Thursday, December 20, 2007

How the Grinch Stole the Record Business

As 2008 approaches, I find myself thinking more and more about the fate of the music business, the fate of the physical Compact Disc, and the fate of Jazz as a viable national product.
These observations are personal, and just support and confirm the double-digit losses that record sales are once again showing compared to 2006:
-I went to Harvard Square in November while visiting family back east. Upon asking to see their music department, I was informed that they closed the whole CD and DVD department down 2 years ago - students were no longer buying music and movies. (It is too easy for them to download or "share" the music with their classmates.) In reality there is NO record store in Harvard Square. The only place carrying music is Newbury Comics, and that store has a very small supply.
-If you go into a "big box" store, like Best Buy, Circuit City or Target I think you will notice that the CD department is one of the loneliest places around. No shortage of elbow room
-The top selling albums of the year are... Josh Groban singing Christmas Carols, and "High School Musical". More proof that the music business is giving up on what was once the core demographic (teen - 30 year olds) and focusing on selling product to kids too young to know how to download, or parents too lazy to learn.
-Starbucks bought "Hear Music" a couple of years ago with the idea of integrating a record company that could allow people to burn their own CDs while they sipped lattes. Last week I visited the one free-standing "Hear Music" store in LA, located on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. The front third of the store had been converted into a Starbucks. The back 2/3 was still filled with listening stations and a very eclectic selection of music CDs - and virtually no people.
-In place of record stores in the Malls this year, you find coffee places, booksellers and Nordstrom (to name a few) selling the TOP 10 CDs as impulse buys right next to the cash register. Only big names (Dylan, Springsteen, Alicia Keyes) need apply.

About 5 years ago I predicted the death of record stores as we knew them. Little did I know I would have the timing down so closely.

So where does this leave people like you and me - people who like diversity in music, adventure, experimentation and great music of all kinds? There is always the internet - which can be a very big, lonely place at times.
More shall be revealed - I look forward to your comments