There’s a shop in Birmingham that stocks photography, illustration, t-shirts, tote bags, jewellery, books and CDs that have been Created by artists living In Birmingham. Artists can set the price and sell their products through the shop, with a generous 75% of the sale going to the artist. I took a stroll there on Saturday 25th April so that the shop could stock my latest album The Broken Family DaySaver.
I filled in a delivery note, pricing 5 CDs at £80 each, and handed it to a member of staff. He was taken aback at the price I’d put on my music. He said that £80 was too much to charge for a CD.
He then took me to the section of the shop that sold CDs and used them as an example of how CD pricing in the shop worked. The range of pricing was between £5 and £10. He said it was unlikely that anyone would buy a CD for £80. Funny that, because there’s a shop around the corner that sells polo shirts for £250 that could sell for a tenner, and people buy those. As we discussed issues of potential pricing, I said that I’d be willing to lower the price to £60. No. £40? No. £20. No. £15? Please? Yes. The staff member said if I had one copy of the CD that was in a frame, he’d consider stocking it for £40.
As a songwriter who depends on music sales for income, this was most disheartening. If the attitudes of the member of staff reflected attitudes of a music-buying public in general, I’m royally fucked. Here’s how:
An artist working in two-dimensions can price an A4 print at £10. Another artist can price a A4 print for £80. They are both working in the same medium with a piece of art that is the same size. Both artists will have reasons for their pricing. It will reflect the expense and time taken to produce the item. This is an accepted practice in 2-D visual arts. But, it seems that where CDs are concerned, a self-released home-made CD-R, stuffed into a jewel case, apparently has the same value as a limited edition CD released on a record label that was recorded and mixed in a professional studio, packaged with a lyric sheet and original artwork in a digipak, with a barcode and shrink-wrapping, with all the songs assigned with ISRC codes, PRS song codes and registered with Millward Brown for chart qualification. So, the expense and time and artistic integrity involved in producing a work is not taken into consideration with the art form of music on a CD. CDs or CD-Rs with music on ’em are all apparently worth around £7.
It’s not enough to frame a CD in a digipak with a lyric sheet and original photography for it to have added value. The frame must be made of wood and glass. This framing adds immediate value on a piece of art, whatever the medium.
Does this attitude to the pricing of CDs as shown by the shop reflective of general attitudes to buying music today? Are CDs all worth about £7-£10? Maybe All CDs should be made free? Maybe with current trend for music sharing, that musicians don’t have a right in the 21st century to make money from music. Maybe a highly-crafted and well-packaged CD is worth £80. Let’s put it to the test by offering you, the listener, my album at a variety of prices:
To get The Broken Family DaySaver for free, then send an email with the title: ‘Ben Calvert I Don’t Believe In Paying for Music, So Send Your Album To Me For Free’ to firstname.lastname@example.org, and leave your address. I’ll post a copy of the album to the first 100 responders.
To buy The Broken Family DaySaver for £10 (+ £2 postage and packaging) go to the Bohemian Jukebox Shop
To buy The Broken Family DaySAver album for £80, click here:
Whichever option you take, you can buy safe in the knowledge that inserting the album in a frame of wood and glass will add around £25 to the piece’s value.
37 thoughts on “Putting A Price On Art”
An alternative perspective within a commercially driven society. So true! How can anyone argue with that?
Heh, Aaron told me about this. I manage the Created in Brum shop. I get where you’re coming from but Aaron’s point, which I would agree with, is we are never going to sell your CDs for £80. It’s not worth our while taking them and giving them space which could be used to display something that will sell. Not to mention the hassle of putting your stuff into the system and returning it to you when it, inevitably, doesn’t sell. I’d rather not bother in the first place.
I’ve turned down plenty of work that wasn’t the right price for our shop. Prints at £300 and a whole swathe of original paintings on canvas. They just don’t sell here. They may well sell somewhere else but people coming in the shop aren’t going to spend that sort of money.
