Memo to Music Industry: Fans Say Cut Your Prices, Make Better
2/2/2006 2:04 PM PT
By DAVID BAUDER, AP ENTERTAINMENT WRITER
While one-quarter of the nation's music fans say they've downloaded songs onto their computers -- legally or otherwise -- a new nationwide poll suggests music executives should look elsewhere to explain their business woes.
Three in every four fans complain that compact discs are too expensive, and 58 percent complain that music in general is getting worse, according to the poll conducted for The Associated Press and Rolling Stone magazine.
"Less talented people are able to get a song out there and make a quick million and you never hear from them again," said Kate Simkins, 30, of Cape Cod, Mass.
Ipsos' telephone poll of 1,000 adults, including 963 music listeners, from all states except Alaska and Hawaii was conducted Jan. 23-25 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
It's been a bad few years for the music industry, knocked on its heels by the popularity of downloading and iPods. A total of 618.9 million CD albums were sold during 2005, sharply down from the 762.8 million sold in 2001, according to Nielsen Soundscan.
At the same time, 352.7 million tracks were sold digitally in 2005, a categorythat wasn't even measured five years ago. After years where fans had to buy $20CDs because they liked one or two songs, now they can download the songs for 99cents a pop, or free if they can burn a copy from a friend.
Many in the music industry grumble that downloading has been their downfall,and the business has aggressively tried to stop illegal file sharing.
The poll found that 80 percent of people consider downloading music for freewithout the copyright holder's permission to be stealing. People who actuallydownload are less apt to consider it stealing, but there's evidence that manyfans accept the iTunes business model. The poll found that 71 percent of musicfans believe that a 99 cents a song is a fair price or outright bargain.
"They shouldn't be able to do it illegally," said Mickey Johnson, 41, fromCharleston, Tenn. "That's art. Somebody is putting their art out there. Theyshould be compensated for it. It's just like Picasso or something."
The industry would be wise to embrace downloading, said Greg Hoerger, 42, ofMinneapolis, who suggested that customers could receive five or six freedownloads from an artist when they buy a CD.
For fans like Hoerger and Simkins, buying a CD for about $20 is no bargain.They'd rather download one or two favorite songs to their iPods. The digitalmusic revolution also has other benefits, Simkins said: with the iPod, she nolonger has to have cassettes or CDs cluttering her car.
The last CD she bought, a few months ago, was by the Killers. "It was on sale,"she said.
Many fans also say they just don't like what they're hearing. It may not besurprising to hear older fans say music just isn't what it used to be when theywere growing up. But the poll also found that 49 percent of music fans ages18-to-34 -- the target audience for the music business -- say music is gettingworse.
"Even if our parents didn't like how loud rock 'n' roll was, or that it wasrevolutionary, at least they could listen to some of it," said ChristinaTjoelker, 49, from Snohomish, Wash. "It wasn't gross. It wasn't disgusting. Itwasn't about beating up women or shooting the police."
The last CD she bought was Neil Diamond's new one, "because Oprah was ravingabout it," she said.
Overall, music fans were split on why music sales have been declining for thepast five years: 33 percent said it was because of illegal downloads, 29percent said it was because of competition from other forms of entertainment,21 percent blamed it on the quality of music getting worse and 13 percent saidit was because CDs are too expensive.
FM radio is still the main way most fans find out about new music, according tothe poll. Television shows are a distant second.
Rock 'n' roll is the most popular style of music, cited by 26 percent of thefans. It runs neck-and-neck with country among fans ages 35 or over.
Rap music is the source of the biggest generation gap. Among fans under age 35,18 percent called rap or hip-hop their favorite style of music, the poll found.Only 2 percent of people ages 35 and over said the same thing.