Sunday, June 11, 2006

The latest spin on CD prices

Today I ordered Tchaikovsky's Liturgy of St John Chrysostom coupled with Gretchaninov's Vespers sung by the National Academic Choir of Ukraine - "Dumka". This newly recorded Brilliant Classics 2CD set cost me £3.10 ($5.50) plus £1.24 ($2.25) shipping from the very dependable Caiman USA.

Here in the UK a large Starbucks Frappuccino ice blended coffee costs £3.60 ($6.50). If I hadn't just written a piece about the demise of Warner Classics I would have said that Starbucks' prices are too high.

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Is recorded classical music too cheap?

5 comments:

Guthry Trojan said...

Dear Pliable
At the risk of extending your discomforting analogy too far, one might reason that it won’t now be long before record buyers will have only the dubious choice between the likes of Brilliant Classics and Naxos - just as (despite the constant lauding of choice), the UK has few cafés beyond the circumscribed alternatives of Starbucks and it’s ilk – which is no real choice at all.

Pliable said...

Interestingly Guthry it is not just the UK cafés that are disappearing, as this topical article in today's Observer tells us:

The shutters come down on France's bistro culture

Jason Burke in Paris
Sunday June 11, 2006

They are as French as demonstrations, croissants and good railways; an essential part of any British tourist's holiday and of the social and cultural life of the nation - and they are rapidly disappearing.
France's bistros are shutting so quickly, according to new statistics, that within 10 years they will all either have closed down, become 'theme bars' or been swallowed up by large chains. A survey by the catering trade union Synhorcat has revealed that there are at least 5,000 bistro owners who are planning to sell up in the next 12 months. With only 45,000 bistros in France - a fifth of the number of 30 years ago - that has left the industry with a nasty taste in its mouth.

'The typical French cafe is disappearing,' said Elisabeth Lenanen, a Synhorcat official. 'Especially in the provinces there is a process of bistro desertification. There are whole swaths of the country without a bistro in sight.'

A coalition of unions representing 'patrons' has just launched a new campaign, 'Save Our Bistros'. Cyril Pereira, a spokesman, said that the problems had been caused by a combination of different factors.

First, there is the famous French bureaucracy; then there are the recent campaigns against drink-driving which have brought down France's famously high road death toll but also cut consumption of alcohol in bistros.

'We have nothing at all against such campaigns,' Pereira said. 'But they focus on bistros, when more than 80 per cent of alcohol in France is consumed at home.'

Another problem is strict gaming regulation which restricts pinball, fruit machines and even table football. Finally there are new habits. 'People don't come to a bistro to talk any longer. They use the internet and a screen. Human relations have become virtual,' said Pereira.

Another major threat, say the bistro owners, is the strong possibility of a new law banning smoking in public places.

One bistro-owner in the trendy Marais quarter of Paris told The Observer that, after 20 years in the business, he was shutting up shop. 'The rates have gone through the ceiling, half my clients are tourists, and I have to fight the local authority to have more than two square centimetres of terrasse,' he said. 'I can't be bothered any longer. There are easier ways to earn a living.'

But at La Brazza, a bistro in the 11th arrondissement, Jimli, the new proprietor, was more optimistic.

He bought the establishment six months ago - largely because of the bookmaker's licence that went with it. Yesterday the bar was full of happy punters drinking and betting on the World Cup and the horses.

'I was going against the general current, but it's a good investment,' Jimli said in between serving cafés crèmes and beer. 'But it was a good decision because this is a gaming cafe. About a third of the revenue comes from the betting. But it is a hard life. It's a hell of a lot of work and the hours are long.'

He was philosophical about the proposed smoking ban, even though a third of La Brazza's revenue comes from tobacco products. 'It's not going to help,' he said. 'But this is the 21st century. You've got to change with the times.'

Berend de Boer said...

If there are more people buying classical music, the price per CD can be lower. That's simply the market at work.

On the other hand: I believe the industry could do a lot more to sell classical music. Why can't I buy the CD that was just played with a single click? And not for $40 a box please, I'm too heavily taxed for that (my local council wants to have another $500 extra a year, that's 12 CD's at such a price).

But with downloadable music I could download the CD myself, so no production cost, and much of the money can go straight to the artist.

Something of $3 USD or so a CD would suit me quite well :-)

Guthry Trojan said...

$3 would indeed be a very nice price Berend, but as classical music is by definition, not popular music, most artists sell between 500 and 1000 units if they are doing well!
At your suggested price they'd be hard pushed even to cover the cost of piano hire for a 3 day recording session, let alone venue hire and production costs - and they could forget paying other musicians involved.
The cost of manufacturing (pressing) the physical CD is minimal - usually around 50-60cents, but the cost of putting together a decent recording can be quite considerable.

Berend de Boer said...

Guthry, true, but I made two observations: at lower prices you might sell more.

And the industry doesn't do a good job making it as easy as possible to buy classical music.

I looked at this recording that Pliable bought for nothing, but I could find nothing at this price. Only stuff at $10USD, excluding shipping.

No downloads. Nothing.

Why doesn't the industry offer Pliable a link which, when clicked upon, takes me to a page where I handover my credit card and start downloading this cd seconds later?