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The State of Digital Music in 2006 127

wh0pper writes "Designtechnica has an excellent article on the state of digital music in 2006. Digital music accounted for only six percent of total music sales in 2005. Yet even that is a massive increase over the year before, a whopping 194 percent, which is fiscally valuable as the sales of CDs continue to decrease (although even with digital sales, the record labels experienced another downturn in 2005). While the young, usually the first to adopt and adapt to new technology, have been downloading and swapping music for quite some time, there's been a ripple effect into the older, warier area of the population, one that will only increase. Thank--or blame--Apple and its iPod, or any of the many other makes selling like hotcakes in the stores.
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The State of Digital Music in 2006

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  • by skynetos ( 778296 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @08:40PM (#15043846)
    I prefer CD's only as I want quality and freedom. I like to have the right to rip them to FLAC and put them on my iAudio X5. DRM and compressed downloaded music just does not make sense. Quality over Quantity I always say.
    • To be fair you can rip using a lossless codec using iTunes, and the DRM it and the iTMS imposes allows you to copy the song to up to 5 different machines. This has been enough for my needs.
      • by MikeXpop ( 614167 ) <mike@noSpam.redcrowbar.com> on Saturday April 01, 2006 @08:50PM (#15043869) Journal
        You need an original CD to rip into Apple Lossless. And if you rip anything from an original CD, there's no DRM whatsoever.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        ...I can purchase a dead tree book, and read it in 1,000 chairs if I choose, and save it, or lend it, or sell it, I can rip the pages out and retape them back together legally, I can refer to it, translate it into klingon for funzies if I want to,etc, and 1,000 years from now no one will have to deal with it being in a closed format or be in a form that you need some museum-level technology to even access..

        I don't see the booksellers demanding that a book can only be read by 5 people, then that's it
      • It's been enough for your media so far. But what happens a few computers and iPods down the road? If you reinstall your OS is that another "machine" down the drain? If you have a different OS installed on another partition of your hard drive and want to play the files from there, does that count as "another machine"? If you wanted to play the files under, say, BeOS and found that there was no player available, would it be possible for you or anyone else to write one? For that matter, I've never even he
        • ? If you reinstall your OS is that another "machine" down the drain?

          I would burn them first, then rip them in whatever format I choose.

          If you have a different OS installed on another partition of your hard drive and want to play the files from there, does that count as "another machine"?

          If I did that then it would certainly be an annoyance. I don't.

          For that matter, I've never even heard of a player for GNU/Linux capable of playing iTMS files, and it's a pretty common operating system these days.

          Th

    • For me it's cost over quality. Buying one song at $0.99 USD makes more economic sense than buying the $17.00 CD. However, sometimes the real CD sold at online stores can be cheaper than what iTunes downloads offer. And for me, my ears don't care about quality loss from burn & rip transcoding, but make sure to tag it as such. Sometimes I care about quality, and for those I buy the real CD. Online downloads complement my CD purchases, not replace it.
      • Re:Cost over Quality (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
        I usually don't feel like supporting an artist unless I feel that the album is worth buying. I don't think it's worth supporting an artist who can only produce 1 good song. Also, most the the CD's i've bought recently have been $15. You can often find old stuff for even cheapter, $10. I find that the quality and freedom are well worth the extra cash.
        • I don't think it's worth supporting an artist who can only produce 1 good song.

          Well, I even give money to homeless people sometimes, even though he hasn't made a single hit. If a penny or two goes to the artists for my song purchase, it can't be such a bad thing. She/he's got more talent than me.

          Also, most the the CD's i've bought recently have been $15. You can often find old stuff for even cheapter, $10. I find that the quality and freedom are well worth the extra cash

          Used CDs can be cheap, but I hate sc
    • by O_at_TT ( 953533 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @10:02PM (#15044014) Homepage

      Quality over Quantity...

