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Re: [ARSCLIST] fwd: Everything Louder Than Everything Else : Have the loudness wars reached their final battle?

Find online some of the many refutations of "The Long Tail". The reports I've seen is that the vast majority of iTunes business is very mainstream. The "tail" may be long, but it's a tiny percentage of total sales. The difference with iTunes and manufactured/inventoried CD's, of course, is that it's still profitable to sell a few dozen digital copies of a song each month vs keeping manufactured CD's in stock. If one assumes that the typical iPod is made up of a person's CD collection plus some purchased iTunes songs, then probably what's on most iPods is very mainstream with a few oddball albums and tracks in there. There's a whole poser movement among celebrities and would-be celebrities to have "cool" playlists that "pass muster" in these "share your playlist" forums and there was a funny Wall St. Journal column about this a week or two ago.

Bottom line is, there is no mass "silent majority" audience for niche music. There just isn't. That's why it's niche. Unfortunately, apprently, despite more options in modern times, the vast majority of the listening audience still gravitates to what is being hyped and force-fed to them by Big Music. I ascribe that to the fact that probably only a minority of people are _really_ into music, so for the majority, it's more a background diversion or keep-me-company noise which could just as easily be the TV on in the background. Once in a while, a megahit comes along that captures a moment in time in the culture and it's much more than a music recording, its a culture event. But, most of the time, it's just an on-going string of mediocre "superstar" types and flash-in-the-pan one-hit wonders. In fact, from all the data I've seen in various business publications and newspapers, the predicted "golden era" for smaller labels and "indie" music that online commerce was supposed to produce has not happened at all. What has happened, very slowly, is that some back catalog from the majors that was long out of print has appeared as download-only in crappy lossy-compressed formats for CD prices. I suppose some call that "progress."

-- Tom Fine

PS -- one niche that is not being exploited at all is downloadable discount priced issues of Really Old stuff from the back catalogs. I betcha if Sony/BMG and Universal put a good bunch of their 1925-1950 jazz, swing and even pop and classical catalogs online for 50 cents or even a quarter a pop, they'd sell more songs than they think. Plus, the songs would start showing up on TV and in commercials and all of a sudden there'd might be a mini-trend in nostalgic music, and then some of it would end up sampled in some dance or hip-hop hit and it would be a bit self-perpetuating. I might be wrong on this but I think some of those great songs and performances have surprising staying power if properly marketed. Plus, these kind of recordings actually sound good to excellent in typical iTunes MP4/AAC format. By the same token, I've been surprised that Radio Spirits/Mediabay hasn't been more active on this front. I wonder how many dollars they make selling individual radio shows at iTunes for $1-2 instead of multi-CD sets at $5-10 per disc. Maybe not enough to justify the effort, maybe enough to get out of the CD inventory/shipping business.

----- Original Message ----- From: "Don Cox" <doncox@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Sunday, October 01, 2006 12:52 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] fwd: Everything Louder Than Everything Else : Have the loudness wars reached their final battle?

On 01/10/06, Bob Olhsson wrote:
Tom Fine wrote:
It's just disgraceful how 50 years of progress in sound recording and
reproduction -- to where at least a few recordings each year were
truly life-like -- is being erased in less than a generation.

The production values of singles started being applied to albums. A major cause of this has been artists and their managers starting to require "complete creative control" in their recording contracts because the press tells them that's what they ought to have. Even when label executives know better, they are obliged contractually to choose between releasing the recording as it is or not releasing it and eating the advance and production expenses.

The traditional reason for "cutting hot" was to make the greatest
impact in a distributor sales or a radio programming meeting. What
typically happens in these meetings is that the first 15-30 seconds of
a track is played and the people in the room vote to either add the
title to what they are working with or to throw it in the trash. This
happens before anybody outside the industry gets to ever hear the
record. (Payola only bought you getting into the pile of records being
considered.) At the very least one never want to be too much softer
than the competition.

The sad part is that with the exception of misguided souls who think
that they are being trendy, it's the fans who buy the CDs that are
getting screwed by this process. In the old days many hit records
practically sold themselves by word of mouth. I very rarely hear of
that happening today. Likewise music radio's "Time Spent Listening"
ratings have been dropping like a rock for more than ten years. All of
the ear fatigue certainly can't be helping sales. The redeeming grace
of lossy coded music is that it often makes crushed digital audio
sound much much worse.

Has anyone done surveys on what listeners actually have on their iPods?

It might not be what you assume.

Don Cox

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