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Music sales slide

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~Music sales slide despite RIAA's crushing blows against piracy, Or because of them?~

By Ashlee Vance in Mountain View
Published Saturday 31st December 2005 22:24 GMT

Opinion 2005 proved one thing. The music industry really is as dumb as you think.

US CD sales in 2005 fell 3.5 per cent year-over-year, according to Nielsen Soundscan. That's quite a blow given that CD sales actually rose by 2.3 per cent in 2004. A sane person might suggest that higher energy costs throughout 2005 ate up a few of those sales or that pricey iPods left less cash to spend on albums. This logic escapes the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA), which again attributes the fall in sales to piracy and which last year attributed the rise in sales to better anti-piracy measures.

So which is it? Are the RIAA's anti-piracy measures affecting sales or not?

Well, in 2005, the RIAA filed 7,000 more lawsuits against consumers - bringing the all-time total to more than 16,000. Along with the movie crew, it also managed to shutdown many of the most popular BitTorrent hubs. In addition, the US Supreme Court handed the RIAA a convenient decision against Grokster that holds P2P sites liable for their users' actions. Last but not least, the Down Under version of the RIAA convinced a court to clamp down on Kazaa.

All in all, 2005 marked a banner year for quashing CD piracy in the courts and on the internet. You'd think sales would gave gone up once again, if you buy into the RIAA's way of thinking.

While P2P networks still thrive, they're mostly full of porn and mangled media. No one in their right mind or at least with a day job would sit there trying to pull down these tunes when they can buy a perfect album at the store. Similarly, movies take forever to download and come out looking pretty shite for the most part. The P2P networks - not that they were ever that great - aren't what they used to be, if hunting for music is your main goal.

Given all this, it would seem like the RIAA has the piracy fiends by their song-swapping balls. If they don't, then what's the next course of action?

Well, there aren't many sites left to shut down. In fact, without major media hubs to go after, the music publishers are now reaching to examine sites that post lyrics to songs. (We've bought many a song after lyric hunting, but that's surely because we're odd, totally unique, not mainstream creatures.) Along with the evil lyric mongers, consumers will likely be targeted by another 10,000 or so lawsuits in 2006. Then the RIAA can wait for the year-end data and say either that its war on piracy really boosted sales or that piracy continues to undermine the very fabric of the creative process, and this pattern will continue until the music industry enjoys a protracted boom.

Sadly, the RIAA's current line of thinking and method of operation prohibits such a boom.

Without question, the lawsuits against children, parents and grandparents don't help the music industry's public relations campaign. Nor do advertisements portraying download-happy consumers as criminals. It is wrong to grab this music without compensating artists. That's clear. What isn't clear is if suing thousands of people a year to prove a point is a punishment that fits the crime or a strategy worth pursuing.


Posted : 02/01/2006 12:32 pm
Posts: 8184
Illustrious Member

They will never be able to get down piracy...sometimes i feel piracy is a necessary evil.

It just keeps telling the RIAA and the artists to produce good albums with less of fillers so that people are encouraged to buy the CD. (eg. American Idiot by Green day :D)

Posted : 02/01/2006 12:49 pm
Posts: 179
Estimable Member

I'm not sure where this fits in here but I live in a city of 120,000 or so and have an area wide population over five million.I'm an hour and a half from Toronto(gas thing)and it drives me nuts that the music stores are full of cds that I think the music companies are forcing bands/singers to do one hit cds for kids.I end up ordering through HMV because they don't even have a small blues section(I wont put a credit card number online)The new Stones cd won't play on the computer which I think is a huge insult and they're not the only ones doing it.The peer to peers I have used to see if I like artists such as Joe Bonnamasa,Chris Duarte etc. but only one or two songs.They are cluttered with crap as you say(and viruses).I do try to use sights like to research but as good as they are in rating bands they don't have sound clips.
I found out I like the above mentioned artists and others,I have all of Tools cds, all of Dream Theatres cds etc. due to the fact i found they're music on Limewire.I have over two thousand cds in my collection and maybe 40 or so are from the net and they're mixed cds not all one artist.I would have wasted a ton of money at the store if I'd just walked in and bought bands like Mars Volta because they're not to my taste.
Well that's just my rant and I do think they're biting the hand that feeds them.


Posted : 02/01/2006 1:07 pm
Posts: 815
Prominent Member

Just my 2 cents, but when I can buy 3 good DVD movies for the price of one new CD there is something really wrong with the recording industry. What's the point of buying a CD if you can't listen to it on your computer. I don't want to endup with a crippled computer just because the recording industry and RIAA believe I'm going to make a copy of the CD.

