I read an article from the Times today, that made me giggle.

Music downloads sales soared by almost 50 per cent last year, boosted by a Christmas rush, but the recording industry failed to counter a CD slump, new figures showed.

Sales of single track downloads increased from 52.5 million in 2006 to 77.6 million, according to the British Phonographic Industry.

Despite the 47.7 per cent increase in tracks sales, music fans are still reluctant to purchase legally an entire album from digital stores such as iTunes.

CDs still dominate with 95 per cent of all album sales on physical formats. However the total CD market contracted by around 10 per cent, in line with a global sales slump.

The part that made me giggle was when it states that music fans are still reluctant to purchase legally an entire album.

Why is this the record companies will be asking themselves.

Well, I gave up owning physical music back in the early 90’s, opting for a small music collection that is presently about 20,000 tracks. Given the collection of music I had, I never used P2P sharing sites, always fearing I would be targeted by the music authority’s!

Oops – lost my train of though there! So back to the article, I think there are a couple of reasons why people en-mass wont purchase a whole album from sites such as iTunes:-

  1. People will download what they know and like. Let me elaborate, I like Stevie Wonder, but I don’t own a whole album of his, opting instead to listen to the couple of tracks I know and love. Although I may be missing out on something, I am not the kind of person to want to “risk” paying £1 per song, for something that I may only listen to once.
  2. The artists, only put a few good songs on each album. OK this is a generalisation, and I am prepared to take critism on this one, some artists I accept will put there all into an album, and each track will be brilliant. However, take most albums on your shelf, it will either be a “best of” or will have been released by an artist. So starting with the album that has been released, I read stories of record companies sending artists to far away climbs to help them put pen to paper, is this how music is made? Under pressure of a contract? Well, I don’t think it is, you’ll always end up with a couple of good tracks that have been written well, the rest just end up being tosh – the record company’s know this, or why else would they release a best of album? As such, why would I want to spend my £1 to download a rubbish song? The record companies push and push the “decent” songs on the album, they get released, the get airplay, they get videos… There is a reason the others don’t.

I think for any record company to work in a digital age, is to scrap all the CD singles, and CD albums, and once this has been done, get the artists to work at releasing one song per month, or 10 per year… whatever they want to contract the artist to. These would then be released onto the digital world, available for all to try and download, if we like it, we download it, if we don’t, the record companies have to learn to acknowledge that fact, and be safe in the knowledge that they can work with the artist, and help them release something better. If the artist then goes on to release 10 really good pieces of work, this could then be packaged up in a “best of” album for people to buy and own.

This would also allow more freedom for the artists, a record company could take a punt on any artist, sign them to release one or two songs without any of the risk of pushing 100,000 albums to make it viable, as all it would require is the usual promo shots, and studio time. If the artist is successful, then they would be able to negotiate a new contract, and in all hopes, make a good go of it – if your going to criticise me for this, I ask you to look at the idea of X-Factor, Simon Cowell (made me chuckle, I ran the spell check and Cowell came up as Cowbell) in this show, takes a £1,000,000 punt on someone the public has chosen, why not sign someone up for a smaller contract, let them get there work out there, the public decide by downloading, and then the artist makes or breaks it.

I believe that the record companies should stop ploughing millions into stopping illegal downloads, and take back the reins of the industry that they are so loosing sight of, with the dawn of the digital age, people will become more savvy about what they own and download, people will not want to waste their money.

I also think, that given we no longer pay for the production, distribution, “in store” promotion, etc, etc, that the cost of downloading an MP3 should be lowered, iTunes currently charges 79pence ($1.60) per download, which means an album costs about £10 ($20)… However in the US consumers are paying as little as 40pence ($0.8)… Does it cost more to make this content available to us in the UK?

On a final note, I think all studios should put their whole music catalogue online – its all well and good having 1,000,000 available, but they would increase their sales by having the more obscure stuff, stuff people have not heard of.