      While Baby-Boomers are now part of this market it is still dominated by younger people who apparently don't care so much about quality. It seems the way people listen to music is changing parallel to the way the music is being distributed. People can now carry so much music in their pocket that they listen to music while doing anything and everything. Music is in essence background music for their lives. For that reason "quantity" is king for these people and "quality" is very secondary. Gone are the days where "listening to music" meant putting an album on in your living room and sitting through the whole thing while doing little other than enjoying the music.

      So for that reason I think your point of view is unfortunately a minority, and a shrinking one.

      -Oliver / TreasureTunes.com [treasuretunes.com]

      • Young people don't care about quality because they haven't experienced it in the first place. Twelve years ago when I was ripping MP3's in DOS at 112kbps, I couldn't hear the quality loss because I had lame speakers (with overzealous EQ) and lame headphones on a $99 discman. Everything sounded like shit to me and that's all I had ever known, so it was ok.

        Then I started making good money and bought myself a really sick stereo, and I started having aural orgasms at the staggering detail I discovered in my m
        • most people who ride with me think I'm just a crazy old music nerd and complain that I should get more bass

          So, the fish diet improves your hearing, then?

          I'll get me coat...
  • This is the Apple story for their 30th anniversary? Kind of a letdown if you ask me. No real press release... no fake press release... just some boring story that no one will read.

    Oh well, at least there is still some OMG PONIES!!
  • by teutonic_leech ( 596265 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @08:46PM (#15043861)
    The only thing that surprises me is how long this industry fought teeth and nails against this. Even now, they are only embracing the online distribution of digital media because they are forced to. Steve Jobs kicked open the online music market and he did the same again with online distribution of videos and now full features. It always takes a visionary with capabilities to take that first step - a smaller company would have been squashed early on. In some ways it's discouraging for small entrepreneurs like me because it paints a picture: don't you think I wasn't dreaming about an iTunes like music store a long time ago? Well, along with power and influence Steve also brought along the iPod, which was another puzzle needed to that piece. He basically had to put all the pieces together, singlehandedly (is that a word?). That's his genius and his vision and that's why he's cleaning up right now. Had I gone to Sony with a software just like iTunes on my laptop 5 years ago they would have just laughed at it. It sometimes takes a lot more than vision and talent to realize a business opportunity, some are tougher to crack than others.
    The same can be said about the video distribution business - without Jobs and iTunes we'd still be in the dark ages - just look at the ridiculous blunder of Sony and the PSP - talking about not being able to see the forest before the trees! And in the case of Sony - they even had a content library they could have thrown into the equation. Well, I guess those higher rank managers must get paid those multi-million for their smashing good looks - can't be the types of decision they make or their vision...
  • by caenorhabditas ( 914198 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @08:47PM (#15043865)
    I always thought that CDs were digital. Now I hear that digital music only accounts for six percent of music sales? I knew LPs were making a bit of a comeback, but I didn't know it was that big. Everyone must be really enjoying that "warmer" sound.
  • by dilvie ( 713915 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @08:49PM (#15043868) Homepage Journal

    This story isn't complete without mentioning MP3 blogs and netlabels. Millions of songs were downloaded last week from the tens of thousands of MP3 blogs and netlabels dishing out free music from mostly non-commercial websites. A quick look at a few of the best ones will reveal that a lot of the music being served up is top quality.

    Enjoy some free music.
    • Yeah, the story was rather disappointing in that it didn't realize the potential that Internet distribution has to remake the music landscape. Most artists already don't make money on recording deals, but record labels supply necessary distribution and promotion. That allows artists to make money by going on tour and drawing audiences. Now with the Internet, it's possible to cut out the middlemen altogether. The Net might destroy record labels in the same way it ruined Computer Shopper and the way it's hurt
      • by dilvie ( 713915 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @09:56PM (#15044000) Homepage Journal

        Exactly my point. It's really a whole different ball-game now. I've been playing ball with a bunch of indie labels and artists, and we're achieving some pretty stunning distribution numbers. Some of the top features on my MP3 blog have been downloaded over 60,000 times each. My own music had a quarter-million downloads last month -- and this is for electronic music, where 10,000 record sales is considered a hit.

