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10m Online Tracks Unsold In 2008

Gordon Kelly by

10m Online Tracks Unsold In 2008

The point of getting millions of tracks online was supposedly that we wouldn't focus so heavily on purchasing the hollow, reality TV led garbage so which frequently plagues our charts. Sounds good in theory, problem is it doesn't work.

That is the rather depressing news coming out of a new study by Will Page, the chief economist of the MCPS-PRS Alliance, a not-for-profit royalty collection society. His stats are beyond depressing:

  • 80 per cent of all revenue in 2008 came from just 52,000 of the 12m tracks available

  • Only 173,000 of the 1.23m albums available were bought in 2008

  • 85 per cent of albums didn't sell a single copy all year
""The relative size of the dormant ‘zero sellers' tail was truly jaw-dropping," admitted Page and I agree wholeheartedly. Especially given I tend to hear better music during the music nights of pubs and clubs than the Cowell-infested garbage given its unholy birth on weekend terrestrial TV.

It also shows the so-called 'Long Tail' retailer rule has continued its curse onto the online arena. For those not familiar with the term it argues the most popular 20 per cent of products will account for 80 per cent of sales revenues.

Merry Christmas everyone, I'm off to head butt a snow blower...


via The Times

Go to comments


December 24, 2008, 6:04 am

Please consider that most older music buyers like to have physical media (I know I do). I don't think I'll be sold on buying purely digital music for a long time yet, not when I have the instant back-up of a CD.


December 24, 2008, 10:50 am

simon cowell this is all your fault. well, this has pretty much dented all hopes of seeing lossless music on itunes, if the only ones people will buy are the ones in the charts (probably explains the crazy frog thing, then... human beings couldn't possibly enjoy that song...)

Chris Beach

December 24, 2008, 1:07 pm

but as these unsold songs cost near enough zero to host, who cares?


December 24, 2008, 2:08 pm

1) Because its what they overmarket

2) Because not all of what i've heard is sitting with the 'big five'

3) Because i can't be bothered to chase down which major online music seller stocks which of my favourite golden oldies. If i did, i'd end up having subscriptions with multiple online music distributors, and i don't want that!

Put it all in one place, and i'll have a look-see...


December 24, 2008, 2:14 pm

Aaahhhh I think Chris Anderson's thesis in "The Long Tail" was the exact OPPOSITE of the classic 80/20 Pareto principle you refer to in your article Gordon. Anderson argued that the lowered transaction costs (in the economic sense) in a digital world meant that most of your revenue would be derived from the "long tail" of products that only sold a small number of copies NOT the small number of products that sold a lot of copies (which is the classic blockbuster model). Sadly real economics has trounced wikinomics and the blockbuster rule appears to hold true. Probably because 80% of the music buying public are 13yo, where being part of the crowd listening to the same music is much safer than actually having music taste...

Hamish Campbell

December 24, 2008, 2:38 pm

Was there any comparison made with pre-online purchasing stats?

i.e. has this always been the case and online has made no difference, or has it made the effect more pronounced? It could even improved things a little...


December 24, 2008, 3:43 pm

@ThaDon... but if they put it all in one place, they'd call in "anti-competitive" (see the article about Kangaroo TV download service for more details)...


December 24, 2008, 4:28 pm

If you look on the front page of any online music store, the "new stuff" is all anyone sees. For people who are just browsing rather than trying to find something specific, of course they're not going to see anything older than a few months!


December 24, 2008, 8:15 pm

@Robovski - I'm with you on this one. I like to have physical discs, whether it be music or movies. Compressed music is fantastic for having a large library in one place and for having a large library on the move, but if I wanted to sit down and listen to music for pleasure, rather than something in the background, I&#8217d want to listen to a CD on a good hi-fi.

The funniest thing is that people are buying digital downloads even when it&#8217s more expensive than a CD. I&#8217m in the process of ripping my whole CD collection to my NAS at the moment (I&#8217m up to D so far). While going through my discs I couldn&#8217t find my copy of Wonderland by The Charlatans (no doubt I leant it to someone and never got it back), so I ordered a new copy from Play. While ordering I was amazed to see that the CD cost &#1634.99 while the digital download cost &#1637.95!

Why would anyone not just buy the CD and then rip it at a decent bit rate? Or are people really that lazy?


December 24, 2008, 8:47 pm

Sadly, I think seeing the zavvi news today shows the problem the physical media market faces... http://www.trustedreviews.com/...


December 24, 2008, 10:22 pm

Robovski - well said - the vast majority of my music collection are still on original CD's cos I just like the look and feel of the physical package of it all. I only occasionaly download the odd good single or two IF they're any good, let alone any albums. Also, piracy is still an issue here - the very 'bane' or 'nemesis' of the music industry (including the film and video game industry) - if people can download music for free, albeit from an illegal site and get away with it, why bother to 'purchase?


December 25, 2008, 5:43 am

Well I for one have only bought about 3 albums on download, and that was for novelty value.

I like having all my music on one hard disk, accessible at the touch of a button but...I like to have a choice of putting on a CD if I want, as well as having the disc neatly sitting on a shelf. And also, with the disc I get a choice of what file format and bitrate to use...no point me buying everything on iTunes at 128kbps to pump through to a set of Shures...and what if I get a PMP which doesn't support the format of my download? (as it happens, just replacing my broken iPod with a Cowon S9 because I didn't rate the iPoo for sound quality :-D )

And I'm only 28 so it's not like I'm old and averse to purchasing digitally - but I still remember the record stores full of 12" vinyl when I was a kid...I think this study is a little slanted because most people who buy the bulk of the downloads or pop-chart monkeys aged 11-20 who would stab themselves on the needle if they ever saw a record player....)...they're not really the Pink Floyd or Layo & Bushwacka crowd...

Merry Christmas everyone :-D


December 26, 2008, 9:19 pm

@Riyad - "Why would anyone not just buy the CD and then rip it at a decent bit rate?"......As a relative novice of CD ripping myself, what do you or others consider to be a decent bit rate?


December 28, 2008, 2:12 am

I've just seen all these comments and thought I'd add my two pence. I consider myself to be very fussy when it comes to audio quality and whilst most of my music comes from ripped CDs and vinyl, a lot of new dance music (which is my 'taste') is not available in CD format any more.

For ease of access and convenience, all of my music is ripped from CD to WAV, then converted to mp3 in 256kbp VBR. It sounds very good regardless of player and speakers so despite not being truly lossless, the convenience factor is king. I refuse to download a track from iTunes if it has DRM and where possible, buy the CD.

I have to play all these tracks over loud P.A. systems when I DJ so if the quality was poor, I'd soon hear it.


December 29, 2008, 2:30 pm

I think the idea of needing to rip at a "decent bitrate" is a bit unfair. Play sell almost all there songs at 320Kbps constant bitrate encoded using lame, and Amazon are selling theres using 256Kbps ish VBR again encoded with lame. Thats a pretty good bit rate in all honesty. In fact unless you absoloutely have to have lossless audio and have the money to spend on the hardware necessary to get the true benefit its better than 99% of people will ever need or notice.

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