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Music DL story from Sonic Traveler Magazine

Ken
IsraTrance Full Member

Started Topics :  63
Posts :  441
Posted : Mar 10, 2008 10:58:09
This is a post of an article in March / April issue of Sonic Traveler Magazine. http://sonictraveler.biz/

I think this is good for discussion... food for thought...
I'd like to know what people think about the story's opinions...


The Age of Digital Music Downloads

The Digital Music Era has arrived.
2007 marked a dramatic fall in music CD sales around the world... especially in Japan, regarded as the highest selling and most important psytrance CD market in the world... some estimates say sales dropped by 50% - 60%. Meanwhile, digital music websites like Beatport and Cytopia are on the rise. And new stores like our own Sonic Traveler Digital Downloads (STDD) have opened.

So what can we expect from this new digital music era? How will it reshape the scene? How will artists and labels survive in this new frontier? We examine some of the issues and give some advice to those venturing into this new era...

Why did the CD market fail?
There have been many reasons offered as the answer to this question. The truth most likely being a combination of the various reasons. Let's have a look at some of the reasons...

Illegal Download Sites:
Many argue the illegal download sites are to blame, offering a huge range including the latest releases for free.

Quantity over quality:
Some blame the large number of releases and the poor quality of many releases. CD production costs came down to levels that made it affordable for people to produce their own CDs. Computer software that made it cheaper and easier for musicians and novices a-like to produce music. This combination together with greedy distribution companies flooded the market with poor quality CDs.

Over Priced:
This point is related to the previous one. With the low quality of releases, many consumers felt that CDs were over priced as there was only 1 or 2 tracks that they really liked from a 10 track CD.

Poor Promotion:
Many new labels were operating on very small promotion budgets - if any. Email shots that went straight into junk mail folders, forum postings with friends of the artists saying "good luck, all the best with this release" was the style that characterized PsyTrance promotion over the last few years.

With all these factors taken into account its no wonder that consumers stopped buying CDs!

How will the system change in the Digital Download Era?
Individual Tracks
One of the main differences is that customers will be able to buy individual tracks. In a sense the EP is back!

Sound Quality
MP3 is a compressed audio file. So, even if its encoded at 320kbps, it is not CD quality. Wav files are ofcourse CD quality. For ordinary music fans who listen to music on their MP3 players with small earphones, the difference is not really noticeable. For the maniac music fans and DJs who play this music on big systems then Wav is a must!!! Unfortunately, most large music download shops like iTunes only offer 256kbps MP3 which is poor quality compared to Wav.

Cover Art
Many people like the CD packaging, cover art and information. This is a very valid point. For me, I love reading books. The feel and smell of it as I turn the pages. In Japan today there is a craze amoungst teenagers, they are reading romance stories written by other teenagers on their mobile phones! Many people loved the feel and packaging of vinyl too before CDs became popular. I see digital download packaging as having great potential: you can include anything digital with the download... pdf booklets and flyers, videos, interviews with artists, movies, even the individual elements of the track. Unfortunately, at the moment, customers usually only get a jpeg of the cover art. As the market develops it will be interesting to see what other digital content is packaged with the music.

Time
It takes time to download music. With the world becoming more and more wired and connection speeds getting faster and faster, we feel this is not a major issue. In fact, digital downloads may save time for the customer. It takes time to travel to the CD Shop and listen to tracks. This way, customers can listen to tracks in their own time and let the computer download the track when they are out or busy doing other things. We tested Sonic Traveler Digital Digital Downloads on a broadband connection... (the test song is 7:57minutes long)
Approx. 4 minutes download time for 320kbps MP3
Approx. 8 minutes download time for Wav

Payment
The security of using credit cards online is still of great concern to many people around the world and especially the Japanese who still very much prefer the "furikomi" system. I think attitudes are changing and internet payment solution companies lilke PayPal are becoming more accepted. A tip for users is to look for the "lock" next to the URL or at the bottom right of your browser window when you are entering personal information such as credit card details, this lock symbol means the website is secured by SSL data encryption.

How will this affect producers and labels?
Distribution
Just as with the CD market, there are many digital content distributors. This can be very convenient but just as with the CD market there are many different types, and producers and labels must choose carefully as to which ones are best for them. In this new digital market, it is easier for labels and producers to distribute directly to online download sites through FTP accounts and other internet transfer services (cutting out the middle man will also increase your royalty percentage). The most important thing is the relationship between the download site and the label / producer. As we found in the CD market, the support of the shop can really increase sales.

