Excellent piece about the music industry’s dealings regarding the demise of the CD. There is also a podcast after the jump in case you would rather listen to it.
Before MP3, there was the music CD. (Note to younger Neatorama readers: ask your parents about it. It’s those shiny round discs that look just like DVDs.)
Remember those? And remember why you don’t buy them anymore? Well, the music industry would like to attribute demise of the music CD sales to the rise of digital music format and so on, but what is the real reason?
This interesting report over at NPR All Things Considered explains the rise and fall of the music CD. Turns out, it’s all about greed:
… At first, executives at the major record labels didn’t like the new format. But they started to come around — thanks in large part to Jac Holzman, […]
“The CD was sexy. And it would bring higher prices — from about 8 dollars for cassettes or LPs at the end of the ’70s, to about $15 in the early ’80s,” Holzman says. “You could resell your best catalogue again. CDs were lighter and cheaper to ship, which is a big consideration.”
All of that meant giant profits for the music industry in the 1980s and ’90s. “The CD sold so well. And it created this gigantic boom in the industry,” says Steve Knopper, the author of Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age. “And everybody got rich. And people just got incredibly accustomed to this. To the point where in the late ’90s, the only way that you could get the one song that you liked was to buy the 15 to 18 dollar CD at the Tower Records.”
At first, Knopper says, people didn’t mind paying a lot for the new format. “You didn’t hear the outcry at the time of, ‘Hey, we’re getting price-gouged.’ Instead the public was going, ‘this is much better sound.’”
The record labels promised that the price of CDs would come down eventually. And the discs did get cheaper — to make. But the labels kept retail prices – and profits – high. Jac Holzman says that was a mistake.
“It’s fine to keep that up for two or three years. But the labels kept it up far too long. And I think it was a fraud on the public, and on the artists.”