There is probably a market for CDs at £80. Maybe if they were limited edition objects that couldn’t be found anywhere else. Maybe if the artist was critically and popularly renowned. More critically maybe if there were people who actually were prepared to spend that sort of money on a CD.
Which is the point. If you want to put a financial value on art it’ll be determined by what people will pay. That will vary but £80 for a bog-standard CD is blatantly taking the piss and when Aaron said he’d sell it for £40 in a frame he was blatantly taking the piss in return.
“Does this attitude to the pricing of CDs as shown by the shop reflective of general attitudes to buying music today?”
“He said it was unlikely that anyone would buy a CD for £80. Funny that, because there’s a shop around the corner that sells polo shirts for £250 that could sell for a tenner, and people buy those”
There’s a proven market in luxury fashion goods. There isn’t one in CDs (unless you go adding things on that bump it into another product category). Besides, do you reckon £250 is a fair price for a polo shirt? I’d say it was inflated. We don’t really do inflated in the CiB shop. Maybe they’ll stock your £80 CD, if you ask them.
Thing is, there’s only a certain amount of space in that shop and we don’t want to waste anyone’s time (ours, yours, etc) stocking stuff that we don’t reckon stands a chance of selling. You’re not the first to be told that but you are the first to write a passive-aggressive, wounded-fawn, faux-naif blog post about it.
If I was there I’d at least have offered you one of the stalls at £30 for the day and let you test your theory.
CIB Shop underling here, I think I speak for everyone in the shop in saying that we’d love to sell CDs for £80, it’d certainly help with the costs of running a shop in the Bull Ring, It is however rare that we sell anything over £50 anyway. The shop is hamstrung by the market and the market decrees that CDs cost about a tenner. If there was a megastore down the road selling prints for ten pounds then we’d undoubtedly be selling them for the same price – it’s just economics, supply and demand and not a judgement on the intrinsic worth of anything.
Fantastic!!!… also we priced our CD’s at £5, probably I should have taken into account artistic merit, man hours, for my other job I get about £250 a day, it takes me 3yrs about 5-10 hours a week to take an album to completion… I need to sell more or only one and charge £30000.00 per CD
Ben, I have two points.
Firstly, if your business model requires you to price CDs at £80 each you are indeed royally fucked. This is because, at that price point, you’re uncompetitive. Free downloads, piracy, etc. have little to do with this. Presumably, the person who strolled into the shop and browsed the CDs is also willing to pay for them (unless he is shoplifter). Otherwise he’d be browsing BitTorrent, right ?
The market appears to have decided that CDs cost from around £5 to £15. You’ve got some margin either way (e.g. through premium-isation, e.g. through limited editions, alternate packaging, box sets, etc.). But basically, for a single disc, all of us (artist and consumer) instinctively ‘know’ what the price range is.
This is, however, NOT necessarily the case in the examples of “two-dimensional” art that you cite. Which brings me on to my second point.
The CIBshop has been a brave experiment in some respects. It has been a success. In some respects. However, I think that in its rest period before (hopefully) re-opening, the organisers need to think more carefully about their approach and show a little more ambition in their new location.
CIBshop undoubtedly brought something new to the Bullring. And Pete (Ashton, shop manager) is right to point that the shop was aiming at a certain segment of shopper (casual browser, low-spend, cash only). But it is wrong to assume that this is because that’s what Bullring shoppers want. I think it’s more true to say that that is what CIBshop wanted.
The shop began with relatively sparse stock, mainly paintings and prints (including photos). These were priced according to artist expectations. Initial sales volumes appeared fairly modest. So, the call went out for cheaper, more “mass-produced” stock… and, I would argue, the race to the bottom began.
The shop now appears to be stocked mainly with low-price, replicable (ie. digitally produced) products, displayed in a fairly random, browsable way. These two-dimensional artworks are much like your CD… individual units can be sold cheaply because the development cost can be recouped through low-cost mass reproduction.
CIBshop’s failure to date (and I feel confident it will address this issue in the future) is to help consumers understand the difference between the products on display. Little information is displayed alongside the work that might help distinguish the original from the reproduction. Artists with higher cost items (because their work is one-off or has high development costs) are shortchanged by this. Their work is not so much being “showcased” as being utilised to drive sales of lower cost items.