Licensing and Royalties
The general rule is the same: DO NOT sign exclusive contracts unless you get advance payment for your music. The digital market is still evolving and the technology is moving very fast. If you sign away your exclusive rights, its gone and you cannot take advantage of any changes in the market.
Almost all music download shops work on a royalty system; with the percentages around 50% of Sale Price and no other costs passed on. The higher royalty percentage may seem great for Labels and Producers but digital sales are still nowhere near the level of CD sales. Some predict it will still take a few years before digital sales take over CD sales, maybe less for non-mainstream music like psytrance.

Making your own digital download store
With CD sales hitting rock bottom and digital sales booming, why not develop your own download site. Well, lets just say its not as easy as it sounds. Developing a digital download site is far different from a normal webshop. Security, SQL Databases, Backend Admin, Design... will cost you a lot of money and time. Basic HTML knowledge and pirated flash software wont cut it.
Individual Labels and Sites may develop their own digital download sites but people are still likely to visit sites where the can get a wide selection of trax.

Promotion
Well this has been the key for a long time, and even more important in the digital music age. This goes for producers and labels as well as music download sites. For labels and download sites to survive, they will have to have good promotion budgets and think about ways to promote beyond your standard email shot and forum postings.

Will people really buy digital downloads?
This is the zillion dollar question. Why would people buy digital downloads when they can get them for free. Illegal digital download sites are certainly popular but they also pose many hazards to users. In January 2008, Japanese users of Winny (the biggest P2P site in Japan), got a real shock when an Osaka student made a virus that evaded protection programs and once downloaded would maliciously delete the contents of the computers Hard Drive... and the contents could not be recovered. Apart from this danger, you have poor quality or incorrect files on these illegal download networks.
Another way to get free music is to copy from friends, this avoids the hassle of using these dodgy illegal download sites. The answer to this is attitude adjustment. Fans of psychedelic trance must be made aware that by copying music or downloading illegally, they are hurting the artists and labels who produce the music they love. They are hurting the scene!!!

This attitude coupled with the low price and convenience of digital downloads gives no excuse for people to download illegally. Question is... do fans really CARE? We will see.

As I once said to a friend, and Damion (psyreviews) so eloquently signed off on in his last review for this magazine, "Its not the music that makes the party, people make the party" The scene will go on because there are too many people who care.

Part of the philosophy of our scene is to embrace technology and also to use it for creating a wonderful future for the world.
Sonic Traveler encourages everyone to embrace this new digital music era. Please use it for creating a strong and beautiful future for our scene!           The music was like new black polished chrome
that came over the sky like liquid night.

psy16.com
Spindrift
Spindrift

Started Topics :  33
Posts :  1560
Posted : Mar 10, 2008 23:41
Just some comments on some of the points you mention:

Why did the CD market fail?
One issue that is often overlooked is the fact that the kind of people who used to buy a lot of CD's have many other expenses nowadays.
Mobile phones, computers and other technology and computer games is not for free, and the spending power is not unlimited.

Also the decline in CD sales overall is far higher in the trance scene than in the music industry in general. Trance is simply not as trendy and popular as it used to be in strong economies.
And as you mention there is a lot more releases, and that combined with a smaller market of course means bad sales.

Sound Quality
Anything above 192k has been proven again and again to be indistinguishable from wav with most material.
I have so far to see one test that concludes otherwise, regardless of how great or big equipment you use.
If you can point to a single test that shows otherwise please do so.

Having said that lossless formats like FLAC is my preference. If I do want to compress the audio for some reason I like to be able to choose bitrate and encoder myself and transcoding an mp3 is a very bad idea.

Cover Art
It's a good point and I do think including for example nice pdf booklets could convince a few people to pay for a download.
But quality content cost money to produce and personally I'm only interested in the music and don't like paying for something I don't want.

Time
Like you say yourself it's pretty much a moot point nowadays.
But you figures for download time seems way off.
A 320k is not half the size of a wav...more like 20 percent.
And if it takes you 4 minutes to download a 320k mp3 either your connection or host is very slow.
With my ADSL and a cheap host on the other side of the world it takes about 40 seconds.
And if time is an issue it makes much more sense to use a lossless format instead of wav.

Payment
It's certainly a concern for many people, and hence it's also an issue.
But the reality is that using your card in a bricks and mortar shop usually makes it much easier for someone to access you card details compared to most web shops.

Making your own digital download store
You don't have to reinvent the wheel though.
For example there is digital download plugins for oscommerce and there is plenty of services where you easily can set up a shop against a small commission.

Promotion
It's certainly true that a lot of labels is very bad at promotion, but it's also a bit of a catch 23.
With low sales there is not much budget for promotion and especially not hiring someone who is good at PR. And with bad promotion sales is low.

I think promotion should be the main focus for labels if they want to have a function to fill in the future.
They are not needed to upload the music to a digital store, and they are not needed to fund the pressing of CD's.

