Weekly AUDIO NEWS for July 23, 2003

Competitor to Apple’s iMusic Store Folds - The huge success of Apple’s 99-cent-per-track online service has zapped new live into the digital music sector. But one similar service proved no match for Apple’s OSX-only service. Rioport by Ecast, which provided a 99-cent service for online retailers such as Sam Goody and Best Buy, announced that the level of financial commitment to market an online music store was too high to make financial sense for them. And although iTunes/iMusic seems to be the answer to everything pop recording artists were asking for, there is a group boycotting the Apple store. Led by heavy-metal band Metallica (who earlier were at center of the anti-Napster movement), one of their prime complaints is that they don’t want users to download just favorite single tracks, but their entire albums. Interestingly, 46% of the tracks purchased at iMusic in the first five weeks have been complete albums.

Major Changes in the Way Music is Sold - A recent chart at showed major differences in the way music was sold in the 1970s vs. how it is sold today. Some highlights: THEN: Between only 7000 and 8000 new releases a year. Records perceived as a bargain by consumers. LPs and singles rule; cassettes just breaking (in the case of 8-tracks, literally). For non-music entertainment there were movies, sports and recreation, radio, limited TV, books, nightclubs. The Sony Walkman didn’t arrive til the 80s so music wasn’t very portable yet. There were four major categories of pop music: pop, jazz/blues, country and rock. Making records was an expensive and drawn-out project. Most record labels believed in supporting artists over a series of albums, developing them slowly over time. Music was recognized as art, not as just a “product.”

NOW: 38,000+ CDs released in 2003. CDs felt too expensive when you only get one or two songs you like. LPs haven’t gone away but are a minuscule market - only 5% combined with cassettes; now we have CDs, DVD-As, SACDs, videotapes, DVD-Vs, video games, MP3 and AAC files. In addition to the entertainment choices of yore, we now have computers, the Internet, unlimited satellite TV and radio, all sorts of wireless gadgets and home theater with equal surround sound to the theaters. Digital advances now provide music everywhere, and streaming music is easily available on the Net. Making records is now greatly simplified and less expensive; just about anyone can put out a CD now (though getting it distributed is another matter). The four categories of pop music are expanded to hundreds of sub-categories and mixes - all harder than ever to define. Art now takes a back seat to marketing and the focus is on “product.”

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