So, one of the remedies is more information and more sympathetic display of work.
Another suggestion for the CIBshop is this: incentivise yourself to market the higher value items more effectively by dropping the flat rate 25% commission and introducing a ladder. The higher the (artist nomninated) price, the higher your commission.
I’d like to reiterate my support for the CIBshop. These thoughts are intended not as criticims but as suggestions to develop the story in the future.
Hi Chris. You make some fair points in reply to my post. I didn’t intend my post to be passive-aggressive, wounded-faun, faux-naif, (naive?). I simply wished to raise some points about the way in which different forms of art are priced, and to encourage debate on this subject. In that respect the post has started to fulfill its purpose. I need to make it clear that I’m not ‘having a pop’ at the staff, or the Created In Birmingham shop-It’s an excellent way of exhibiting the creative wealth that Birmingham harbours, while selling artists’ works in the process. Thumbs firmly up.
I understand the market that the Created In Birmingham shop is appealing to, and how the pricing works within the context of the shop with this market in mind. I simply wanted to test if it was possible in a location that is so close geographically to where other items are sold at a premium, (Selfridges), whether there were consumers that might buy a CD for £80.
Your use of the phrase ‘bog-standard CD’ is interesting, as it re-enforces my belief that in many people’s minds a music CD, is a music CD, is a music CD, no matter how it is packaged or how it was recorded and manufactured, and often consumers can’t or don’t seem to be able to distinguish between the financial outlay value of a home-made CD-R versus a ‘proper’ commercial CD, and how this might affect pricing. Karl Held comments on this in his eighth paragraph of his post more eloquently than I could.
There was no piss-taking intended by my asking the CiB shop to stock copies of my CD at £80; I hoped that by approaching the shop with this pricing in mind that I might challenge perceptions on the pricing of CDs. The work is in progress…
I’m in full support of the Created in Birmingham shop, and I want to make it clear that the post was not an attack on any aspect of the shop, or the staff there. Long may the shop run, supporting the art of the people of Birmingham.
Some constructive (and useful) advice here which will be food for thought during CIBshops holiday.
One aspect of the shop that clearly needs clarifying is exactly what is its mission – I personally see it as a place for new artists to test the market, to experiment with their work and see exactly which pieces strike a chord with the general public, especially people who’ve never sold work in the past.
An important point to emphasise is that the shop is not a fine art gallery, there are fine art galleries around the city (the Art Lounge in the Mailbox for example) and they do fine jobs, CIB is unashamedly populist. Indeed, the vast majority of working fine artists in the city would never consider submitting work to us, if anything the shop as it currently exists is as a reflection of the culture of hobbying and craft that’s given rise to websites such as Etsy. This has given rise to the ‘pile high, sell cheap’ attitude that has taken over the space to a certain extent.
This has evolved as a result of the Bull Ring location (‘pile low, sell high’ simply didn’t work for the month that we tried it) and all could still change depending on where the shop surfaces next although it’s that populist, open to anyone attitude that to me is the soul of the shop.
Sorry I bit, I just felt like we were being picked on when we’ve been struggling to get by ourselves. Naif is just the masculine form of naive.
It is interesting how music in the physical form has been standardised and turned into a commodity. I guess that’s how the industry side of things has been able to keep up with a high level of churn, distribution and so on. There’s a degree of standardisation with the live side of things too.
Not so much with art or fashion though – I wonder if it’s to do with a perception of music as a consumable rather than a durable good. Someone must’ve written reams on this.
Did you see the ‘How Much Do Music Artists Earn Online’ thing? Now that was scary http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2010/how-much-do-music-artists-earn-online/
I’m liking that you’ve added to my vocabulary today, by letting me know that ‘naif’ is the masculine to the feminine ‘naive’. I shall have to try to drop that into a conversation sometime soon!
