Music biz’ll never be the same

Marketplace Staff Apr 6, 2007

Music biz’ll never be the same

Marketplace Staff Apr 6, 2007


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: This week is spring break for a lot of students. It’s a time that the music industry often uses to issue new releases from artists. The songs may be new, but the sales results these days are familiar and not encouraging for record companies. Mike Speier is the managing editor for Daily Variety. I asked him what first quarter sales were like this year.

MIKE SPEIER: Year-to-year the first quarter this year is down 17 percent, which is kind of nowadays normal in the music business. It just keeps falling.


SPEIER: Nobody wants to buy CDs anymore. Everybody wants to buy individual songs on iTunes. Everybody wants to buy their music, their way on the digital platforms. Buying CDs is almost equivalent of the way we were buying record albums.

THOMAS: Now are you suggesting that iTunes has done a lot to help cut profit for record companies?

SPEIER: Absolutely. I mean they’ve helped in digital sales, because of course there were no digital sales five years ago, so that’s all gravy. That’s all new money, that’s all new business. But what they’ve done by offering this kind of stuff, and not just iTunes, any digital platform, they’ve basically killed the bread and butter of the record industry which is the disc.

THOMAS: They’ve exposed a big problem that we’ve always known, which is that when you buy a CD you don’t really want all 12 songs on there anyway.

SPEIER: Absolutely.

THOMAS: You only want, you know, maybe four or five.

SPEIER: It’s the same thing with newspapers. I mean everyone always had subscriptions to newspapers because they controlled the news and you just get a newspaper. Nowadays you can just get the news you want. So why not pick and choose from the Internet? The same with music. Why not pick and choose what you want?

THOMAS: Digital sales are growing at a good clip. How much are they growing?

SPEIER: Percentage-wise it varies because it’s one of those things that can be spun. Album sales digitally are different than singles, every platform’s different, but every quarter, every year, they’re up and they’re up double digits.

THOMAS: Ten years from now, are there gonna be record companies?

SPEIER: There’ll be record companies just like there’ll be newspapers, but they’re gonna be different. They’re already starting to behave differently. I mean now record companies aren’t, you know, you get an artist in the studio and you press an album and it’s old-fashioned and you try to market it and get it out to as many stores and . . . it just doesn’t behave like that anymore. Now it’s all about getting an artist, getting ’em quick, cutting an album, making it for the masses, getting it on the digital platforms, managing it well there, and going from artist to artist. So there are things to look forward to and there are ways to succeed but it just isn’t the same.

THOMAS: Mike Speier is the managing editor for Daily Variety.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.