• Used Music Without a Physical Format

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the used CD market and what the future holds for used music. Right now local used CD retailers and online used CD sources are the best deal going. Almost any CD you want can be found for half of the new CD price. Some Computer Audiophile readers are well aware that used CDs from garage sales are often sold for pennies on the dollar. In addition to low prices used CDs offer the buyer more opportunities to try different kinds of music and different artists. Most of us are willing to take a chance on a $5 CD or a box of 100 CDs for $20 rather than pay $13 for a new copy of something that might be really bad. So, what will happen when the majority of people purchase digital downloads only?
    The first thing that comes to my mind is people actually selling their downloaded music. As absurd as this sounds I have no doubt it will happen. Can you imagine someone selling 100 GB of music on eBay with free shipping because it is available as an immediate download? It would take a real honest seller to complete the transaction by deleting that 100 GB from their hard drive. In reality the seller is going to keep the music and possibly resell the same 100 GB. Will this flood the market and make used music even cheaper than it is today? Other thanTerms and Conditions, and User Agreements , which few people read and fewer people follow, what will stop this from happening? I can imagine the RIAA lawsuits against eBay and eBay users if selling this music breaks a contract between the original purchaser and the record label. I can see the Internet blogs blowing up if the RIAA, right or wrong, sues people for purchasing music!

    Note: I have done extensive research into the Terms and Conditions, and User Agreements of several high resolution download sites. My findings will be published in another article. For now I will use the title of a Pearl Jam song to describe these findings, [it's] "Nothing As It Seems."

    In addition to the aforementioned scenario where someone auctions off used music files, there are other implications for the used CD market and consumers If people don't sell their downloaded music. Will there be such a thing as an Out of Print album when physical formats are gone (excluding vinyl)? If so, we are all SOL if nobody is selling a digital "copy" on eBay. With a physical format OOP titles aren't always easy to find but they are available in the form of used CDs. Hopefully digital distribution will lead to the reappearance of OOP albums and they'll all be available with the click of a mouse. Based on the current trend this is unlikely.

    I have always been a fan of used goods and believe they allow consumers to sell their current item to pay for something more expensive and allow someone else to get in the game at a cheaper price. In the music world this means selling a bunch of old albums you are ashamed to admit you own. Then in the same store with that new wad of cash you replenish your collection with the latest releases. Is this going to happen in cyberspace now? Who knows. Maybe we'll all be stuck with subscription only services that require us to pay either the music labels, online stores, or even our ISP. If the subscription model is successful for record labels all of my used music thoughts/predictions will be invalidated. Music will only work while you're a subscriber of the service. This literally wipes out all used music sales. Could there be anything worse for consumers than subscription based music sales? Not in my opinion.

