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Columbia House: Another dinosaur falling to dust [Aug. 11th, 2015|10:55 am]
When I was a kid, every magazine had that little postcard-weight page with a hundred record albums listed, each with a tiny box in front of its title. "Get 12 albums for just a penny," it said at the top. I'd check off 12 albums on that Columbia House Records ad, daydreaming about how great it would be to own all this music. (My mother, wise woman that she was, absolutely forbid me from actually sending in the postcards.)

Now, Columbia House is on their way out. And for good reason. Selling music in the digital age is a completely different animal than it was back when I was a kid.

My goddaughter Carolyn does not own albums. She owns a computer, and it has a connection to YouTube. When she wants to listen to songs, she looks them up and plays the music video. The music is just there for her. Why would she spend money on it?

It's proving to be a challenge for the music industry. Meaghan Trainor had to cancel shows because of her vocal chords hemorrhaging. Hemorrhaging! Good grief! And she's not the only one. More artists are ending up with vocal nodules and other voice problems, because they're out on the road touring a lot more. I'm seeing my favorite a capella group Home Free for a third time in a year next month because they are on their third tour in 18 months.

Because that's where the money is. Album sales just aren't driving the industry anymore.

But exhausting our favorite singers can't be the final answer of how the music industry survives. I'll be interested to see what innovation artists will come up with, now that the big labels and distributors are no longer the answer.

[User Picture]From: stonehenge1121
2015-08-11 03:53 pm (UTC)
Actually, back in the day (40's-60's), singers and groups toured all the time (literally ALL THE TIME). Record companies & labels make money off the albums, bands, singers and support make their money off of shows and merch. We're just reverting to a model where the artist can be better compensated for their labor.
The 'records make us money' model (iirc; I may be off bya bit) was put together by the business end of the system in the mid 60's ...its why the companies controlled so much by the 70's.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2015-08-11 07:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the insight!
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[User Picture]From: bart_calendar
2015-08-12 09:32 am (UTC)

This is why for a long time metal bands actually made more money than popular top 40 acts - because metal bands were very good at creating fandoms that wanted their merchaindise. (This is also why metal T-shirts have always been better than other music T-shirts.)

The records make us money model can be traced back to when The Beatles stopped touring while at the same time demanding more sales royalties and The Stones were also demanding more record royalties (which made the record companies worry that the Stones would stop touring as well.)
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[User Picture]From: ba1126
2015-08-11 04:03 pm (UTC)
I remember when singers made money by having a TV show (Dinah Shore, Perry Como,etc.) or being on someone else's show (Ed Sullivan,Bandstand,etc.)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2015-08-11 07:04 pm (UTC)
Ah, the good old day of variety shows. I remember them well, and still miss them.
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[User Picture]From: funwithrage
2015-08-11 04:09 pm (UTC)
I buy songs--mp3s, not albums or anything generally--mostly because of playlists and device portability. I suspect that might be more of a thing for adults: looking up each individual song is fine until you want a two-hour list you can just start when you drive.

But otherwise, yeah: more emphasis on single songs and on touring/live shows, I suspect.
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[User Picture]From: jarodrussell
2015-08-11 04:35 pm (UTC)
Musical guilds?

Edited at 2015-08-11 04:35 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: chess
2015-08-12 09:28 am (UTC)
Patreon and Kickstarter seem to be usable to support new music creation once you have an established fanbase or if you have a hook to draw people in?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2015-08-12 02:20 pm (UTC)
True. I am a Patreon supporter of Home Free.
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[User Picture]From: aiela
2015-08-12 02:53 pm (UTC)
The only time I buy physical cds anymore is when indie artists are touring and won't sell me download codes. (I'd rather they sell me download codes.)

I do buy music, tho, because I don't want to have to look stuff up. I want to open up my phone and tell it to play something, and have it there. But I tend to listen to music 9 hours a day (8 hours at work, two 30-minute commutes.)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2015-08-12 03:05 pm (UTC)
I can't work with music on. I have tried....
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From: anonymousalex
2015-08-13 12:36 am (UTC)
For the record (pun intended), Columbia House and its competitor BMG made a lot of their money because your monthly choices were "opt out." With enough badgering, they would actually let you have an "opt in" subscription, which gave you the breathing room to buy only their sale items. Total cost of a subscription, as I recall, could easily be squeezed down to $3-4 per CD.

I also discovered that if you are on opt in and don't make a selection for long enough, they'll just stop trying, in spite of your contract to buy X more.

I'm old.

On a similar note, I just don't know that the economics of a music service makes much sense—given that I am old and don't listen to a lot of new music. Sure, I've spent a couple grand on CDs over the years, but if I'd been paying $10/month for the last three decades, that would have been $3,600 and I would now own nothing.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2015-08-14 04:23 pm (UTC)
It never would have occurred to me to try and be opt in. Fascinating.
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From: anonymousalex
2015-08-15 04:21 am (UTC)
I can't recall how I discovered this, and obviously it's a moot point now.

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