Author Topic: Selling CDs in a Download Society  (Read 9164 times)

Bill Binkelman

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Selling CDs in a Download Society
« on: April 22, 2009, 01:23:48 PM »
This topic was moved from the thread about illegal download legality and morality.

I am making a formal presentation at INATS (Intl New Age Trade Show) in Denver at the end of June with Suzanne Doucet, titled "How to Sell CDs in a Download Society." I'm starting to piece together my data. My presentation will focus on what metaphysical (i.e. new age) store owners (who make up the bulk of the audience) can do to compete with downloads, e.g. atmosphere, service, etc.

Anyway, if this is of interest to any of you, I'd welcome your opinions, feedback, including your thoughts as a CONSUMER of music (e.g. what would entice you to go to a store to buy music), I'd love to have as many opinions as possible, but I'm at your mercy on this since I'm asking for your time, basically.

I'm particularly interested in knowing if you ever shop for music in stores any more, and if so, what "works" for you. If not, why? What could stores do to bring you back? Also, of course, feedback about the percentage of CDs you buy versus downloads and for those you do buy as CDs, the percentage you buy as CDs online, i.e. not in a store. Factors to consider may include: price, variety available, distance to store, etc.

If you are so inclined, I can add you to the list I'm compiling to take a survey monkey (which I'm drafting) (survey monkey is anonymous, BTW, in case you've never used it...we use it here at Hamline U. all the time) or I can send you the questions as a MS-Word "forms" document. Or you can just leave random opinions and thoughts on this thread or send me an email.

Thanks to APK for suggesting I start this topic.

hdibrell

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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2009, 02:11:04 PM »
I think that atmosphere is a big determining factor for me when buying music at a store. Of course selection and price enter into it as well. Here in San Antonio, our choices for purchasing cd's are pretty much limited to the big chains, Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, etc. There are a few shops that specialize in certain genres such as heavy metal and spanish language music, but they aren't of particular interest to me. I buy very little in the chains, but I do occasionly pick up something. It's just not a destination for me to buy music. I'm already there to purchase something else. In Austin, just up the road, there are several stores that do appeal to me, such as Waterloo Music. It has a very interesting selection and the atmosphere is very much like the '60's and '70's combination clothing, music and drug paraphenalia that brings back fond memories for me. When I'm there I do buy quite a bit. Maybe it's nostalgia for a bygone era? Unfortunately, stores like these in any commodity are disappearing. Musical instruments, books, stereo equipment , etc. Every store is becoming Office Depot.          Harry
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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2009, 02:46:53 PM »
I rarely buy a CD in a store anymore.  When I lived in the Twin Cities, I used to frequent Let It Be, mainly because they had a good selection of experimental/ambient/psych music, much of it unavailable anywhere else in town.  They had a buyer (Rod Smith) who was very good at digging up obscure musics of all varieties - I used to buy a ton of stuff that he recommended, and was almost never disappointed.  Since they closed, I turned to the internet, since most of the other local stores didn't have much in genres that I was interested in.  Electric Fetus was ok, but not as adventurous as Let It Be.

Since I've moved to the Spokane area, I haven't even bothered finding a record store- I get everything online, through places like Soleilmoon, Forced Exposure, etc. or directly from the artists or labels.  Since I can get pretty much anything I want via mail order, it's hard for me to justify taking time to go to a store just to find out that they don't have what I'm looking for.  Of course, I miss the recommendations of Let It Be's staff, but places like Aquarius Records give detailed (although often rather strange) reviews of a wide range of stuff, and BB's like this one give great recommendations of all kinds of obscure things.  The things I used to get from a great bricks-n-mortar shop can be gotten online.  Hell, even browsing through the catalogs of online shops is faster and more productive than browsing the racks at a "real" store.  For me, it's all about selection, and my limited time.

If a store opened locally that had a HUGE selection, had lots of live shows, and a kinda 'community' vibe, I might be enticed to stop by, but not likely.  Too many other things compete for my time now.

I'd be happy to fill out your survey; just drop me a PM.

