Are CDs dead?

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Reel
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Are CDs dead?

Post by Reel » Sun Aug 27, 2006 3:32 pm

I've had this discussion with many friends of mine who are also musicians or who are in bands.

I don't know how things are where you live, but where I live everyone seems to agree that CDs just don't sell anymore. You may be able to sell half a dozen at a gig, but that's about it.

I've even had friends tell me that they're not going to bother paying all the money to have a CD professionally manufactured, since they know they will never sell them all. Many acts I talk to nowadays are only selling their stuff as "download only".

So, I did have copies made of my last album, and I am finding it rather hard to sell them. I find you have to be very agressive.

Does anybody have any tips on selling CDs? Also, what does everybody think of the CD medium as a whole....do you think it really is dead? I'm curious to hear people's thoughts on this.

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Post by Roboburger » Sun Aug 27, 2006 7:36 pm

I would say the demand-supply rule applies here.

If you are a local band, why make a shitpile more supply than there is demand for? Do a simple self mastering job, (or inexpensive mastering job) just have 100 copies burnt, and if you start selling them well and you are playing out of town and expanding your base, then have the album properly mastered and properly pressed. The hunderd folks who have the originals will crow about how they were there back when, and probably buy the remastered version.

In this day and age, I see that people are more impressed by percieved greater output. If I was a working local band that had an album recorded - say 12 songs, I would have four songs burned on a hundred 3 1/2" CDs, which are cute. six months later I would do the next four, and then six months later the next four. Each time bugging the local press for coverage about the latest EP. If interest goes way up, then you will probably have the ability to record them album again under better circumstances for a label, or you could then have the three EPS made into one real CD...

The CD isn't dead, the method of marketing has to change. Bands shouldn't rely upon the concept of recording a whole album (expensive) and pressing a huge supply (expensive) until it becomes financially feasable (as in "Someone else is paying for it!). Think of it this way- at one time, Pizzarias only sold whole pies to people who dined in the restuarunt. new marketing ideas cam along, like selling just slices to go, or delivery. It didn't kill the Dine In Pizza, but that market did shrink as the other markets grew...

Bands should be recording a few songs at a time, and releasing often, either on the website or through burned CDs at shows. Cheaper to do, and it keeps a bands name in the press, it's easier to create little sparks of demand often than it is to create a giant single demand.
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Post by Reel » Sun Aug 27, 2006 9:12 pm

Thanks for the response.

I think alot of this too is a regional issue. I hate to say it, but I get the very clear feeling that folks in my hometown can be very cheap. I've done a fair amount of touring, and I find it's usually no problem to sell discs in cities A, B or C, but every time you play city D, you hardly sell one copy (my hometown is city D, I think). And I'm not just calling my hometown cheap either, there are other cities where I've played where trying to sell CDs is like pulling teeth. And when I talk to other bands who have played that city, they say the same thing.

I'm not sure if I would say that the CD is dead, but when you think about the massive popularity of MP3 players and people getting their music exclusively through downloads, well, I don't think it's as popular as it was 7 or 8 years ago. Think about how many people you know who use CD walkmans, and compare that to how many people you know who use MP3 players/iPods/etc.

I've had so many people say "you have to sell over the internet". Of course, I totally understand that. But I find that even if you have done a fair amount of touring, there's still going to be loads of people out there on the internet who have never heard of you. I just find the internet is so incredibly flooded with thousands of bands, the competition is fierce, and trying to sell your CD can be painfully difficult.

Again, if anyone has tips on how to really make your CD sell, I'd love to hear them.

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Post by Professor » Sun Aug 27, 2006 10:57 pm

Funny thing is, I was telling bands this 5 or 6 years ago.
Not that I was remarkably insightful or anything, but I simply did the math which is something many bands don't do.

Consider that you're playing gigs at venues where you maybe get about 100 people or better still 100 couples/groups through the door. They are out at the bars to drink, meet friends, chase girls or whatever and they have a finite amount of money. If you're lucky (and agressive), you might sell a disc to 5% of the crowd which would mean about 5 discs. That's actually a really great show when you think about it.
Then I would tell the band that if they sell 5 discs per show, or maybe even double that and they sell 10 at every show, then they need to play 200 shows (for 5) or 100 shows (for 10 ea.) before they sell the whole 1000 discs.
Then I ask them how many shows they play each week.
If you figure one show per week, and 52 weeks per year, it would take 2 years to move that 1000 discs.

That was actually part of a sales pitch as well, since I did short-run duplication as well as recording. I told the band to "test market" 100 discs, and if they sold in a wekk with hundreds of people clamoring for more, then they could order the 1000 from someone else. But if it took 6 months to move the first 100 then they should probably just call me for another 50.

I can't really say that things have changed in that respect, though I suppose it is quite likely that things have become even worse since downloading & the iPod have so thoroughly changed the consumption of music in most places.
None-the-less, I still see lots of bands who feel they need a full-length album available for sale at their second gig, and I know that has a lot to do with it. And indeed, there is also saturation from the musicians themselves. If I go out two nights a week to a place that has a "headline" band and an opener, then I'm browsing through at least 4 full-length discs and I'm certainly not going to buy all of them, if I'd even be interested in any of them.

