Music is more than pieces of plastic

By Ed Shane



CD sales suck.


When the weekly SoundScan numbers circulate in our office, it seems the totals each week are more tepid than the week before.  (SoundScan measures CD purchases at the point of sale).


For one miserable week back in April, the Top 10 CDs, taken together, showed only 347,794 units sold.  That means the Top 10 combined wouldn’t qualify for a Gold record, since 500,000 is the threshold. 


The Top 10 that week included the soundtrack from Frozen; Pharrell Williams’ G I R L, with the once joyful, now annoying hit, “Happy”; and Luke Bryan’s Crash My Party.  Granted, all those releases are well into their sales lives and have each amassed well more than a million units each. 


Seriously?  Fewer than 350,000 units in the Top 10 in one week? 


It’s all too clear that the CD is no longer the center of the music universe. 


I don’t know how long I’ve said to my friends in the radio and records industries that little pieces of circular plastic are not the business. 


Music is the business; and music lovers want music easily accessible.  iTunes made it easy.  Apple’s now the leading music dealer in the world, and that’s hardly their core business.    


Take an artist like Granger Smith, wildly popular in Texas, but hardly a household name on the national scene.  Nonetheless, Granger has more than a million digital downloads during his career.  He was the number one independent country artist digitally in 2013 and still number one well into 2014 when I wrote this on the first of May. 


That’s just one example among the 25 billion downloads Apple reported at the iTunes store in February.  That’s an average of 15,000 songs downloaded each minute!


Vinyl’s making a comeback, too.   


During Record Store Day on April 19, lots of vinyl was sold, most in limited runs to make them special and, in some cases, rare.  The number one seller that day was Nirvana’s Pennyroyal Tea, although artists of all genres participated. 


Reports after Record Store Day showed one day sales of vinyl were up 91% over the previous week’s sales.  Compare that to 2013’s increase of 57% and 2012’s 26%


When TJ Broscoff introduced his latest CD The Break here at the Texas Music Chart offices, he also brought copies of the the project pressed in vinyl.  One is displayed in our Cluttered Corner performance and video space.    


TJ sells them at the merch table at his shows.  Very smart.  Physical manifestations of music are now fan souvenirs.  It’s as important for artists to have physical CDs at the merch table as it is to offer tee shirts, koozies and other tchotchkes. 


Vinyl is an added attraction and creates a premium sale.  


For example, for the June anniversary of the movie Jurassic Park, Austin’s Mondo will release a vinyl version of the original soundtrack.  A few of the packages will have Dilophosaurus-colored vinyl discs inserted by hand.  (The Dilophosaurus was the venom-spitter in the movie.)  Another 1,000 lps will be pressed on translucent amber vinyl.  None will be available in record stores, only at the Mondo gallery.       


While vinyl will never replace downloads—or CDs for that matter—it’s fun to watch the resurgence.


Ed Shane is publisher of Best In Texas Magazine and the Texas Music Chart





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Learn more at http://LiveLoudTexas.com and follow him on Twitter: @giovanni








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