Will people really buy digital downloads?
I think there will be artists that makes good money from downloads.
For example look at NiN who sold downloads for $750 000 the first three days after release despite giving away part of the release for free and using an open license that allows people to share the music.
But trance music will not be an earner in any format the way it looks like now.
Things could change though, especially considering that many of the countries where it's actually still somewhat trendy and popular has rapidly developing economies.

But personally I couldn't care less about the commercial viability of the music.
Commercialism doesn't create better music, and IMO the reality is rather the opposite.
To give something to the scene I think it's much better to spend time rather than money.
          (``.(``.(``..`).`).`)
.....www.ResonantEarth.com.....
(.`(.`(.```.)``.)``.)

http://www.myspace.com/spindriftsounds
http://www.myspace.com/resonantearth
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IsraTrance Full Member

Started Topics :  65
Posts :  1704
Posted : Mar 11, 2008 00:49
Ok first of all, the cd didnt failed, like vynil or cassete is just being replaced by a more efficient technology its cycle has come to an end.

I started downloading music about 2 years ago in beatport, some times in wav and other in 320 mp3, and Im very satsiffied with my purchases.

I think this a great advantage for people living out of europe and USA, since shipping cost rise a lot in other countries.

The only thing I miss is artwork but psytrance albums never had a good booklet anyway, so no problem form.

I would like to see in the future digital packages that include some falsh presentation, or something that increases value of a hole album.

any way I like more to spend 25 dolars each month in 15 excellent tracks than 25 in two cd's with 10 good tracks.

Other things that label should be doing is merchandise, t.shirts and that kind of stuff. I know its sounds too comercial but there is market share that nobody has exploted yet.

If somebody could bring could designers to do some merchandise I would be very happy to buy some stuff.

aXis
IsraTrance Full Member

Started Topics :  116
Posts :  2562
Posted : Mar 11, 2008 04:34
WOW Respect Spindrift.
Ken
IsraTrance Full Member

Started Topics :  63
Posts :  441
Posted : Mar 11, 2008 07:49
> Spindrift
Thank you for your comments and I agree with most of what you said. Some points I differ...

Quote:

Sound Quality
Anything above 192k has been proven again and again to be indistinguishable from wav with most material.
I have so far to see one test that concludes otherwise, regardless of how great or big equipment you use.
If you can point to a single test that shows otherwise please do so.

Having said that lossless formats like FLAC is my preference. If I do want to compress the audio for some reason I like to be able to choose bitrate and encoder myself and transcoding an mp3 is a very bad idea.



I have experience playing 192kbps and 256kbps on big systems at festivals and the volume and quality are significantly lower. Ofcourse as a DJ you can compensate with mixing but for me, I will never use compressed formats when DJing again... the quality is noticeably different.

From what I understand, lossless formats are still compressed formats and need specific software to decompress. I'm happy with the original uncompressed wav format sites like sonictraveler.biz provide.

> Login
Also thank you for sharing your thoughts
Quote:

I would like to see in the future digital packages that include some falsh presentation, or something that increases value of a hole album.

any way I like more to spend 25 dolars each month in 15 excellent tracks than 25 in two cd's with 10 good tracks.



I agree completely! Instead of CD covers, I think labels and artists can be really innovative here... a small pdf booklet as a further medium to transmit their artistic message or video or anything downloadable... the possibilities are exciting... I dont think it should add extra cost to the product but rather value for the same cost...           The music was like new black polished chrome
that came over the sky like liquid night.

psy16.com
Spindrift
Spindrift

Started Topics :  33
Posts :  1560
Posted : Mar 11, 2008 11:28
@Ken
Of course there is a risk with mp3's that you get a bad copy, which must be the case if the volume is lower and you find a significant difference with a 256k mp3.
Also you have the placebo effect which will influence you unless you make a blind test.

Lossless formats works like zip compression, after decompression you have a bit-by-bit identical copy of the original.
Many software and hardware players can decompress FLAC while playing, and the software to convert FLAC to wav is a few kilobytes and take seconds to download and install.
After you have that your downloads take almost half the time and bandwidth compared to a wav.

Regarding having additional content, like I said I do think it's a good idea even if I don't approve personally.
Of course there is a cost involved, and if the customer doesn't pay for it the label and artist will have to.

When I mentioned NiN actually the $750 000 sales was only his "deluxe packages" which is $300 a piece.
I think it's a great idea to have different price points...collectors and hardcore fans happily pay far more than the cost of a CD if they get a more rare version with added content but people who just want the music can still get a download for cheap.
          (``.(``.(``..`).`).`)
.....www.ResonantEarth.com.....
(.`(.`(.```.)``.)``.)

http://www.myspace.com/spindriftsounds
http://www.myspace.com/resonantearth
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