I reckon that music certainly has become standardised to an extent through it’s transformation into a consumable rather than a ‘durable good’. Digital consumption is a key factor, where music is easily sourced, (often at no cost to the recipient), and casually exchanged quickly through digital means. These attitudes in turn affect how the value of recorded music is perceived. I’m interested to hear more on your thoughts of how you think this standardisation has bled through to live music. I think live arts, (including gigs), are more hardy in withstanding the standardisation as they unfold in real time before the eyes and ears of the audience, providing an immediate and unique experience.
I completely understand CiB’s reluctance to take on a product that is priced so much higher than other similar products as Aaron and Pete said – it just wouldn’t sell.
That said, I think the kind of person who would buy the Broken Family DaySaver for £80 wouldn’t be someone who was slapping a value on a compact disc in a digipak. The person who would pay £80 for it is someone who values the time, effort and indeed financial outlay that the artist has had to make to bring the record into being; someone who wants to see the work continue. In this respect, the punter would be making an investment rather than a purchase.
Perhaps the album should have been sold at variable price points in the first place, giving those with a big wad to contribute more if they so choose, and those of more humble means to pay the same price as any old CD on the rack.
It is much easier for an artist to sell their work using a pay-what-you-want model in an online environment, but this is seldom seen in the traditional retail arena.
I really think the initial discussion should have been a little deeper than what I saw happen that day, which was essentially an artist being laughed out of the shop.
I was thinking more of the pricing of live music being standardised than the experience itself (but the format of the live show is pretty standard). As with CDs, I think those prices have been pretty well settled, although whether they’re at the right level is for the touts and ebayers to say.
None of which much helps your original question of how/whether it’s possible to change attitudes to music so that it’s considered in the same way as higher/more variable value items. Brands are constantly repositioning themselves withing their markets, I wonder if whole industries have managed to reposition themselves before.
Pricing any kind of creation is a total minefield. I’ve created some visual bits and bobs which are on sale through the shop and have listened to feedback about pricing, what works and what doesn’t. Some work is selling, some isn’t and it’s the higher priced stuff that isn’t in my experience.
As an artist, you set out with a plan that you’ll recoup your time and material costs, divvy it up and add a profit. As economies of scale goes when selling only a small quantity of work, it doesn’t actually work when you stop and look at the customer base. You are selling to a particular kind of consumer – not to a niche market segment. You inevitably live by that sword or fall upon it if your price doesn’t match customer expectations of what they are willing to pay. The rules, as you set them, go out of the window.
It’s a really fascinating debate and one to which there isn’t a perfect answer. But both the shop and the artist have choice, knowledge and expectations. To be in with any chance of success, I’m learning that listening and trying to find that meeting of minds is of eye-opening significance.
Apples and oranges. The problem with comparing limited edition music CDs to limited edition art prints is this: the buyer can appraise the art print immediately, like it or not, buy it or not. Short of demanding a listening booth for your music, and spending an hour to review the contents, you’re not going to find any punter paying £80 for that music //unless they already know your work and value it//.
It’s an arse to be sure, but perhaps you should be comparing art prints to *live* music performance? Not sure that’s right either: original canvases perhaps? 😉
Excuse me for being frivolous, but the short answer in all of this is probably “blame Steve Jobs”. Pre i-tunes, you would have had one hell of a – ahem – job selling a CD at £80. These days, you’ve got a hell of a job selling any kind of CD at all.
I-tunes and its ilk have done two key things in this respect: 1) disaggregated music from the album form down to individual tracks; and 2) virtualised music, dissociating the content from the carrier, making it non-tangible.
Both of these have further driven what Chris identifies above as the consumer perception of music as a consumable, not a durable.
If that is a given, then it is incumbent upon entrepreneurs in music (by which I mean… musicians !) to seize back control of their output and, especially if they need to recover (say) £80 per “CD”, redesign their product, adding the kind of value that would make that price competitive in the eyes of the consumer.
Perhaps its time, therefore, to stop thinking of it as selling “music”, but as selling something else altogether ?
WTF? Original art in two dimensions isn’t endlessly reproducible. Or, where it is — unsigned prints, say — a Damien Hirst costs exactly the same as an Ikea pattern.