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Stellar Auditorium

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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2009, 04:36:32 PM »
I do visit record stores often, even if I rarely buy music from them nowadays, as I'm looking for specific albums that are usually found in several mailorders throughtout the world. Most of the time, I'll just visit a store in order to browse through the albums, ask the owner to listen to something on the cd stereo and generally have some interaction with the people there, talk about new albums, lives, and in general music geek stuff. So, first of all, communication and interaction is important, and it is something that cannot be found when you're just browsing some mailorder site and ordering with your credit card. Of course, that implies that the people there will have some connection in the field of music that interest you more, and which is the other major point: specialization. While I listen to many different music genres, I am generally more selective concerning what I buy: ambient music, rock and metal music, folk and traditional, classical music and avant-garde for the most part. I'm also buying music that's more underground usually, so that means I find no interest in wall-mart type of stores that mainly sell albums from big corporate labels.

There are actually two records shops that I buy records from (in Athens, that is by the way) one that is the gothic/neofolk/industrial type which brings a lot of ambient/dark ambient music, and another one that is more accustomed to avantgarde and "progressive" music, from electronic to unconventional pop and rock. If I could have an ideal record shop though, I would like to visit a store than would be even more specialized though. I would be great if there would be a shop that would share all of my likings, but since this is not possible, I'd like to have a shop that I would KNOW it has the new Robert Rich record there, rather than me visiting them one to one of telephoning them until I find the one. (which is what internet and mailorder are, of course. Would you imagine that that are record stores that, even to this day, do not have a website and list of the albums they sell?).   

About downloading well, I'm sure it made it clear in the other thread, heh. Every week, I'll come upon ten records that I've read or heard good words about them, or listened to a sample that sounds interesting. I'll try to download all ten of these albums and listen to them once. It turns that, as for the 3 or 4 first, I was very mistaken, they're a load of crap and get deleted right away. Other 3 or 4 of them 10, are fairly good albums but nothing to get me very excited. I'll probably keep those and give them another chance sometime, deleting them if they still don't convince me or keeping them for "archival" purposes. Then, there probably will be one or two albums that totally blow me away: these are the albums that I'm actually buying, taking into consideration that the initial enthusiasm of the first listening will remain. So, I buy about four albums per month, although when the time of an order comes, I'll most probably take something additional as well, finding something I once searched for, etc.

So, that's pretty much one week from the life of an "illegal downloader" I guess. I hope I don't get excommunicated by this community or something : P and that I've helped you a bit understand this phenomenon more. Oh, and Bill, if you don't find this answer adequate, you can send me the actual survey if you want.

chris

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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2009, 07:50:24 PM »
New Age bookstore owners have something to work with because their clientele is made up of people who are sensitive to atmosphere and ambiance (nothing like a good old-fashioned generalization, eh?). So I think you're on the right track with the atmosphere idea. Building a reputation as a place where one can "feel the vibe" will get people to go there, and while there they might pick up an attractively packaged CD.

You just can't get the same spiritual experience by downloading a song from iTunes.

MikeS

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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2009, 12:50:18 AM »
Going to the record store is still a treat for me, and in general I think it's a vital thing, even in these times of late night net surfing and ordering. A small, independent record shop with a mix of used and new, with an owner who has excellent taste and discernment, is a great thing to have in the neighborhood. I've found a lot of artists I would never have found otherwise. It is great fun to walk around and just be randomly struck by something, to interact with the product dircectly through its first impression (the packaging), to hear what the owner is playing over the house system, to see the currently playing cd propped on the counter, displaying its cover art...

A few years back I lived in Portland for six months. Just down the street from my house was a small record shop called Timbuktunes http://www.timbuktunes.com/cd/cd-front.php. I stopped in there so often I can't even say how many times, probably more than once a day, and the amount of albums (and by albums and records I am referring to cds)  I discovered there, that I am sure I would not have found otherwise, is phenomenal. I really discovered the music of the Guqin through that shop, and that music has changed my life.

Atmospher plays a huge role for me. I can't even bring myself to go into a crappy big chain store, because of the sterility, but also knowing I will be unlikely to find anything that appeals to my taste.

I wonder if the famous Hypnos tagline "file under ambient" has caused record stores to actually get a section labelled that. Usually the ambient heads are relegated to electronica, or experimental in the cooler record stores, or to New Age in the more generic stores...

