beatles made a mark on history like no other. No band has ever had the success, cultural impact or musical longevity that The Beatles have garnered. Their ability to attract and captivate audiences for so long is beyond incomparable. It makes you wonder if there will ever be a band like The Beatles ever again. Simply put, the answer is no.
Today’s culture of clicks and fads has no capacity for an overwhelming trend like The Beatles. They were trendsetters in every sense of the word; with their music, their style and their persona. Obviously, there have been huge artists before and since the Beatles. Artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson have had unbelievable success and comparable album sales. But I don’t believe that they reach the wide appeal like The Beatles. On their first ever trip to the United States , The Beatles were sent away by thousands of cheering fans at Heathrow Airport in London and greeted by a comparable crowd of thousands at JFK in New York . Sure, there are plenty of people out there obsessed with celebrities, but there’s no musical act today as sought after as The Beatles were.
I often like to think about which bands of my generation will be considered Classic Rock at some point. Bands like Fall Out Boy probably won’t be around in 10 years, and even the Backstreet Boys are already an afterthought. I like to think artists like John Mayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, maybe even Eminem, have the ability to impact future generations because of their longevity and originality. Their music has appealed to large demographics and they have proven their musical endurance. I think today’s culture is so finicky that artists have a tough time staying around for even two or three albums. With record sales going down hill, the ability for artists to maintain popularity is becoming harder and harder. Perhaps the music of the 60’s and 70’s will die off with its generation and each decade will bring us new music to fall in love with, overplay, and discard just as quickly. Hopefully that’s not the case and we’ll have plenty of solid artists around to tell our kids and grandkids about.
Unlike many artists of the past, The Beatles have proven their withstanding ability and shown that they can outlast social fads. Thirty years removed from their final release, The Beatles were able to sell over 3 million records world-wide in the first week of releasing the compilation of hits simply titled “1”. Keep in mind all of these songs were featured on previous releases throughout the 1960’s, including thirteen of their albums selling more than 2 million copies in the US alone. Today, The Beatles “1” album has sold over 11 million copies in the US . To prolong their supremacy in the 21st century, The Beatles have been involved in two other fresh new releases in the last couple years. Released in November of 2006, the “fifth Beatle”, producer Sir George Martin, rises from the grave to produce and remix the new album “Love” (he’s not really dead, just old). This amazing album features 26 tracks like you’ve never heard The Beatles before. They’re a fresh take on an old favorite and I think have the ability to win over a new generation of Beatles fans. In addition, the feature film “Across the Universe” hit theatres nationwide and captivated audiences young and old. Director Julia Taymor helped create a musical story line using The Beatles catalogue. The result was a film unlike any other, one that I personally enjoyed from start to finish. There may be other bands that could create a wonderful soundtrack to a musical, but none with the success and brilliance that The Beatles did. I strongly suggest you pick up the “Across The Universe” DVD (in stores now) and album “Love” and enjoy over and over like I do.
With all that being said, I was not old enough to truly experience Beatle-mania. And in actuality, I didn’t really get in to The Beatles until I was around nineteen or twenty. But since then, I have realized the magnitude of what this band has done and have come to love and appreciate their music. If you have not given yourself the opportunity to fall in the love with The Beatles catalogue, please do so. For the younger crowd: Although the production value and ‘hipness’ of the songs may suit your current taste, give them a chance. The Beatles have delved into and experimented with so many different genres and styles that you’re bound to find an album or collection of songs that fascinate you. It is impossible to intelligently deny their impact on music today as they truly are one of the most progressive bands ever (believe it or not). The Beatles have created some of the most well crafted pop rock songs in history. They’re simplistic at times, complex at times, but always undeniably good. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, just most.
On February 5th, Jack Johnson released his 5th album “Sleep Through The Static.” The album had an impressive debut, selling just shy of 375,000 albums in the first week and landing atop Billboard’s 200 chart. It also did well here as the #1 sold album in Sacramento for 2 weeks in a row. But more importantly, for the music industry at least, Jack Johnson’s new album set the record for most digital albums sold in a week, with nearly 140,000 downloads, and had the highest percentage of digital downloads of any #1 album (37%).