    When the CD is gone and used stocks dry up there will likely be a hybrid model of everything mentioned above. Internet auctions for GBs worth of music, some OOP titles will be available once again, and subscription services will derail used music sales for certain labels' content. There are many other implications that will come from this new world of used music without a physical format. I am very interested to read what you all have in mind. Feel free to leave a comment and join the discussion.
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hey Superdad - Thanks for the very detailed post. I agree with you 100% and have some of the exact same habits you have when it comes to music. <br />
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      Artist compensation and support of the arts is a huge deal for me. In the long run it doesn't help anyone when people keep digital copies and sell the physical disc. I hope this came through in the article, but it probably didn't.<br />
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      I do like having the physical backup on disc and the artwork, but RAID is a pretty good backup for me if I download the whole album from Linn, HDtracks, iTrax, or MusicGiants. One thing I am very excited about is new releases like Elvis Costello's that are coming out on vinyl with a free album download code inside. Giant artwork and a digital version. If this version is AIFF or WAV I will be in heaven!
    1. markr's Avatar
      markr -
      Hello Superdad, and let me welcome you - one of such admirable traits with relation to artists and their DUE - to Computer Audiophile.<br />
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      I've thought about your post for a while. I'm sure that I'm going to miss some point(s) by posting this now (early) - you give us so much to ponder - but I'll make what I have to say quick:<br />
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      I totally agree with you.<br />
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      I don't buy used. - I am sure that with the economy the way it is, that I will soon have to do that though. I don't think that I will worry about whether the person that sold the music kept a copy however. They didn't get the price they paid for the music when they sold it as used goods, but the artist was paid their due (once) when the music was purchased originally. I do think that the second owner does have an 'onus' on them though.... Question: If you buy a used CD via say Amazon, doesn't Amazon, or the actual sub-retailer have to pay another piece to the artist? I don't know. I hope they do....<br />
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      I don't sell musical recordings from my collection. To me it is like selling a musical instrument: That is against my 'religion'. I sold a pair of timbale's once, and I still regret it. It could be that something is wrong with me though.... *grin* -- this too could change depending on the coming economic climate however... I hope not.<br />
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      Thank you for making me think about this 'Superdad'! I appreciate it more than you might know.<br />
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      markr<br />
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      OH YEAH: I don't think that there can actually BE 'used music' if it isn't in a physical format. .... I suppose that one could transfer the music to someone else (sell it) and destroy all their copies though. I see the conundrum for artists however. I believe that Elvis Costello is expressing his concerns about it currently. His website was closed when I went there last week and there was something posted there about rampant piracy. WE do have to be honest about this thing.<br />
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    1. Innertuber's Avatar
      Innertuber -
      Well I look at it differently. I buy tons of used music because I can buy 5 or 10 CDs for 10 bucks that I otherwise would never listen to. I buy cassettes, LPs and reel to reel tapes (I have no clue why). I resell stuff I don't want to have around taking up space. Same with tools, receivers and lots of other junk. I'm a garagesaleaholic.<br />
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      I do think CDs will be around a loooooooong time, but the dollar value is quickly diminishing. Seems to me 1-2 bucks is about the range for transactions.<br />
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      I do like the idea of direct downloads from musicians and suspect they will all be drifting more in that direction since radio has little effect anymore on music sales; hence the old "record" companies don't add as much value to the supply chain.<br />
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    1. sgbaird's Avatar
      sgbaird -
      that there are some considerations that tend to mitigate a staunch, no-copy position. But before I get into that, I know a man here in town who freely pirates music, software and even movies, giving the impression somehow that he is exempt from Federal laws against these practices, or that the creators of this art are not deserving of any income for the creation of intellectual property. He is not shy about asking others to loan him their music, software etc, either. I've mentioned to him on occasion that not only are his practices unethical, they are illegal as well. Beyond that, this man is a retired high school principal whose picture appeared on the cover of a local business weekly with a caption underneath that said, "how I made my first million." <br />
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      Now, for an exception that I will practice from time to time. <br />
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      Shortly after Chris started this website, he posted a request for recommendations for some Billie Holiday recordings that sound good and that are musically enjoying. I responded to the request by mentioning one of Billie's albums that once appeared as a limited edition gold CD that had been licensed to Classic Records about a decade ago. Unlike the standard, mass-consumption product, this audiophile label spent a lot of time and money to unearth the original session tapes, and from these, they offered that record in stereo for the first time since the beginning of the digital age. Comparing the Classic reissue to that of Universal Music is not only an ear-opener, it shows how little that that huge music conglomerate actually respects its customers. <br />
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      One would think that Universal would have taken the opportunity to upgrade its own product based on the improvement that their licensee brought to it, but they have not. Despite the numerous times that this title has been repackaged, repriced and reissued, it remains the same, poor-quality mono transfer that it has always been. Since the Classic Records product remains the property of the licensor, it would have been a simple matter for them to take the glass masters and release their own. <br />
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      I have made copies of this CD for two friends, but before you think me a hypocrite, both of these friends own copies of the Classic Records vinyl reissue. Thus, they already own a legitimate copy of this recording, and are satisfying copyright requirements for making copies for their own private use. I merely saved them the time it would take to make their own. <br />
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      When a recording is left to go out of print, then it seems to me as if the copyright owner considers it less than market worthy. Yes, it is true that the music industry historically mines most of its profits from backlist product, but the goings-on suggest today that in the years to come there will be fewer and more costly alternatives for the consumer of vintage music. Like Superdad, I prefer to have a physical product — even if it's stored as a backup. My closest audio friends would never ask for me to copy a CD for them; if it were out of print, though, I may offer a copy to them with the provision that they seek a bona fide copy of their own.
    1. rom661's Avatar
      rom661 -
      I sort of hinted at this issue a while back by bringing up the fact that there are few download options that allow us to download standard CD resolution. There is a liitle bit of high rez and tons of compressed stuff.<br />
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      I mentioned that I buy a lot of used CD's. One of my employees is a working musician. At least I assume he works at playing; I know what he does at work. (joke) He is adamant about not copying music without paying for it. Yet I find his position morally legitimate but lacking in practicality. If a CD gets sold 4 times, the artist still only is paid once. I finid Chris and superdad's comments to be spot on as far as the moral issue of this issue. On rare occasions I give a customer a copy of my "super demo" disc. Invariably I ask them to purchase the music if they find any of it appealing. And yet, if they do what I do and buy it used, the artist receives nothing. <br />
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      The unfortunate fact is that musicians receive very little compensation for their work in terms of CD sales. They mainly live off of live concerts. In some respects I think that the download envinronment is actually better for them. I had dinner a couple of years ago with Janis Ian. Yes, I am that old. She is a delightful person who is a superb singer, songwriter, and to my suprise, acoustic guitarist. She says the internet is the best thing that ever happened to her. The major labels could give a rat's ass about her. She can sell downloads direct to people who care about her music and actually makes more money rather than less. I am sure that Janis is not getting rich. She does this because she is an artist and it is what she is about.<br />
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      Perhaps there are deeper dimensions to what we are doing than is immediately apparent. I really enjoy the whole music server subject. However, ultimately, artists need to be able to survive, if not prosper. This may be the answer. I find it rather distasteful that a handful of corporations determine what is commerically viable. Their tastes in music typically suck as do their ethics. <br />
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      I know this is meandering a bit, but it is a subject that is important to me, outside of my profession of selling good gear. Who cares about good gear if there is not good music, preferably well recorded, to enjoy it with? <br />
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      Thanks again to those who brought it up. I know it is somewhat disengenous for me to say this, being in the position of making a living of selling expensive gear, but ultimately it is the musicians and the music that counts.<br />
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      If we lose the music, we have won the battle and lost the war.<br />
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      Good night, all.<br />
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      Rick<br />
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    1. markr's Avatar
      markr -
      ...when you get up, if you haven't already run across it, find the links on CA to excerpts from the 'B-side' movie by Andrew Shafter called B4MD (Before the Music Dies). You will enjoy the clips I think, and the movie STAYS on this laptop.....<br />
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      markr <br />
      This'll get you there: <br />
      http://www.computeraudiophile.com/node/113<br />