The best solution is to get out and play more shows, get your name recognized, and get the things marketed somewhere where people can find them even when you're not playing (and they're not drunk, or trying to get drunk with the money you're trying to take away from them.)

-Jeremy

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Post by Professor » Sun Aug 27, 2006 11:00 pm

Oh yeah, that's not to say that nobody can do it. I had an Irish bagpipe band as a client and they could move discs like nobody else. They would tear through about 100 in a weekend. Of course, they were a lot of folks playing specialty music at Irish pubs, festivals, parades, etc. and they would have the cute girls up front for some hard-shoe dancing, and then point the drunk guys over to the girls to buy CDs. A very efficient & effective process, though difficult to replicate with an average band parading their girlfriends out front. ;)

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Post by ubertar » Mon Aug 28, 2006 7:19 am

OTOH, pressing 1000 discs doesn't mean you need to sell 1000 to break even, unless you're doing something very, very wrong. The fact that you're on here probably means you're recording it yourself, which keeps your costs down, so we're mostly talking duplication cost, plus mastering if you go that route. It's been a long time since I've pressed any cds, so I don't know what prices are these days, but for the sake of argument lets say 1000 discs costs about $3000. If you sell them for $10 a pop, you need to sell 300 to break even. If you sell them for $5, you need to sell 600. Back when I had a group with cds to sell, we sold them for $10, and it took a year or so to break even.

Bear in mind that not every cd you press is for sale-- you'll be giving a lot away for radio, reviews and to clubs to get more gigs, so you have to have more discs than you plan on selling.

That's just the business side-- more importantly, why are you doing this? If you have all this music that you want to document and get heard by people, and you can afford to press cds, press the cds. And do it in the way that most satisfies you, not what you calculate to be the best selling strategy. If a group of songs are meant to go together and in a certain order, it doesn't make sense to split them up onto little EPs. But maybe your music lends itself to a short format, and then that's the way to go. Do what's right for yourself and the music. Otherwise wtf are you in this for? Anyone who becomes a musician to make money is a fool. What you want to avoid is digging yourself into a hole. It's better to have a day job and make music you love on your own terms than chase some manufactured rock and roll dream. Welcome to the machine...
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Post by Roman Sokal » Thu Aug 31, 2006 12:06 am

i consider the 16 bit cd format to be near-dead. besides the obvious, like higer-res files etc coming out, my main complaint is cds take up way too much space!!!
its all going to end up 'virtual' i believe...given the whole ipod revolution and such...it'll all shift from a physical storage hassle to a memory chip hassle! (but worth it)

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Post by farside » Thu Aug 31, 2006 12:40 am

It's not dead, but the prices need to come WAY down real soon. Like they were supposed to 20 years ago.

If I could buy a CD for $7 or $8 ...I'd buy a lot more of them. Instead the industry's answer to downloading is to RAISE prices. makes no sense.

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Post by Rob Christensen » Thu Aug 31, 2006 6:58 am

farside wrote:It's not dead, but the prices need to come WAY down real soon. Like they were supposed to 20 years ago.

If I could buy a CD for $7 or $8 ...I'd buy a lot more of them.
I agree with you and would love to see CDs come down. The movie industry is doing things right with cheap DVDs.

That said, I price my little micro-label CDs at $5.99 each, yet I do far more business on iTunes at 99 cents a song. I would've thought that the cheap CDs would entice more people to take a chance and buy, but in my case it seems they'd rather pay almost double per song to download.

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Post by joelpatterson » Thu Aug 31, 2006 7:36 am

Definitely, small scale production of CDs is the key.

Or, scratch that--creating a hunger for whatever you've got on your CD is the real key, and that usually revolves around dazzling musicianship, winning personality, and catchy songs.

I look at people who order 1000 CDs from some big plant kind of in the same way I look at bands who think they need to go into a "proper" studio with every bell, whistle and lounge with a pool table to make their recording. These people are missing it: the whole thrust of the digital revolution is to bring all these procedures down to a personal scale. No one needs a million dollars of equipment anymore to make a state-of-the-art recording.

And you don't need a record plant to duplicate discs anymore, either. You can do that with a laptop. If you've got a color printer connected to that laptop, and a cutting board nearby, and a Staples somewhere in your vicinity, you can do all the labels and artwork yourself, and it will fool all the people all the time.