Brian Bieniowski

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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2009, 04:32:57 AM »
I wonder if the famous Hypnos tagline "file under ambient" has caused record stores to actually get a section labelled that. Usually the ambient heads are relegated to electronica, or experimental in the cooler record stores, or to New Age in the more generic stores...

Back in the good ol' days, Silent Records had that on their sleeves, too.  Sam Goody used to shelve 'em in the New Age section. ;)

I have to admit it was easy for me to abandon shopping in record stores when the internet took over.  We always had a great selection of shops in New York and New Jersey, like Other Music and Kim's, Vintage Vinyl and Cafe Soundz.  If one store didn't have one thing, another one surely did.  The trouble was pricing in some stores and staff in others.  I always loved shopping at one record store with a friendly owner who'd chat with you, let you play the albums, etc.  But his prices were totally nuts!  You couldn't get three or four CDs for under $100.  The prices were better at the indie shops in the city like Other Music, but the staff could be so snotty and rude if you asked a question, I'd want to leave and not spend anything at all.

The internet presented a better option in this sense.  Any CD you could find, good service (unless you got really unlucky), no naughty employees, and prices that were reasonable and often had the added value of placing more cash in the artist/label pocket.  For me, the change was a real no brainer.

I still like to shop at stores online like Forced Exposure, Tone Vendor, Aquarius, Experimedia, etc., but they've become one part of my options as opposed to the only choice as they used to be.

Wayne Higgins

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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2009, 05:38:46 AM »
I own over a thousand cds.  I once had 500 lps, had to sell them because I was broke and in college.  10 years later, I had accumulated another 500 lps, but sold them because I went back to college.  This past year, I have bought close to 250 lps.  Antique stores, thrift stores, flea markets, Goodwill, a used record store and a store that sells vinyl as well as cds and dvds.  Then there's Hot Topic.  I find a few lps there now and then.  Most of the lps I buy are used, due to the simple fact that it's all I can find.  I have bought a few 180 gm audiofile lps, expensive, but worth it.

Here's what you would probably like to know.  I have bought close to 10 cds since January 2008.  I never download music off the net.  No paid for or for free, unless it's a musician I know who wants me to hear something.  The 10 discs I have bought consist of 5 Dropkick Murphys cds for my wife, who happened to get really into them lately, a few movie soundtracks ("There Will Be Blood", "Juno", "Marie Antionette"), Bruce Springsteen's "Magic" and Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant The Massacre Revisited" (which I bought at a concert).  The reason I list them out is because I bought so few that I can actually remember them.  10 in a year and a half.  That's pitiful!

Why so few, and why did I switch to vinyl.  I live between Tallahassee, FL and Valdosta, GA.  I've traveled to Tampa/St. Pete, Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Jacksonville, Mobile over the past 1 1/2 year.  The reason I virtually stopped buying cds is that all I ever find in stores is 10 different versions of everyone's greatest hits, but no real album releases.  For example, I finally found in between four different best of Uriah Heep cds, a copy of "Look at Yourself" a couple of years ago.  I told the manager, who asked me when I checked out "did you find everything ok", "yeah, and you need to keep stocking good albums and get rid of all this greatest hits crap."  So I returned a month later to find more Uriah Heep?  No, just another copy of "Look at Yourself".  Ok, I'll admit I'm old, and buy lots of old music, mainly 70's rock, jazz, and classical.  There are two stores in a radius of 50 miles from where I live that sell classical, and they have cut their inventories in half.  I don't find any thrill in finding things on the internet.  I like to hunt.  The problem is that all the stores suck.
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Seren

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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2009, 06:19:10 AM »
I remember in 1977 when I started visiting an independent record store in east London called Small Wonder, they also had their own label. The atmosphere was great, just poring over whole ranges of LPs from all sorts of odd places. Discovered kalus schulze there - cyborg and Irrlicht etc. Soon found out about Portabello road and went every weekend to go to the shops and stores just searching for new music...absolutely loved it, ended up with big collection (that I gave away when I started squatting)

HMV etc just dont have that vibe, I occasionally get excitement from coming across something by artists such as steve Roach or robert Rich and it does feel nice to see them, but ti is not an exciting prospect to go into them at all.