The only comparative with two dimensional art would be live music, where one artist *can* charge a significant amount more than another.
If someone creates a piece of art they can not sell it over and over again. They can sell it once. This is why it is more expensive.
If someone records music at a recording studio, they can sell it over and over and over again. CDs are very cheap to produce, digital sales are even cheaper. Low overheads, unlimited sales. This is why CDs are cheap.
If you want to make a physical package that you can sell for £80 then there are plenty of ways you can do it. A CD is not one of them.
You seem to be bemoaning the commercialization of music, and yet, at the same time, expecting to be able to make a living from it. How on earth do you expect to be able to do so without people buying albums. And what makes you think anyone would buy your album for £80 when they could buy a whole bag full of CDs (no doubt of equal if not superior talent) for the same price?
Also whilst the CD may encapsulate the work, it is not the work itself, the original. It is, as you say, simply a CD, a piece of plastic. Art pieces selling for £80, on the other hand, usually the original, unique piece – not a mass-produced widely available replica.
It was a win-win situation for Created in Birmingham shop. Sell Ben’s album and make an easy £20 or return the product to the teary eyed troubadour when it hadn’t sold.
I personally allow my songs to be downloaded for free whilst offering the more discerning punter the opportunity to purchase a physical album at a show or on-line.
When i total up all the hours spent writing my material, rehearsing and polishing the songs, recording them, producing the album, figuring out the artwork and discussing the project with interested local labels, it must surely tally up to well over 1000 hours. In terms of recouping this outlay back, i only consider the number of people who buy the album and not how much profit i make. I even give copies of my album away to deserving or broke people i meet who show a honest interest in what it is i do.
Profits are soon turned into pints of beer and material goods. I have a vague notion that an audience of my music would be more enduring and fulfilling.
I’m surprised at an independent shop taking this line, to be honest. Surely, there beats in these places, hearts devoted to freedom of choice? That’s what sets them apart from the soulless megaliths of High Street Commerce: they offer their punters something beyond the steady drip-feed of dross and mediocrity that is the bread-and-butter of yer actual HMVs and WHSmiths, both in terms of product and “retail experience” (whatever the f*ck that is); they also – and with no small pride – price things according to their own policy, rather than one dreamt up by some Corporate Master-Brain. This is why so many of us love and value the independents, of course. Why then, can they not extend this same freedom to an independent artist? After all, it’s a matter of personal choice, is it not? The music-loving browser is at liberty to buy a CD for eighty sovs if he thinks it’s worth it – or to opt for a second-hand copy of “Steeleye Span: The Greatest Hit” if he doesn’t. It’s not as though Brother Calvert was standing by the shelves levelling a 9mm at people and forcing them to shell out for his album – at least I assume he wasn’t (I’ve met him, and he didn’t LOOK the type…). “Value” in art – and anything else – is a strictly relative term; “one man’s meat” and all that, eh? We recently found ourselves involved, albeit tangentially, with a similar situation here in Happy Hull, as it goes: a poster for an event we played at, framed, and signed by everyone on the bill, was recently spotted in a local art gallery/shop, priced at sixty quid: no takers as yet, astonishingly, but the owner of the shop isn’t bothered. “It’s up to him [the promoter]; it doesn’t cost me anything,” said the owner of the shop when I looked into the matter. Which I think is fair enough: the final decision is with the consumer (though the word sticks in my craw, I must say), and it’s for them to decide whether or not an artist’s work is worth the price on the sticker.
(Edited to remove/censor language that some may consider to be inappropriate.)
