Here’s a prediction: Years from now, historians will point to the late spring of 2010 as the time when physical sales of music entered the terminal stage of its illness. Here’s why.
Album sales collapsed catastrophically in May. For the week ending May 30, only 4,984,000 albums were sold in all of America. That’s new releases AND catalogue titles sold by everyone from Wal-Mart on down. It’s estimated that sales haven’t sucked this much since sometime in the 1970s. Compare that to the good ol’ days of December 2000 when 45.4 million albums moved out of stores in a single week.
It’s been a perfect storm, really. A lack of major releases combined with increasing interest in a la carte digital sales (i.e. a preference to buy individual songs rather than full albums) has created a negative vector. Add in the ever-present boogieman of illegal downloading and we have fewer and fewer people buying music on CD. Even the reborn vinyl craze can’t help.
And although we may see seasonal spikes in physical album sales for a few years, there are other things conspiring to kill off the CD.
Improved streaming services to mobile devices: With the introduction of multi-tasking in version 4.0 of the iPhone/iPad software this week, it’ll soon be possible to listen to services like Pandora (well, for Americans, anyway) or radio tuner apps (at least we can do that) in the background while doing something else.
Online services that allow you to store music on your device: Spotify, Slacker and the new Rdio (brought to you by the same people who gave us Skype and Kazaa) now allow subscribers to cache music. That means users can listen to songs without having to connect to the Internet. Too bad Canadians are still being shut out of this technology.
Music consumption habits of young people: There’s an entire generation that has built their media lives around computers, MP3 players and smartphones. Technology makes it possible for them to access virtually any song anytime they want it from wherever they are. Why do they need to physically possess the music?
New media centres in automobiles: If you want to see the future of your dashboard, look at the A/V options being offered in the 2011 Audi A8. Wow.
The times, they are a-changin’.
The Ongoing History Of New Music can be heard on stations across Canada. Read more
at ongoinghistory.com and exploremusic.com