February 01, 2008
EMI has a plan to make it's CCM catalog available through digital downloads through an almost grass-roots network of Christian radio stations, retailers, faith-based organizations, etc. I wonder if podcasters and bloggers will make the list?
Anyway, I think this is a great idea, though it's come a bit late in the game. It's something that should have been done a long time ago. But that's not really what drew me to the story.
I read the story in the New York Post, thanks to a link on David Bach's blog. The second paragraph caught me:
Sales of Christian and gospel music fell more than 14 percent last year as fans of religious-themed songs proved once again they were just as apt to give in to the temptation of digital piracy as the average listener of materialistic rap or devil-horn-wagging rock.Notice that the problem is NOT that the major labels aren't selling something people want to buy. It's NOT that people are buying more indie bands, or are taking advantage of streaming audio, or are downloading the free stuff that's available legally online (and yes, there's a LOT of free, legal stuff available, if you look hard enough). It's not any of that -- it's that Christian music fans are pirates, just like their secular counterparts.
Do Christians illegally download music? Yes, unfortunately, we do. And Christians are good at rationalizing it -- "I'm using the songs to witness to my friends," they say. And when you say that, how is anyone going to get mad at you, or threaten to sue you? But do we really do it? I wonder sometimes.
But I think that the industry is still ignoring the real problem -- people aren't buying because the product they're putting out isn't worth buying. Where ten years ago I'd have to buy a whole CD or tape to get the two songs I liked, now I can just buy those two songs. Where I'd have spent $10 on a tape or $15 on a CD, now I only have to spend $2 for those two songs. And where before I'd have to buy whatever was in the store to satisfy my music cravings, now I can go straight to independent bands who are selling their stuff online and buy it straight from them.
I really think one answer is value-added products. If you want people to buy CDs, give them a reason to. I was in a Christian bookstore yesterday, and I saw CDs for $14 that included a DVD with concert footage, music videos, bonus songs, etc. That's adding value. If I saw a band that I follow offering something like that, I'd buy the CD/DVD package, because there's a perceived value in it -- I get a DVD with extra stuff that's not available elsewhere.
But that's only one solution, and the fact remains that music fans want to get their music online. They want to be able to burn a CD or two, they want to be able to play it on their iPods, and they want to do it without a lot of hassle. Once the labels figure that out, they just might start making bigger profits again.
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