The high cost of music

I was looking for a CD the other day, and was surprised to find that it cost $19. The music industry has been crying in its beer for years now, claiming CD sales are down because of grandmothers and 10 year old girls downloading pirated copies of music.

Meanwhile, over at the Apple iTunes store, I can buy the very same album for $10, with some mild restrictions on how I can use it. So while the music companies have legal competition (with themselves, since they get most of the money passing through the iTunes store) with legal music downloads, their response to that competition is to raise CD prices to all time highs.

What is wrong with this picture? Any rational business, faced with competition, looks for ways to reduce costs and compete. But instead, the music industry seems to have a death wish. With CD sales down, their thinking is, apparently, "We'll show them--if our thieving, pirated-minded customers won't buy CDs, we'll teach them a lesson by making CDs even more expensive than ever!"

With the cost of producing a CD at most about a dollar, it's hard to imagine that CDs can't be sold for less than an $18 markup. And in fact, you can find lots of music CDs at online stores (mostly older stuff) for well under $10.

We're watching the death of an industry, and it is slow suicide. People love music, and are very willing to pay for quality; there is a role for the music companies. But those same companies are refusing to adjust to a new market reality.

There is a lesson here for communities as well. If your leaders refuse to adjust to new market opportunities, continue to chase old, Manufacturing Economy businesses, and insist on steering the economic ship of the community onto the iceberg, everyone loses.

The world and our local/national/global notions of "the economy" have been changing ever since the first person bought some clay pots in exchange for two sheep. The idea that we can somehow stop the world and keep our communities just the way they were forty years ago is slow suicide, and it is the community itself that will die.

We can't stop change and growth--we can only manage it.

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