Music: March 2007 Archives

Music Industry in Decline

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A couple of really interesting stories to come out of America recently regarding the state of the music industry.

First up was the report that in the US, CD sales dropped by 20% in the last year. That's an awful lot. In real money, it's a decline from 112 million CDs to 89 millions.

A couple of things to note about this headline - being widely touted. First of all it's for the first couple of months or so of this year compared to last that are being measured. That's important because obviously if big-selling albums appeared in February 2006 but not this February, then the comparison's not really valid. I'd prefer to see stats that compare rolling 12 month periods.

What is clear from the Nielsen information is that more "Music Purchase Decisions" are being made in America than before, with 288 million individual digital tracks being purchased this year compared with 242 million at the same time last year.

What it means is that people are buying more frequently, but they're buying tracks and not albums. This is a theme picked up upon in a piece in the New York Times.

Now this is the situation in the US, and while it might be indicative of what is, or will be happening in the UK, I think it's fair to assume that we won't be far behind.

The UK market is struggling, and I think the music industry itself must take some of the blame. In the high street, top forty fare has undoubtedly dropped in price over the past year, with price points as low as £6.73 for new albums in Tesco, and the same albums being sold for under ten pounds in HMV and Virgin Megastores.

I don't have the figures to back this assertion up (I'm not giving the BPI fifty quid for a year old handbook to find out), but undoubtedly a much greater proportion of music is sold through supermarkets, and they're obviously being supplied on very good terms to be able to offer such deep discounting.

It's only fair, then, that the high street retailers fight back against both them and the online world where consumers can either buy digitally or from retailers like Amazon, Play or CD Wow.

So that cuts margins on the big-sellers.

But then the problem is that anything outside the most popular albums retail at more standard £14.99 and upwards which suddenly makes them appear expensive.

But the big change is that people are buying tracks and not albums.

Of course, I always think it's a mistake to consider music sales in isolation. The chances are that the money you're spending on music could equally be spent on a DVD, a computer game, a book or a few drinks in the pub. They're all "leisure activities" and we only have a finite amount of time and money to spend on them. Growth in one tends to mean a decline in another.

It's worth noting that my local HMV has handed over more space to DVDs at the cost of CD shelf space. And in the Oxford Street flagship branch, DVDs squeezed computer games from the first floor down to the ground floor - again costing pop/rock music shelf space.

Personally, I still prefer an album to a single, but then I'm in a shrinking minority in preferring most of my music to be at least purchased on some kind of physical medium, even if I'm likely to listen to it on an mp3 player.

Cowboy Junkies

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Cowboy Junkies

I missed the Cowboy Junkies when they visited in January, so I had to catch this very acoustic set at the Union Chapel in Islington earlier this evening.

The Union Chapel itself is an octagonal auditorium dominated by a massive pulpit and is still used as a church. As the event was unreserved seating, and I didn't get there all that early, I was upstairs in a pew on the balcony.

As I mentioned, the set was acoustic with just Margo and Michael Timmins, accompanied by Jeff Bird. They played a full set spanning everything from The Trinity Session through some of my favourites from the likes of The Caution Horses, and played some tracks from their forthcoming new album At the End of Paths Taken.

All in all a very enjoyable evening.

The Police

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So the "exciting" news today is that The Police, who recently reformed for the Grammys, are touring the UK this autumn. I have no real desire to either see them or not see them, but I am very interested in their ticket prices.

First of all, I understand that tickets at Twickenham will cost £107 each. I can't confirm that price at the moment, since Ticketmaster doesn't have London ticket details up yet on their website. (See update below).

They do have Manchester ticket details up where the range is from £40-£85. Cheaper, but not exactly standardly priced. As a comparison, seating at Muse at Wembley Stadium is between £37.50 and £42.50. Not quite the same as The Police admittedly, but a big stadium concert nonetheless.

Anyway, back to Messrs Sting, Copeland and Summer. Tickets to their concerts go on sale on Friday, but members of the The Police Tour Fan Club can buy their tickets tomorrow. What do you mean you're not a member? Very helpfully, Ticketmaster lets you pay for your membership to the club at the same time as you buy your tickets for a further £53.

What do you get for your cash, apart from the opportunity to empty your bank account even earlier, and ensure a good five month's interest for the tour's promoters? Well, assuming it's the same as the US version of the club you get the following:

  • Priority ticketing before the general public
  • Access to Message Boards including the Members-only sections (Oooh)
  • Exclusive Police photos and videos (They mean online don't they?)
  • Members-only discount to Police Online store (More opportunities to hand over cash)
  • Membership Premium: Commemorative Lithograph with band replica signatures* (*Lithographs with band's actual signatures will be randomly given out to new members) (This seems to be the only physical benefits of membership - no magazines, no fan club shows, etc)

No wonder touring is more profitable than releasing actual records.

It's only right that I should point out that "a portion of the proceeds from this tour will be donated to WaterAid." We don't know what proportion this is, which is a shame because we could make it more cash by completing a Gift Aid form to enable the charity to claim back our tax. Maybe you get that option when you book your tickets through Ticketmaster? Maybe not...

[UPDATE] Looking at Ticketmaster for the Twickenham gig, tickets range in price from £45-£90. Although the £45 tickets are in either the upper tier or the back of the middle tier. Anything half decent is between £70 and £90. Add a £9 service charge and a £2.75 postage charge and you're there. Well not quite £107, but very close for the best price tickets.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Music category from March 2007.

Music: February 2007 is the previous archive.

Music: April 2007 is the next archive.

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