MarkM

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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2009, 02:57:43 AM »
What works for me is when I can hear the CD before I buy it.  I love the stores that have a copy of every CD in the store and a CD player with headphones for listening.  Second best is the system at Barnes and Nobles where one can hear small selected clips.  I rarely buy downloads and still prefer the CD. The CD represents something that won't be lost with a hard drive or computer mishap.  I also like the idea that I have an uncompressed file on a CD as compared to an MP3.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2009, 03:02:05 AM by MarkM »

sraymar

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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2009, 08:16:32 PM »
The last CD I bought in a store was a Grateful Dead opus Collection called "Eternally Grateful" at a Starbucks in Laguna Beach after stopping into an art gallery to check out some of John Lennon's sketches and paintings. In fact the last three CDs I bought were at Starbucks. The last time I was in a semi-real CD store was a Barnes & Nobel. I was looking for a CD by lutist Paul O'Dette and they didn't have it but they ordered it for me.  ;D   About that time I bought "In the Middle" by the Ron Eschete Trio from their bass player after seeing them live here in Fullerton.

I still have a huge list of blues, jazz and classical CDs to get thanks to the practice of listener sponsered radio where they faithfully list the artists, tunes and sometimes CD after the music is played, their stations also have internet sites with playlists. I don't have a humongous music collection but 97% of it are keepers worthy of repeat listenings for years to come. I've haven't bought an mp3 yet, but Robert Rich has a collection of live mp3s out and that's tempting! CD stores can't compete with that. As for ambient music, the internet is the place to be!

Steve


« Last Edit: April 24, 2009, 08:18:18 PM by sraymar »
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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2009, 04:57:21 AM »
I certainly have had an addiction to music and pre-internet, I slogged through record stores in every place I lived or visited looking for those gems that I had read about.  At first it was vinyl but in 1983, I began the transition to CD.

In 1991 I discovered the net and shortly afterward, I began doing business with a record and CD dealer online who was able to gather together and send me a lot of unusual electronic music.  I still went to a local Tower Records store but mainly got music from Bent Crayon in Ohio.  As my DJ "career" came to an end, I focused more on ambient and downtempo music and transitioned over to the EAR/Rational in Colorado for mailorder music.  And finally over the last 6-10 years or so, I have discovered Hypnos, Atmoworks, CDBaby, Dark Duck, Aucourant (grin), and even Humpty for great mailorder.

Just lately, as .flac as become more common, I have ventured forth with a few downloads from Boomkat, Zunior.com, and MusicZeit.  I suspect that if the prices on these downloads come down a bit, I may increase this type of activity.

So where do record stores fit in now?  Well, not very well as you can see above.

However, just this past weekend, I too entered the sacred halls of Waterloo Records in Austin, and I was blown away by the huge selection of new and used CDs as well as vinyl and DVDs.  Everywhere you look there is some sort of music-related item.  I could literally spend days in there.  It brings back the thrill of actually being able to look at a physical product prior to purchase.  Additionally the place is full of fellow music lovers so you get a feeling of comrardary.  I had that sense of nostalgia/youth that I only rarely get these days.

http://www.waterloorecords.com/home.html

Ironically (?) when I went to the Waterloo website, I noticed they have a prelaunch download store.

Jim
« Last Edit: May 02, 2009, 05:24:56 AM by jimzzzak »

hdibrell

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Re: Selling CDs in a Download Society
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2009, 10:21:23 AM »


However, just this past weekend, I too entered the sacred halls of Waterloo Records in Austin, and I was blown away by the huge selection of new and used CDs as well as vinyl and DVDs.  Everywhere you look there is some sort of music-related item.  I could literally spend days in there.  It brings back the thrill of actually being able to look at a physical product prior to purchase.  Additionally the place is full of fellow music lovers so you get a feeling of comrardary.  I had that sense of nostalgia/youth that I only rarely get these days.



Jim
I agree! Waterloo is a great store! I always get that sense of nostalgia of how record shopping used to be.     Harry
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