In My Life

Two seemingly diametrically different music industry events recently occurred within 30 days of each other. In the May 12th issue of Billboard magazine, the Top 20 U.S. Music Accounts were listed. Billboard is the official publication that reports on the activities that are relevant in the music industry. The information listed in Billboard’s May 12th issue contained the report on the 2011 Market Share of key music providers. The list represents approximately 90% of U.S. recorded music revenue and lists the Top 20 companies that provide music to the public by tracking each company’s sales results. Approximately a month earlier in April, the celebration of recorded music on vinyl was celebrated in record stores on the annual Record Store Day. So what does the listing of the top U.S. Music accounts and Record Store Day have in common?

Over 1,700 stores participated in the 5th annual event called Record Store Day. It’s the day for guys like me who collect vinyl and enjoy the record store experience go to support our local record stores and stock up on vinyl and CD’s. While I like to download music and have an extensive collection of tunes on my i-Pod, I still prefer to go to a music store and rummage through the racks of albums and 45’s and CD’s. It’s not just buying music. It’s the dust, searching for the vinyl with no scratches, the grittiness of the store and the hope of finding a long-lost gem in the bargain.

The 1,700 independent record stores that participated this year are up from the 1,400 that were part of last years’ RSD. Hundreds of bands, from the very well known to the ones that are just starting out on their rocky road to stardom, issue music that are made available to the RSD stores. According to Michael Kurtz, the co-founder of the event, as many as 300 releases by the record companies are tied directly to the event. This is music that could be boxed sets or limited edition vinyl or CD’s. In addition, many special in-house store events are part of RSD. And of course, some of the special releases for Record Store Day are not on vinyl, so as to satisfy the widest range of the music buying public.

This year, Iggy Pop was the Record Store Day Ambassador. He made an appearance at his favorite music store, Sweat in Miami. RSD is a fun and profitable event. It brings people into the stores, further connects artists to their fans and helps the small business owner.

Less than a month after Record Store day, the Billboard issue depicting the Top 20 Music Accounts was printed. I will dispense with describing the results of the entire list. There really is only one # 1 and that is iTunes. Their market share of total 2011 music industry revenue was 38.23% which is up from their 33% share in 2010.

The iTunes is ranking is even more remarkable considering that the number 2 company on the list is Anderson Merchandising. Haven’t heard of these guys? They are the company that provides music for Wal-Mart and Best Buy. Their percentage is 17.86% which is down a few points from their 2010 number. Their number is roughly half that of Apple. Given the numbers, iTunes and Anderson are capturing more than half of the entire U.S. music business. Clearly, there has been a significant shift in the way the American public buys their music.

So how does one rectify the growing success of Record Store Day when it is apparent that the music buying public prefers digital downloads to good ole’ vinyl. Maybe it’s the “old school” vs. “the new school”. It’s an easy answer because it’s apparent that there’s room for everyone on the good ship “Buying Music”. In my case, I have an active account with the iTunes store and yet today, I spent a few hours at my local vinyl store picking up a slew of used 45’s and LP’s.

I constantly listen to my iPod and take it with me whenever I travel. I also continue to collect and play vinyl. And I still delight in playing records for friends and neighbors after they tell me that CD’s have a better sound than vinyl. I mostly enjoy seeing their faces when I prove their hypothesis to be incorrect after a listen to same album on both CD and LP. Usually, I follow that exercise up with a play of a 45 coming out of my vintage Seeburg jukebox. Although that demonstration is really not fair because the speakers in the Seeburg can make any vinyl sound amazing.

Bottom line is that we all love music. It doesn’t matter where we purchase it so long as we enjoy listening.

Rock On, my friends.