April 28, 2008

How do you buy music?

Or do you buy music at all? Actually this is not meant to be a survey of any kind, but more like I need getting this off my chest. CD sales are dwindling and the music industry is having severe problems – or at least, so we are told. However I’m one of the loyal soldiers still fighting the war from trenches, so once or twice every week I visit my local CD store, to see if anything interesting has arrived. And I read newspapers, reviews etc. and somewhere in my brain I store all the important release dates.
For years the pattern has been like this and the normal procedure was that on Mondays I read the reviews in the papers at work, and then hurried to the CD store after work, to pick up the weeks’ important releases. The system worked and if I was really lucky, it happened a few times that I was able to get the releases a few days before the official release date, because the parcels had already arrived (to make sure that everything was ready for Monday morning).
However the past few years things have slowly (and recently more rapidly) changed in an unpleasant direction. I still read the reviews and I continue to spend a shitload of money on those shinny things, but frustratingly it has become increasingly difficult to buy the music at the time of its release. Instead I often have to wait 3-4 days, before the new releases arrive at the shop/in my mailbox. Why has it become like this? Several reasons probably, but one thing I hear again and again is, that orders have to reach a certain size before they can be shipped, so instead of receiving parcels every day, the store only get them once/twice a week.
And with sales dropping the stores certainly don’t want to burn their fingers on stuff they cannot sell, so obviously they want to risk as little as possible, refraining from ordering any new releases by minor artists (meaning that I have to ask them to order it for me). I certainly don’t blame them for this very business like approach. Especially when you take the size of our city into consideration, where the number of music nerds like yours truly is fairly limited.
As an alternative I’ve tried ordering new releases online, naively hoping that they will ship the CD’s Friday/Saturday, so they’ll be in my mailbox Monday morning. Unfortunately this switch of strategy has proved to be equally unsuccessful (they don’t ship anything before Monday morning, and with the awful service Post Danmark is providing, it easily takes the same 3 or 4 days, before I’ll have the pleasure of listening to anything), so I’ve gone back to supporting the local store.

As a final comment, I know digital downloads will eliminate this problem once and for all, but I still want the CD's as the physical evidence that I’ve actually purchased something (back to that good old “is music tangible or intangible” discussion).


Soren said...

It's been 4 years since I bought my last CD. My decision to move away from physical media was sped up by the fact that I live in a part of the world where it is close to impossible to buy music from the artists that I like.

Around the same time I had the younger brother of a friend rip all my 1000+ CDs once and for all. I now have my entire catalog online and can pipe the music to every room in my home as well as transfer it to my iPod. I am quite happy with this solution and can not imagine going back to physical media, even if I still choose to burn CDs to listen to in my car.

I did talk to the other guys from Frekvens about the same thing and they all feel like you, they all prefer to buy the CD and have the tangible evidence of their music.

Anders said...

I have bought a ”digital album” two or three times, but it just doesn’t do it for me. In my opinion, it’s still too expensive, it feels like such a cheap product, and I really don’t have a problem with illegal downloads anyway (for trying out new music.)

With that being said, I often download the album illegally, listen to it a few times, and then forget about it or go buy the CD.

The really good record stores are expensive and far between so I usually buy my CDs online.

I think my buying habits look like this:

Illegal downloads: 25%
Record stores: 25%
Online: 50%

However, the CD format feels sort of outdated and I fear its days are numbered.

Retroboy86 said...

True enough: The days of the CD are numbered, but until you can't get any - I'll keep buying them. I own over 5,000 REAL CD's.

Personally, I think the variable kps rate is what has me refraining from switching to digital downloading. As a friend recently pointed out to me: "MP3's sound like shit on a nice home system!" While I could hardly disagree, I do know that many people download stuff at such a compressed rate that most of the instrumentation is crap - especially to the ears of a musician or fanatical music lover (like myself).

With very few exceptions, I don't pursue new releases like I used to. In the USA, probably 95% of everything that gets released comes out on a Tuesday. I have like than 5 artists whose music I "must have" on the day it's released (and in case you were curious as to who - Squeeze, The Cruxshadows, Marillion, Erasure and Storyhill). Then again, The Cruxshadows and Marillion are the last two artists whose stuff I purchased on release day.

I normally wait and look in used CD shops or via a seller on Amazon for what I want. I buy 80% or more of my music used - and basically I now almost have to to be able to own as much as I want. It's rare that I buy something really new in a store, but occasionally it happens - especially if the CD is at an $18.98 list price and on sale for like $9.99.

I applaud your efforts to get the latest CD's after doing your research, my friend. However, the music industry has been backasswards for years now and that has really hurt everyone. Minor bands are often on minor labels (<-- meaning the artist has created his own because he hasn't been signed), which is why there's quite often a delay in local shops receiving things.

SIGH! It's a viscious circle, ain't it?

CD buyers 'til the end, old friend!

Davenelli said...

Still love the look, feel and smell of an old fashioned disc.

the virtual world is fine for one or two tracks but for the album it has to be the real thing with sleeve notes and artwork.

I have the majority of my 2500 or so discs stored on an external drive but I still love review time when a bundle of new discs hits the door mat and I'm led in to the world of the unknown and sometimes unlistenable.

Whilst I accept that progress is inevitable it does seem a shame that the old fashioned independent record store is facing extinction. Where the hell are we music nerds going to hang out now?