        My friends in Taxi Doll [taxidoll.com] are just an indie group going it alone (as of this writing), and they've managed to got their music into films staring J-Lo and Harrison Ford. They're taking advantage of digital distribution and free downloads to help them get the word out, and they've got plans to expand the strategy in the future.

        Why are people still talking about the music industry like it's 1997? Whole genres have broken off from the major outlets, and started hacking it alone. There are tons of indies on sites like Beatport [beatport.com] and CD Baby [cdbaby.com] selling digital downloads and CDs with no DRM. Imagine that -- music producers giving people what they want, rather than force feeding them crippled songs.

        There's a huge undercurrent in the music industry right now, and the storm is brewing. The old industry is a sinking ship. Some of us have been saying it for years, but the day of reckoning is coming quickly, now.

        • Distribution numbers, like hit counts, are meaningless. Sooner or later, the secret to making money is to convince someone that the product you are selling has value. The .{2}AA and company have that side of the equation nailed down pretty well. Some of the new distribution models (the iTunes/iPod conglomerate comes to mind) do, too. Has the indie music movement figured out a way to monetize their popularity yet? Because "old industry" isn't going to be a sinking ship if its got the exclusive source of
        • Sweet link to beatport. I didn't know about them. CD Baby does *not* sell digital downloads, however (unless I'm just not seeing something on their site), but sells tons of CDs for bands. I have a friend that works there in the warehouse. :) They *do* have some sort of deal with iTunes Music Store, IIRC.

      • It is interesting that one of the songs which is tipped for the number 1 slot in this weeks UK singles chart is only available for download. This shows that internet distribution is already changing the music landscape.
    • And talking about the online music underground isn't complete without mentioning the much older scene of chiptune artists (and the demoscene in general).
  • just thought I'd pass that along...
  • /me does a little dance.

    Finally, now my brain can begin recovering...
    *whew*
  • by 7Prime ( 871679 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @08:55PM (#15043878) Homepage Journal
    Remember that 30 years ago, we had vinyl and cassette tapes. Vinyl was easily rippable, although "ripping" one meant something a little different back then. Cassette tapes sounded like total crap. If you think about it, even *with* DRM, we've come a long way in quality and ease of copying. And don't worry about compression for the moment, this is just a passing phase while non-lossy algorythms become more streamlined and connection speeds get faster. DRM is a neccessary evil, unfortunately, because no record company, in their right mind, would agree to selling media without it. Thankfully, there are many quick, and fairly painless ways of getting past Apple's DRM if you're really worried about it (I'm amazed that record companies agreed to FairPlay, it's so easy to bypass).
    • Until the music industry releases something OTHER than a crap 128kps file that sounds like my neighbors 12 year old daughter made it with her own MP3 encoder she made in middle school C++ class, I'll be copying my music from CD and the internet.

      The music industry hates consumers. DRM, "copy protection" virus/malware, etc.
    • "Non-lossy" is not the problem. The extremely limited sample rate of the published standards is not soluble without actually changing the standard, even if compression improves or disk space increases and we have no limit there.

      The old LP's recorded quite a bit of both high frequency and low frequency information that digitization invariably throws out due to the pitifully low sample rates. No amount of digital processng or massaging can recover information that is entirely in between the actual sampling mo
      • No amount of digital processng or massaging can recover information that is entirely in between the actual sampling moments, without the sound being so long and periodic that its remnants are eventually picked up in the beats with the sampling rate, and No amount of digital processng or massaging can recover information that is entirely in between the actual sampling moments, without the sound being so long and periodic that its remnants are eventually picked up in the beats with the sampling rate, and the
        • uhhh... don't you mean Nyquist [wikipedia.org]?
        • Yes, I'd like to use that "incorrect" score on your post. The error is early, where you said "as long as the signal does not contain any frequency components above 22.05 kHz". Of courese there is information above that sample rate! It's not critical for speech, but for music the sound extends well above that frequency. While such frequencies are nominally "ultrasonic", they're well within the auditory perception of some people and they do affect the shape of auditory waveforms that reach the ear, and especi
          • I was referring to your remark about 'reconstructing the signal from the beating', where you appeared to be suggesting that that is impossible. My apologies for misunderstanding you.