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Post by LeedyGuy » Thu Aug 31, 2006 4:23 pm

I buy CDs a lot. It's dumb...you can get just about anything you want thats not totally under the radar for real cheap at www.allofmp3.com . I listen to a lot of jazz and when you get mp3s of jazz, it doesnt tell you who is on them. so sometimes, i like to find certain performers and put on a CD of them playing and interacting which i need the liner notes for. but goddamn all those CDs take up a lot of room. not to mention the fact that i've ripped most of them and theyre taking up a lot of digital room as well!

but as far as buying CDs from bands that i see out in the clubs and all that, i rarely ever do. when i was in a band that was trying to move 1000, we had a tough time doing so and we used some pretty agressive tactics out in the crowd after the show. we would ask people to buy for $10 and then lower it to about 8 during the conversation and then try to offer them 2 for 1 at $10. They usually bought them then. make it fun. tell them that if they hate it and we suck, they can give it to their worst enemy. send random hot girls out there to sell them. that works sometimes. people see right through the hot girlfriend as salesman thing. too bad!

i DO make sure though that if i have friends who put out a CD i BUY it and not try to get it for free because we're "friends". that sucks. friends should be the first people lining up to buy the CDs and should NOT be trying to get them for free. when we hit the street with our first 1000 we made sure that we made our friends buy it and they were totally cool with doing that.
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Post by trodden » Thu Aug 31, 2006 4:51 pm

interesting.

I'm glad that we are not footing the bill for our next release but a really rad label ran but a nice person is. He'll do the work to push it as well. Our last release we did 1000 cd's and like maybe 600 12", i'm not sure on the numbers for the 12" actually, the label that put that out was acting sketchy at times, we think there may have been more pressed without our knowledge.. BUT, i think we sold out of the 12" in a matter of a year while it took a good 4 years to get rid of 1000 cd's. granted a good 300 cd's were stashed in a closet and forgotten for a few years, we may have gotten rid of them all faster if that had not happened.

When i get home tonight, hopefully 1,000 double gatefold LP's will be sitting in my house, ready to be hand numbered and by October we'll receive our percentage of 1,000 cd's. We'll see what happens this time.

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Post by philbo » Thu Aug 31, 2006 9:10 pm

In terms of distributing my music, I give it away. Why not? Who's going to come pounding on my door telling me I'm screwing myself by doing so? More to the point, who's going to hear my music if I don't? I'm pretty sure the answer is nobody.

For listening music:
Personally, I don't like storing the damn things. It's just too much hassle to sort, catalog, keep track of, and just FIND one that I'm looking for. I have more than enough clutter in my life already, thanks...

Every time I get a CD, I rip it, then give it away. All my listening music lives on hard drives. At home, I listen in the studio.
When I want to take music to work, I use a memory stick and play it on my work PC. For the car, I use an MP3 CD (about 15 albums worth, typically, using 192K, with VBR up to 320K).
Or just tune in Public Radio or the local jazz station.
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Post by MASSIVE Mastering » Thu Aug 31, 2006 10:50 pm

What are these "C-D's" of which you speak?

Kidding, kidding... Yeah, 24-bit would be nice. MP3's can eat me.

Otherwise, if it weren't for the wars going on for level, I think 16-bit can sound awfully nice if done properly...
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Post by chris harris » Fri Sep 01, 2006 7:03 am

kentothink wrote:I buy CDs a lot. It's dumb...you can get just about anything you want thats not totally under the radar for real cheap at www.allofmp3.com . I listen to a lot of jazz and when you get mp3s of jazz, it doesnt tell you who is on them. so sometimes, i like to find certain performers and put on a CD of them playing and interacting which i need the liner notes for. but goddamn all those CDs take up a lot of room. not to mention the fact that i've ripped most of them and theyre taking up a lot of digital room as well!

but as far as buying CDs from bands that i see out in the clubs and all that, i rarely ever do. when i was in a band that was trying to move 1000, we had a tough time doing so and we used some pretty agressive tactics out in the crowd after the show. we would ask people to buy for $10 and then lower it to about 8 during the conversation and then try to offer them 2 for 1 at $10. They usually bought them then. make it fun. tell them that if they hate it and we suck, they can give it to their worst enemy. send random hot girls out there to sell them. that works sometimes. people see right through the hot girlfriend as salesman thing. too bad!

i DO make sure though that if i have friends who put out a CD i BUY it and not try to get it for free because we're "friends". that sucks. friends should be the first people lining up to buy the CDs and should NOT be trying to get them for free. when we hit the street with our first 1000 we made sure that we made our friends buy it and they were totally cool with doing that.
I hate to have to point this out, but, you are an ethical trainwreck.
allofmp3.com, huh? what do you know about that place? it might make you feel better to pay $0.10 for an mp3. But, when all of those 10 cents goes into some russian dude's pockets, and he has no legitimate right to claim compensation for those songs, that's even worse than "sharing" with your friends at some p2p network. Some guy who had nothing to do with those songs is selling them to you really cheap and the artist and label don't see a penny of it. buying stolen goods is no better than stealing them yourself.

So, you'll "buy" music from some shyster who has no right to sell them... but, you "rarely ever" buy cds from bands out on the road busting their ass to try to get from town to town and entertain you?!?! You've even been there before, trying to hustle cds at shows, and you still prefer to buy from some overseas thief, rather than helping a band out while they're on the road?!?!

And, honestly, if you've got to make your friends pay for your cd, then you've probably got no business pressing 1000 copies to begin with.

thanks for an amazingly candid insight into your shady ways.

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