Charlie Cook On Air: The CD

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• November 16, 2012

One of my fondest memories as a kid was jumping around an album—those were big round plastic things that mysteriously held music captive until you dropped a needle on the album and sound was created from the collision of the two entities—and listening to my favorites from that particular artist. I am not even going to admit to playing 45 rpms as a VERY young kid. That would put me mere years after Edison’s invention of the phonograph and I am not going there.

This “playing disc-jockey” continued with CDs as I would jump around the disc passing up songs that I didn’t particularly like to get to one that would stop me in my tracks (excuse the pun). There was an anticipation of knowing the song that I was going to hear and then actually experiencing it.

Stop for a second and think of your favorite song. Then hear it in your mind. Even that is an incredibly enjoyable experience. Even that makes you feel good. Actually add the sound of the song and the next 4 minutes is great.

I can remember the first time I heard “Roundabout” from the album Fragile by Yes. First of all, it is about 8 and one half minutes. And it takes you through about 10 emotions. I sat on the floor and just played it over and over all night. And no, I was not high. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t. Even today I will stop whatever I am doing and just listen to the song if I run across it.

Where am I going with this?

The CD is dead. The album is long dead.

That experience is dying.

Today music listeners will get “in the ballpark” of that experience. I know that if want to hear “Roundabout” I had better be listening to a Classic Rock station. WUSN is not going to play it. And even then my chance is about 1 in 4000.

Yeah, I can program Pandora for a Yes Channel and “Roundabout” is going to come up at some point.

Yeah, I can go on Spotify and “ask” for “Roundabout.”

Yeah, I can go to my iPod and play “Roundabout.”

Why does none of that feel the same?

Last week The NPD Group, a consumer research firm, published a study showing that Internet and on-demand services (Pandora, Spotify and YouTube) are pushing the CD off the shelves in America.

Our friends on Music Row can vouch for this.

So far these services are far behind radio but they are going in different directions and The NPD Group found radio listening down 4% year to year. Even digital downloads were reported down 2%

From an article I read (online) from the San Francisco Chronicle, NPD SVP Russ Crupnick said, “Although AM/FM radio remains America’s favorite music-listening choice, the basket of Internet Radio and Streaming services that are available today have, on a whole, replaced the CD for second place.”

With even digital downloads losing some ground music listeners have decided that owning the music is not important. Having access to the music is more important.

The thing about all of these services it that the revenue model is still shaky. I have Pandora. I have Spotify. I use YouTube. I have the free version of all of these channels.

I do not want the artist to be compromised by my not paying for the service but it seems like the artist payment is so far down the road on some of these services that me putting up with a commercial every 15 minutes or so is not going to impact them.

Artists reportedly get about 1/3 of a penny per stream on iTunes Match, but that is for playing a song you have already purchased once.

Want to make a dollar from Spotify? Hope that your song streams hundreds of times.

I like broadcast radio. I like the streaming services but both should be sources for introducing music to the consumer who then goes out and BUYS the music so that they can sit on the floor and play their favorites over and over and over.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow)

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Category: Featured, Radio

About the Author

Cook is currently on the board of both the ACM and the CMA and serves as Director of Programming and Brand Management for West Virginia Radio Corp, based in Morgantown, WV. He is also President of McVay/Cook and Associates, a Cleveland-based media consulting company. He has served on the CRB Board for over 20 years.

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