            Re microphones: see the specs for the Neumann U87 (a classical high-end microhone) on the manufacturer's website:

            Where do you get the idea that in the old days, microphones could handle high frequencies

            • But a microphone with a limited frequency range can often capture interesting waveform phenomonea, although attenuated, at well above that frequency. And the temporal data of precisely when which sound started and ended and changed amplitude is still intact, at a much higher temporal resolution than the frequency of the microphone itself. Digitization destroys much of that information, and creates fascinating uncertainties in the temporal information related to the sampling interval. That is actually notice
    • Cassette tapes sounded like total crap.

      Cassettes sound a LOT better if you only use one side. (Of course albums were almost never sold that way.)

      I have to admit, iTunes has temporarily killed my appreciation of music. Making playlists is a tedious task of sorting and searching for songs I like -- which means having to listen to songs I DON'T like in order to weed them out.

      I have played all of my favorite albums to death... I don't enjoy any of them anymore.

      It's much like a drug or any addiction -

    • DRM is a neccessary evil, unfortunately, because no record company, in their right mind, would agree to selling media without it.

      Not true [emusic.com]. I get a lot of good music from there, completely DRM free. Sure, there's none of the big labels, but that doesn't affect the quality at all. Just the names you recognise.

      (Oh, and a plug for my program for Linux users: eMusic/J [kallisti.net.nz])

      • Not true at all

        320bps VBR MP3s:

        http://www.audiolunchbox.com/ [audiolunchbox.com]
        http://www.magnatune.com/ [magnatune.com]
        http://www.bleep.com/ [bleep.com], who sells FLACs as well.

        There are more.
        • 320bps VBR MP3s:

          What, exactly, are 320bps VBR MP3s?

          For one, most lossy audio work around the 160-250kbps ballpark.

          For two, the highest VBR preset in LAME, -V0 (--preset extreme before 3.97), has a target bitrate of just 240kbps. I don't see how you can get a 320kbps VBR mp3. Indeed, 320kbps was formerly known as the CBR --preset insane (now simply -b 320 in 3.97), and it is the highest bitrate defined in the mp3 standard[1] -- hardly something you can be variable about.

          [1] Yes, in LAME you can force it up

          • The variable bit rate goes up to 320kbps is what that means (variable 0-320kbps), not the avg bit rate. Most tracks have average bit rate of about 200kbps at emusic and bleep, so it seems from observation. It was an easy way of saying high quality MP3s without writing out the flags they all use. But thank you for sharing your LAME aptitude.
    • DRM is not a necessary evil, and all record companies are currently selling media without it (CDs). In fact, DRM is probably the reason online music sales are as low as they are, because currently the best legal way to get music on your computer is buying and ripping CDs. Current online music services with DRM do provide instant gratification, but they offer the customer far less value.
      • In fact, DRM is probably the reason online music sales are as low as they are

        Not it's not. Very few people know what DRM is, let alone it's implications.
        • My sister and dad know what DRM is, now that iTunes suddenly started to give an error message when they try to burn a CD with music they bought from the iTunes music store. If the files weren't DRMed, I could simply show them how to use another program to burn the CDs.
    • ... no record company, in their right mind, would agree to selling media without it.

      Only until recently, all record companies sold digital, lossless, DRM-free music. All CDs that I buy are DRM-free, not because I have been avoiding DRM CDs (although I would), I just haven't encountered them from the artists that I am interested in. I doubt that the CD DRMs are hard to crack (just disable autorun?), but with their warnings stickers, that it may break my CD player, my CD drive, or my PC, and that nobody will
    • DRM is a neccessary evil, unfortunately, because no record company, in their right mind, would agree to selling media without it.

