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8-track cassettes out-sell digital albums. why is anyone surprised?

I often wonder why media pundits in the music world don't pay attention to what people actually do when they purchase digital music. Let me spell it out - Single song purchases far outstrip whole album purchases. Just ask Steve Jobs.

The chart above is a wonderful mix of humor, hubris and irony to me. The fact that it was posted by Digital Music News is the ironic part. Here's an extract from their website's about page - Digital Music News is the premier news and information authority for music industry and technology executives worldwide. Our audience is comprised of highly-targeted decision-makers from every segment of the business, spanning major labels to garage start-ups.

With that kind of messaging, especially about their "authority," one would expect a post like this to have been deeply researched. I mean it's not like there isn't tons of data out there.

So, on the surface the gee whiz/humor part is in the news that the clunky old 8-track cassette is out-selling digital album downloads. Except, that is, until you realize that more people are purchasing single song downloads, so of course the 8-track beats out the digital album downloads. Then the author writes - "the format was actually introduced in the mid-60s, though we don't have reliable figures for that pre-1973 period." Well we can safely assume that people were buying albums on 8-track through the 60's too. Which means that the 8-track was available for purchase as a format from the mid-60's through 1982, 20 years or music purchasing began in 2004. Maybe the digital album will out-sell the 8-track album - so what?

It's actually a non-story.

The real story is that in 2011 people are buying less albums than ever before and that's because of new technology - Pandora is popular, mobile devices give users access to streaming music, Spotify is popular, music apps are available for the iPad, etc, etc.. (Let's not forget, the 8-track cassette was new technology once.)

The first comment under the post neatly sums up the mindset of people who worry about digital music and its affect on sales - "I think digital can grow but not in it's current format. My idea is we need a new super hi fi format. Would love to hear others thoughts."

Here's my thoughts - that sounds like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.


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