Cape still a market for CDs despite national sales slide

Monday, April 9, 2007

Nationally the sale of music compact discs has taken a plunge, but there is still a market in Cape Girardeau.

Industry tracker Neilson SoundScan reported last month CD sales have dropped 20 percent from last year.

Eighty-nine million CDs were sold from the beginning of the year through the middle of March, compared to 119 million during the same period in 2006, according to SoundScan.

The recording industry attributes the loss to downloading. However, not all retailers are feeling the pinch.

"So far this year's looking good for us," said Paul MacDougall, owner of PMac Music on William Street.

About two-thirds of MacDougall's 40,000-CD selection is used, allowing him to charge less and compete with other forms of entertainment, he said. MacDougall charges less than $10 for the majority of his used CDs.

Music and a few television stations were the main forms of home entertainment in the 1960s and 1970s, but "the industry hasn't changed at all" since then, he said.

"Sorry, record industry, but if you drop the price of CDs, maybe you could compete with PlayStation, cell phones and computers," he said.

The Recording Industry Association of America has a breakdown of the cost of a CD on its Web site, Some factors included are the time and efforts of the artist and producer, studio costs, marketing and promotion, cover art and "costly concert tours."

However, CDs aren't so important to some artists.

In a March 21 article about music downloading in the Wall Street Journal, Jeff Rabban, manager of artists such as Kelis, Jermaine Dupri and Elliot Tamin, said he looks at CDs only as a marketing device for an artist to bring people to tours, buy merchandise and build "a brand."

MacDougall said he has noticed fewer customers at the Cape Girardeau store coming to buy CDs on their release date since 2000. He attributed it to the convenience of downloading but doesn't look at that as a bad thing.

"A lot of people download to sample music and find what they like," he said. "People who simply download to their iPods were never really music collectors to begin with. We cater to the real collectors."

The appeal of CDs is not just for collectors, according to John Weiss, the music manager at Hastings.

"Having a physical copy gives people a sense of security. If your hard drive gets wiped out, there go all your songs." Weiss said.

Along with books, movies and CDs, Hastings sells electronics, including MP3 players. Although Weiss typically notices a decrease in sales after Christmas, he doesn't think MP3s are hurting CD sales at the William Street store.

"Generally if someone downloads a lot, it's all or nothing. They've already sold their entire CD collection," he said.

Some, however, rely on having a big CD collection.

David Creech, a disc jockey of 20 years with Diamond Sound Systems, lugs around thousands of CDs during his gigs.

"It's impressive to roll in 10 cases of CDs instead of two little iPods and a sheet of paper," he said.

Creech said he remembers when he replaced his 45s with cassettes, then CDs. Of all of them, he likes CDs the best.

"With CDs there was such a strength in the format," he said. "I just worry after 20 years what to do if the computer was to go down. My two CD players never quit."

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