      No, record companies are an unnecessary evil and will eventually die the way of all dinosaurs. DRM is one of the consequences of their death-throes, and will subside and vanish once the beast is dead.

    • There are thousands of indie labels flourishing in online marketplaces like CD Baby [cdbaby.com] and Beatport [beatport.com], selling digital music without DRM. A lot of the bigger labels are just trying desparately to preserve the status quo long enough for them to get their bearings and remain competitive. I don't think it's working.

    • I'm amazed that record companies agreed to FairPlay, it's so easy to bypass. What do you mean, we all PlayFair here ...
    • No record company in their right mind would agree to selling media without DRM? So why are the record companies quite happy to sell me little silver media disks, which not only contain no DRM, are in uncompressed WAV format? Yes, I know that the record companies are trying to introduce DRM onto CDs, but I note that unprotected CDs haven't been withdrawn from sale in the meantime. The argument that record companies will never sell downloads without RM is bollocks. They just need more persuasion.
  • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @09:31PM (#15043947) Homepage Journal
    My mom is a good example of where things are going. I showed her my cheap Ilo player [gadgetmadness.com] from Walmart ($50 baby [walmart.com]) and an Ari Hest Concert from archive.org [archive.org] and suddenly "digital music" made sense to her. If she was not hoplessly hooked on Windoze, I'd set her up with Amarok and the usb-device script and that would be that. That's not the case, so I recommended an Ipod. Even she knows that music+windoze= crashed computer, so the free software may come later to her old laptop which still runs WinME! If she can get it, anyone can.

    The RIAA is over. Apple makes it easy for people to spend their money on music but the RIAA way is not the future. Sales are only a small piece of the picture. More and more, reputations are not going to be built on radio play but on web play. Bands that understand this are going to be here tomorrow and the rest are going to look like slaves to greedy pigs. Portable music devices can hold more songs than the average radio station can afford to broadcast. To the user, it's all killer and no annoying adverts. The "Industry" is fighting back with satellite radio and FM crap flooding but it's not good enough. Players like Apple are going to help transition the industry to it's less centralized and less parasitic future. The free market forces and free software will move in and make life better for everyone, especially the artists.

    • by tentimestwenty ( 693290 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @09:46PM (#15043979)
      As a record store owner and the webmaster for RecordStoreReview.com I have a pretty good read on where things are going. This gradual decline in physical sales is about to reach the tipping point where the distribution model crumbles and downloads increase exponentially. It might not happen in 2006 but 2007 is very likely. At the store level, there just isn't sustainable profit from physical sales.
      • Not so fast, I hope. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by twitter ( 104583 )
        This gradual decline in physical sales is about to reach the tipping point where the distribution model crumbles and downloads increase exponentially. ... At the store level, there just isn't sustainable profit from physical sales.

        I'm not sure the death of physical media is that close and I hope local stores never go away. Pressed CDs are a better backup than the dye based things I can burn. Cheaper physical media might change that opinion, but I will still enjoy the artifact.

        Here's a store to add to [louisianam...actory.com]

    • music+windoze= crashed computer
      Uh, what? I know plenty of people who use iPod/iTunes (and others who use iPod/WinAMP) on Windows with no difficulties. Could you please explain that comment?
      • I know plenty of people who use iPod/iTunes (and others who use iPod/WinAMP) on Windows with no difficulties. Could you please explain that comment?

        Sure, it's not my opinion. Her perception comes from watching other people's computers fry when they play with music. I did not dig into her about it, the way people like you might, but I can imagine those computers fried due to a combination of RIAA vigilanti attacks on P2P networks and WMP performance. Whatever, it's a common view that has nothing to do wi

  • by macslut ( 724441 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @09:35PM (#15043961)
    This keeps coming up. Note that the writers aren't calling CDs analog, but rather comparing the physical media of CDs to (digital) downloads which are delivered absent of a physical media.
    • This keeps coming up. Note that the writers aren't calling CDs analog, but rather comparing the physical media of CDs to (digital) downloads which are delivered absent of a physical media.