It’s no secret that the music industry has been in trouble of late, and probably less of a secret that the internet is becoming more a part of our lives than ever. So it’s no surprise that buying music online is the wave of the future. Digital downloads have been on the rise and CD sales on the decline. According to Billboard, Digital albums have increased 35% so far this year, compared to this time last year. But unfortunately, the rise of digital and fall of CD haven’t been equal, and as everyone knows overall music sales have been on a continuous decline over the past few years.
So, as a person involved in the music industry, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear people are really starting to BUY music online. In addition to the great sales Jack Johnson’s new album has garnered, other albums like the soundtrack for the movie “Juno” have been a big hit online as well. As of February 10th, the soundtrack for “Juno” had sold over 360,000 copies according to Neilson SoundScan, 51% of which were digital downloads. It is very uncommon for artists today (or albums) to sell more digital than physical, especially for the highest selling albums. Other albums at the top of the charts, like Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and Alicia Keys’ “As I Am,” haven’t faired as well digitally, selling only 17% and 5% respectively. It appears these numbers could be reflective of the demographic, but in Juno and Jack Johnson’s case, it’s great to see the online community actually paying for their music.
Personally, I’m archaic and prefer buying the actual CD but obviously that is no longer the trend. I don’t get the same feeling when downloading an album as I do racing to the store to pick up a CD that just released. For some reason getting the artwork and actual CD in hand is a lot more rewarding to me than typing in my credit card info and clicking download. It’s almost easy to see why so many people would prefer to click download from a file sharing network versus iTunes. There’s little incentive (other than not breaking the law) to pay for music online. So to see people going out of their way to purchase new albums online is wonderful news.
What does this mean for you? It means you should buy music, whether it be CDs or digital downloads. If it is CDs, I’d buy them up quick because a new report from Forrester Research says that digital music sales will surpass CD sales in 5 years (no shit). For no other reason, buy CDs because before we know it they will be collectables and you can sell them on eBay. This swing in digital sales may or may not save the music industry but as far as I’m concerned, anything different than the current model is a change in the right direction because obviously something isn’t working. Happy downloading.
In a time where payola has taken over the radio waves and radio stations play what the majors want you to hear, the internet has surfaced as our saving grace... right? Wrong. It was only a matter of time until the brilliant idea of music on the Internet became just another marketing tool discussed in the major record labels marketing meetings. In a lot of ways, the Internet is great for music. Hundreds of thousands of bands and artists can put their music on the Internet and share it with the world. Bands who have never toured and some, who have never even played a show, can become an international success. The Internet has done wonders for many bands, projecting some into major label record deals & radio play. Some of these songwriters have never even entered a real studio, but lay down tracks onto their family’s iMac and post them on websites like Myspace and Purevolume (the 21st century versions of FM radio).
But there comes a time, like today, when these gateways to success (as well as gateways for the listeners to new music) become flooded. They become so flooded, that as a listener, it’s a burden to take the time to filter through all of the bands to find something new and fresh that you like. Like radio once was, the Internet can be an amazing tool to discover new music and share new bands with friends. Originally, unlike radio, the Internet offered a level playing field that offered smaller, even unsigned bands, the opportunity to audition their music to the masses. An opportunity for the listener to CHOOSE what they want to listen to through their speakers. Instead, like with commercial radio, the bands with the most presence get the most attention. Bands with label backing are able to get the prime spots on the front page of Purevolume or the top of the music page at Mypace.com. As quickly as it came, the ability for unsigned new artists to become independently successful has gone. What once was a free medium of exchange and exposure is now a pay-per-click business model that allows the biggest pockets the greatest reward. Though the listeners have a choice of what they want to listen to online, they really don't. They can search and find bands they love, but there still lies the inability to discover new music from bands on a level playing field. There will always be the "indie" crowd who knows where to find and discover new music. There’s the music online communities, such as AbsolutePunk.net where music fans share new artists with each other and discuss new up and coming bands. But there will also always be the "normal" crowd who is forced to sift through friend requests to discover new music... or simply check out the band on the front of Purevolume.com whose record label shelled out hundreds of dollars or more a day for that prime spot… or the label who paid MySpace thousands to have their band featured on music page.
Just compiled this list... tough to do but i think these are currently my top 10 albums of all time in no particular order:
John Mayer "Continuum"
The Beatles "Love"
Something Corporate "North"
Jimmy Eat World "Bleed American"
Fleetwood Mac "Rumours"
Incubus "Make Yourself"
U2 "Joshua Tree"
Third Eye Blind "Third Eye Blind"