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The data is in, digital music single sales (single song purchases) are outpacing albums by 19:1. Buying music a la carte is killing the music business. Piracy is what the record industry is concerned with but they haven’t been paying close attention to one of the other big issues: how single song sales are diminishing artist loyalty.
“Only true fans are buying full albums,” is a smart quote by Vatana Shaw of the R&B Group Cherry Hill in the March 26 issue of the New York Times, which gets to the heart of the problem. Most albums have an array of work — some of it more commercial than the rest. Only after listening a number of times to an album are consumers able to get a full understanding of the artist and their art. That fuller appreciation turns into loyalty.
Single song sales create burn-out. There is only so long you can listen to a favorite song. (I ODed on strawberry shortcake as a kid and have rarely been back. The food, not the group. Please.) The record industry has to get listeners to experience the whole package or artist loyalty will tank. If that happens one and two hit wonders will abound.
The reason CD sales are down is because of iTunes and file sharing, but not for the reason you think. It’s logical to assume CD sales are down because of $.99 downloads and free file sharing, right? Wrong. CD sales are tanking because there is less loyalty to bands, stemming from consumers ability to buy or download single songs. Instead of listening to a whole album and learning to like the less commercial stuff, (listening to all of a band’s art, in other words) downloaders cherry pick the best songs, wear them out and get bored. Bored with the song, the band, and dare I say, even the live performance. This is problem the industry faces.
We have ADD in America. We need instant gratification and we want it NOW. It’s up to the artists to make us like their art. All of it. There are many ways to build loyalty, but selling songs one at a time, at a discount, is not one of them.