The Rapid Decline of CD Sales
I got the latest issue of Rolling Stone last week, but I'm only getting a chance to read it now. There's an interesting article about how January 2007 was the worst week for CD sales in SoundScan history. The Dreamgirls Soundtrack led the way by moving 66,355 units which would have placed it in twentieth place ten years ago when No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom shipped 250,842 units in a notoriously slow month for CD sales.
I'm sure digital music sales will offset this 67% decline over the past decade, but I'm positive digital sales aren't making up the difference. In 1997, if you wanted an album or a song, you bought it. The technically savvy might burn the disc from a friend, as we did in the previous decade when we dubbed cassette tapes, but most of us shelled out $20 for the CD. It's hard out there for a musician, especially those in the large tier beneath the likes of Justin Timberlake and Norah Jones. That has me thinking about my pal Custom.
Custom had a big hit back in 2002 with Hey Mister and he released an album called Fast. I actually heard Hey Mister this morning on CFNY Edge 102. Back in January 2005 I became fast friends with Custom after he came across our SLS discussion about Hey Mister. All my Custom-related entries are here if you want to catch up. Long story short, I started doing web work for him and I've had access to all of his unreleased material since Fast.
Custom's material is good. Actually, it's really good. Since his label died in 2004 he's been looking for a new deal, but here we are in 2007 and the follow-up album we were hoping to hear two years ago is still stuck in limbo. P2P networks are giving artists more exposure, but is it reducing the bottom line to a point where great new material is suppressed? And if it is, how much great stuff is out there that we haven't heard?
In Tragically Dipping I noted the clear and dramatic drop in album sales for the Hip since Fully Completely. The Hip make their money these days touring, but they're touring behind a wealth of material and for a devoted fan base. How does an artist like Custom build his catalogue and fan base in this era to a point where he too can make a comfortable living touring?
I remember buying many new CDs a month in the early to mid-nineties. I'll be the first to admit this isn't happening any more. Is anyone out there still buying music or are we all "borrowing" new tunes and sharing the love gratis?
If you want more doom and gloom, here's a very cool video for an unreleased Custom song, USA.
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