      So because CDs contain digital data that haven't freed themselves from the shackles of a tangible medium, they don't have the right to be called digital? It's surely going to confuse the public into thinking that CDs are analogue if the press constantly refers to them in terms of being opposed to digital media. Why not

    • No, there still has to be some physical media somewhere, from the server at the digital music shop to the hard disk drive/flash memory device in your computer/ mp3 player, the only difference is, you're not buying the physical media you need to store the music on since you already own it, or are borrowing it from a family member or friend.

      Just another question, what happens when you have a large collection of DRM restricted music files on a shared PC, but changes in your family situation mean the computer w
  • Works better? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neoshroom ( 324937 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @09:47PM (#15043981)
    A couple more might join the fray, but the lines have essentially already been drawn, with everyone gunning for iTunes to take chunks out of its share. That could well happen; the ongoing supremacy of Steve Jobs's baby is far from guaranteed. Once someone else figures out a model that works better for the consumer, actually listening to and providing what customers really want, all bets will be off. And, sure as eggs is eggs, it'll happen.

    I don't buy that. What the consumers want is 95% of what Apple is already delivering. Consumers prefer ala carte music tracks to forced albums or subscription models by far. Consumers want ease of use and they want simplicity. They want an all-in-one solution. The only way you can beat Apple now is on price or on freedom (no DRM portability-type freedom). Apple probably has enough clout to beat most competitors on price and the RIAA simply isn't going to agree to any less restrictive DRM or DRM free solutions.

    Its too bad "all bets will be off." Apple keeping their dominance is a bet I'd gladly take.

    --
    Elephant Essays [elephantessays.com] - Custom Ivy-league papers at community college prices.
  • by Edmund Blackadder ( 559735 ) on Saturday April 01, 2006 @10:03PM (#15044021)
    This is the funniest April fools joke yet. State of digital music. Ipds. ROFL. How do they come up with this stuff?

    I mean look at the "news story" -- just a bunch of fluff sayng absolutely nothing new (or nothing that hasnt been repeated a thousand times on slashdot), nothing of any technical or scientific interest and designed merely to get a bunch of Apple fanboys to feel good about themselves to get Apple some good publicity and to get designtechnica (whatever the fcuk that is) some extra hits.

    As if that would ever be put on Slashdot. I mean only stuff that matters gets shown here. But it makes for a funny joke. HAHAHAHA
  • Apple foots all the bill while one measly digital file is duplicated over and over. iTMS is pure profit for the music industry.

    F*ck the RIAA! Buy used CDS!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It is surprising to note digital music is only six percent of total music sales in 2005. So digital music is just starting and its a good time to come out of the hype see what professionals use.

    Everybody now days use mp3. Is that the only music format available? No. There are other music formats available which are far more superior to mp3 but not widely known yet.

    Ogg [vorbis.com] is similar to mp3, but its a completely open and free format. That is, if you want to create audio (eg. Music, podcasts, etc) create in

  • Why did you people tag this as Gay, Ponies? Is Apple now full of gay ponies? I mean I dont like apple much either, but I wouldn't go that far.
  • Error (Score:1, Flamebait)

    The music on CD's IS digital, moron. So comparing "digital music" to "CD's" is just silly. What I suspect you really meant was 'Internet-downloadable digital music' and presumably only that purchased from a RIAA-approved source in a proprietary format including an offensive and obnoxious DRM system (as opposed to that shared between individuals via whatever mechanism), as compared to 'purchasable digital music delivered on physical read-only optical media, including both "order [online or by phone] and wait
  • Let's see...analog equals vinyl.

    digital equals plastic

    Okay...and I win what?

  • Every time the topic of digital music comes up on /. there's a bunch of hypocritical audiophile geeks who go on and on and on about how mp3 is "low quality" and we should all use flac or 320 VBR.

    What the hell? How many of you guys have sat through a blind test to see if there's any difference whatsoever? Why should people fill their hard drives and their portable drives with useless junk that is flac or mp3 320 kbps? Enough already.

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