I laugh at the FBI anti-piracy warning on CDs too. Doesn't the FBI have more important things to worry about *cough* terrorism.

I haven't bought a CD in over a year now. I think I'll stick to garage sales and pawnshops if I buy any for now on. Unless you're a local artist I would buy your CD at full price.

"If I had a time machine, I'd go back and tell me to practise that bloody guitar!" -Vic Lewis

Everything is 42..... again.

Posted : 02/01/2006 10:41 pm
Posts: 50
Trusted Member

I'd be curious to know if online (legal MP3) sales are included in those numbers or not. I'm sure I'm not alone in purchasing music online these days. Does that count as a CD sale? What about everyone out there that only buys 1 or 2 tracks from an album, does that count too?

Posted : 03/01/2006 6:11 pm
Posts: 50
Trusted Member

delete me - posted against wrong thread.

Posted : 03/01/2006 6:13 pm
Posts: 4921
Illustrious Member

Interesting, but an incomplete story :)

First off, Nielsen Soundscan is one of two services that provide daily sales figures to subscribers, getting data uploaded by retailers. Not all retailers, mind you, but enough so their data can be used as intended - to estimate sales of one album, and specifically to see how one album is doing against another - in other words, whether your marketing program is working, or if you should be tweaking it. A story printed on December 31 is using this estimated data for the year.

Actual sales numbers take several more days, since Nielsen doesn't reach all stores. Nielsen reports those too, gathered from distributors - those numbers aren't released yet (I'd posted an incorrect link earlier... actual sales figures are due out tomorrow). Soundscan comes from only 14,000 retail stores.

On top of that, there's ANOTHER part of the story - legal downloads. Those are up a bit... that is, a bit over 151% from a year ago. The equivalent of more than 26 million more albums sold - an increase of 16 million albums from last year.

Download data is interesting in another way, too. 80% of downloads are single-song, rather than entire albums. So what we're really seeing is the slow death of the B side. And the slow decline of CDs, as they go the way of the 8-track, the 78, and the 45.

It doesn't seem like music sales are truly hurting. They're winning in court, too... today's local paper has the story of a woman who fought the $3500 download fee the RIAA had sought. Her defense was that she only sampled the songs, then went out and bought the CDs she liked.

The judge found that since she didn't delete the ones she didn't like from her computer, there was no merit to her defense - she stole those songs. Instead of the $3500 the RIAA sought, he ordered her to pay $22,500. He compared her actions to a shoplifter taking CDs from a store to listen to, with the intent of paying for the ones she liked later on.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL

Posted : 03/01/2006 7:00 pm
Posts: 179
Estimable Member

So my question is,I wonder if the money she paid out went to the musicians?
Oh I do know better than that!


Posted : 05/01/2006 11:25 am
Posts: 50
Trusted Member

Great info will be interesting to see where the music industry goes with this one. Is the death of the physical media upon us? The other thought is with all the savings in pressing CDs, shipping them, store markups, etc. etc. will the cost of just getting a digical copy be less than a physical copy for the end consumer (ie ME)?

The other great news at least for me is that many artists can now post their songs cheaply and easily. With the spread of broadband services many more listeners can DL the music and enjoy music that would never be available at the local record shop!

Posted : 05/01/2006 11:43 am
Posts: 1468
Noble Member

there's a site called which is something like all music, but they have clips. don't believe they rate the music though. you tell them what you like and they find music suggestions that they think you'd like.

Posted : 05/01/2006 8:22 pm
Posts: 126
Estimable Member

Unfortunately, I think the music industry is shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to the legal downloads. Everything is loaded with DRM (digital rights management) that only lets you transfer or burn music that you legally purchased a set number of times. I just can't stomach all of the so called "controls" that are a detriment to the consumer but do nothing to stop piracy.

"My ex-boyfriend can't tell me I've sold out, because he's in a cult, and he's not allowed to talk to me." --Dar Williams

Posted : 06/01/2006 1:46 am
Posts: 50
Trusted Member

Exactly Olive (btw, nice avitar). I've got some legally purchased stuff that I can no longer play on any other machine than one of my PC's. Not sure why but it opens a web browser page that states I've already loaded it on 10 machines? In any event someone needs to come up with a may to allow the consumer to purchase music and move it without violating copyrights, etc. Seems to me that the DRM isn't cutting it.

Posted : 06/01/2006 12:33 pm
Posts: 5349
Illustrious Member

Fishkep: Just copy the audio into another stereo track and save it without license. :D

Posted : 06/01/2006 12:41 pm