Known Johnson

September 11, 2007

Once you pop, you can’t stop. But will anyone “pop” in the first place?

Filed under: Music,News — Tom @ 1:19 pm

The RIAA is backing a fantastic plan to sell, get this, CDs with a hit song as well a couple of other songs. It’s amazing no one thought of this before – instead of buying that pesky album, you can buy this short CD with just a few songs on it! Wait, what? You mean they’ve done this all along and they called them “CD singles”? But these are different! They’re ringles – because they have not only a few songs but an awesome ringtone is included. The best part is they’ll be a bargain at $6-7 each. This will surely revitalize the flagging sales of physical media. Good luck, RIAA – you know we’re all behind you on this one.

Being realistic, as much as I like singles (provided they include good non-album material,) this is just stupid. People balk at the price of full-length CDs at even $12, which seems an okay price to me. What gives them the impression that the ringtone is going to cause people to jump all over these things? I know what they’re thinking – “CD singles used to sell for $3-4, and ringtones sell for $2-3, so the consumer won’t mind paying the combined price.” Uh, yes we will!

Nothing will ever bring sales of CDs back to the levels they were at. People have many places to spend their money – games, movies, crack, etc. Music sales aren’t sagging solely because of downloading – it’s just because people find other media more interesting. And overpriced singles – sorry, ringles aren’t going to change anything. What would keep people interested is doing something intriguing with the releases – overwhelming demand for special editions of recent albums like the Traveling Wilburys reissue and Porcupine Tree’s Fear of a Blank Planet show that people want the more expensive, much lusher packaging. Maybe a smaller percentage of people want them, but they sell these things out everywhere at the higher prices they demand. (I spent FOUR months tracking down a special edition of Fear of a Blank Planet at a decent price. It’s gorgeous – it will be something I cherish for a long, long time.) What people get really tired of is buying something for $10-12 that has nothing in the package. It’s why vinyl is still holding strong – there’s always something special about vinyl releases besides the music iitself. Their continued – and sometimes rising – sales, and the success of special editions just shows that if you make releases something significantly special, people almost always WILL respond. Just don’t saturate the market with them and you’ll do fine, investment-wise. I’d much rather have a collection of the special editions than stripped down CDs – the recent Paul McCartney being an example. The SE had three extra (and good) songs, an interview, and a really nice package. The regular edition? It didn’t even have the tracks and track numbers listed. Sure, it was cheap, but this was a crappy-ass move on the label’s part. But that SE sold really well, judging by what I’ve seen, or more accurately not seen, in stores. On the other hand, not making them special enough leads to something like Smashing Pumpkins’ Zeitgeist SE – no one wants it. The band reportedly decided to nix a planned DVD for that edition – and that killed most people’s interest.

Unfortunately, the industry rarely thinks logically, and so they figure if X number of people will sell out of a limited number of these special editions, why not make a whole bunch more? Fill the shelves with them! This thinking, and ideas like “ringles,” is exactly why the industry is in the state it is today.

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