One Way Or Another

Blondie’s 1978 song “One Way or Another” comes to mind when I think of how music is being sold today - I can hear Debbie Harry belt out, “One way or another I'm gonna find ya / I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha”. Consumers have more choices than ever before to legally buy music as inexpensively as possible.

In fact, according to the NPD Group, a consumer and retail market research firm, about 40% of all music sold in the world today is sold online through vendors such as iTunes and Amazon.com. This is a five percentage point gain, year-over-year, since Q1 2009. NPD indicated that, as of last quarter, Apple’s iTunes holds 70% of the digital music market followed by Amazon’s AmazonMP3 at 12%.

So what of the 60% majority? This represents music sold in the traditional CD format and the biggest players are Wal-Mart with 17% share of retail market. Following Wal-Mart is Best Buy with 14% and Amazon’s brings up the rear at 11%.

What’s interesting is that some analysts are saying that as digital sales increase, the firms still selling music in the traditional CD format may find themselves scaling back their business and may result in less variety of CDs being stocked. As a result of this vicious circle, it is possible that more and more music shoppers may be forced to search for music elsewhere either by ordering the CDs online or buying digital downloads.

I cannot honestly say that I’ll miss physical CDs. I was among the first in my neighborhood to have a CD player back in 1985 (the CD made its way to the United States in March 1983). During the first few years of buying CDs, I felt the record companies “stuck it” to consumers by charging high prices for CDs (~$17.98) relative to the most popular format of the time, the audio
cassette and by packaging CDs in the ridiculous “longbox” format allegedly to reduce “shrinkage” (i.e. shoplifting). Nowadays, there are alternatives to physical media in the form of digital downloads. There’s no waste with digital downloads and their availability allows consumers to by the specific songs they want instead of being forced to buying an album for one or two songs that they like and for a low price usually around $1.

Just goes to show you that the “Good Old Days” may not be as “good” as we would like to remember! I, for one, will keep buying music in the digital download format instead of CDs. That’s not to say I won’t buy an album I really like on CD from time to time but I believe the CD’s era is ending and ending soon.

NPD Group’s article can be found
here.