Friday, January 2, 2009

They Try Selling CDs?

In what has become a new tedious holiday tradition, the music industry is whining over declining CD sales:

[T]he money made online is still far from enough to make up for losses in physical sales. Despite the growth of online music sales, CDs remain by far the most popular format, although that hold is slipping; 361 million CDs were sold in 2008, down almost 20 percent from the previous year. About 84 percent of all album purchases were CDs, down from 90 percent the year before.
I read this lugubrious account and then paid a visit to the nearest Borders store, where I found the following:
  • Three CDs by Zero 7, not one of which was priced below $16.
  • Several CDs by R.E.M. and U2 -- powerhouses of the music industry, right? -- none of which were priced below $12. They wanted $12 for R.E.M.'s Green, which is a not-very-good R.E.M. album. And they wanted $17 for R.E.M.'s Around the Sun, which is a terrible R.E.M. album. U2's Under a Blood Red Sky was selling for $12 -- it's a great album, but it's also very short and very old.
  • It's not as great nor as old as Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home from 1965, which was $13.
  • Radiohead's The Bends was $19.
  • Stereolab's Chemical Chords was $19, and I'm sad to say Chemical Chords is not very good as Stereolab albums go. There were two or three other Stereolab albums for sale, but nothing under $13.
  • Not one album by Sonic Youth for less than $12.
  • CDs by Norah Jones were $16 and up.
  • The big shelf of new releases had several CDs with big red SALES stickers on them. SALE, you say? $15.
Note that none of the prices cited apply to any sort of deluxe, remastered, enhanced or otherwise putatively tarted-up editions of the recordings. These were just run-of-the-mill, basic, everyday CDs. Tarted-up editions were in the $20-$35 range.

Just as the NY Times story relates, none of the cited items were flying off the shelves there at Borders, and I have an admittedly crazy theory as to why: because these prices are too high.

I don't claim to know all the details of the cost structure associated with CDs, but these prices don't strike me as reasonable, nor do they strike me as the outcome of a serious effort to move the merchandise.


Laura said...

Maybe the government can come in and bail them out.

Dale said...

Oh Laura. Don't even say that! You'll give them ideas!