The continuing shift towards digital only music.

This week saw a defining moment in the future of AD Music’s physical instrumental music CD sales with the news that our global distributor since 1998, The Orchard, is no longer going to be handling physical distribution due to the fact that its partner LDC has gone out of business. I spent a couple of hours online going through the numerous comments from many interested labels and it seems that once again, the smaller labels are left counting the cost of the ever changing music business. Apparently CD sales are down 25% this year (on top of drops of 30%  and 35% in recent years) and if our sales don’t register as a blip on the radar, then it’s deemed as unprofitable. I was also saddened to hear that Backroads Music, a long standing EM mail order outlet who  dealt with electronic music for 20 years and who were taken over by NewMusic a couple of years back, also appears to have gone down. In the UK, the highly respected and long established wholesaler and distributor S. Gold & Sons have also ceased trading. Golds used to be our UK distributor until a few years ago. In recent years we’ve seen the likes of Tower and MVC go, while Virgin sold its High Street stores to Zavvi and they also appear to preparing to call in the administrators. That would leave HMV as the only UK music chain left and they have reported a decline in CD sales.

A lot of people have experienced problems with The Orchard over the years, as did we did in the very early days, but they have proved to be good at getting digital product and CD to the main outlets, and although some comments about CDBaby being a better alternative may be valid, I’m not convinced that changing an entire catalogue from one digital distributor to another would be sensible or viable for a host of practical reasons. As to the physical stock, it’s interesting to read that despite CDBabys assertion that “all is well” with their CD distribution, their main wholesaler has just announced a second round of staff layoffs, so CDBaby could find themselves in the same situation as The Orchard next year.

Of course, this is all about the continuing debate of “digital over CD”. Personally, I don’t think the CD is going to die quietly because there are still a lot of people who want physical product. For the majority of the younger generation who prefer digital, this debate is meaningless. But for a generation who still prefer the physical medium, it is not! But those customers and the labels who still have a market for the physical product are being marginalized more and, finding it increasingly difficult to get their product to a wide audience. Ironically, AD Music’s CD sales are doing quite well; we’re picking up more new customers every day and many of these become repeat customers. I’ve spent a couple of days on the telephone to distributors and Wholesalers and the sad truth is that there are no more CD exporters; the likes of Lightening and Pinnacle have gone. So perhaps for AD Music the answer is just to continue to exploit the internet ourselves and attract more and more fans and customers direct to our website.

Perhaps more annoying and disturbing is the part that pirate downloads and bit torrents are playing in all this – how I would love to get the people who upload our music to these sites into a locked room! But that’s a whole other topic.

Of course, we’ll continue to explore alternatives. As Mr Spock would say; There are always possibilities”.

~ by admusic on December 17, 2008.

One Response to “The continuing shift towards digital only music.”

  1. There is a new retail shop you may want to look into, for both downloads and physical products. They are also big electronic music fans, it appears.

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