I feel this is a reflection on what constitutes art and how different mediums are perceived by the end appreciater rather then an issue over how much individuals are willing to pay for art. I kind of agree with the point Ben makes about why isn’t a CD considered as valuable as a print, but unfortunately well crafted music isn’t as appreciated as well crafted painting or photography. The same could be applied to writing. There’s an industry built up around the printed art medium which is used to being able to charge a certain amount because that’s what people have grown to expect. Sadly, musicians have to accept a compromise position that to reach a wider audience they will have to underprice their “product” compared to artists in other mediums. Having said that, there’s a lot of bad art that goes for ridiculous money because someone has decided it’s worthy of a particular price tag, whereas other art of the same medium doesn’t generate the same revenue. In those terms, music is a much more even playing field as cost is relatively similar in purchase price regardless of quality or critical approval. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, I’m not sure but it will make good pub talk for my boozy philospher friends for plenty of pints to come
You might have a point. But only if you were only ever going to sell that one single CD. Otherwise, you haven’t invested the same amount of time and effort in each single CD sold after (probably 5 minutes to burn a copy), unlike a single print and art piece. So why would anyone choose to pay so much for something which is later (if not already) mass-produced and then sold for cheaper.
It would be interesting to know how much you have paid for each CD in your collection, and just how long music could survive if every musician took this attitude.
I partially set fire to my bathroom whilst experimenting with a ‘burnt pirate map’ look for the greetings cards I made for the shop. Figured that could have added a couple of grand to the retail price but still ended up knocking 50p off the intended £3.50 shelf price I wanted in order to sell any at all. The world is a cruel, cruel place that obviously hates artists.
And loves arson.
CrackTown – just because it’s an independent shop doesn’t mean that commercial realities don’t apply. Our time and the shop’s space are both limited – Pete’s explained the situation slightly better in the first comment.
Even despite that, I’d like to think we’ve been more than accommodating in letting people use the shop for all sorts of non-commercial ends – exhibitions, workshops, gigs, meetings and all sorts.
@cracktown The independent spirit runs to the core of the CIBshop, perhaps if you’d visited the shop you’d know this. The problem with a CD being priced at £80 is simply one of space in the shop. What do we tell a musician who comes in with a CD that’s priced reasonably that we can’t put out because our (small) rack is filled with stock that won’t sell.
If we fill the shop with things that won’t sell then pretty soon what we’ll be in charge of is an art installation and not a living breathing shop. I’m all in favour of art installations by the way, it’s just that they don’t give £30,000 to local independent artists over a three month period like our shop has.
The way we treat our artists is by far the most principled and ethically sound of any comparable shop or gallery I’ve ever had contact with – we accept anything that we consider sellable in the Bull Ring and take pride in selling the work of artists who have never sold anything before.
ben raises an interesting point, but i have to say your article does come across as winging, arrogant, & complaining at & about the cibshop – and it’s only your subsequent response in reply to being taken to task about that which recovers that perception. maybe had you gone in, spoke directly to pete or chris, & said something along the lines of ‘i’d like to try a little thought experiment here – would you like to run with me on this ?’ you would have received a much more positive response ?
but beyond that, there are two fundamental points you’re completely missing.
1) the difference between commercial physical art & commercial music is not in how much the artist gets paid, but in how that payment is distributed. putting it crudely & simply (& i realise this is a very sweeping generalisation, just go with me on it), a physical artwork has one person paying – say – £5,000 for that single piece of sculpture to the artist (maybe or not via a dealership chain). in commercial music, a record company pays the artist £5,000 to make a recording, & then sells multiple copies of that recording to many people for £10 each. the ‘product’ is not the piece of plastic, it’s the recording – so the value of the recording & thus what the artist gets is still £5,000 either way. your attitude here, rather than defending the true value of music actually panders to the populist view which complains about the retail cost of cds compared to the production costs of the piece of plastic – you’re linking how much you should be paid to the physical product rather than the artwork itself.
2) you’re also ignoring the plain fact that nothing in the world has any intrinsic value at all – everything is worthless. ‘value’ is an artificial construct being the point between what a seller is prepared to sell an item for & what a buyer is prepared to pay for an item; production costs, labour, how much your weekly food bill comes, everything else is irrelevant.
Exactly. CiBshop has done a fantastic job in introducing independent artists to consumers with cash to spend. But this requires artists to accept a degree of populism, both in terms of the art and the pricing. Basic Supply & Demand. There is no demand for £80CDs. CiBshop are being very generous with their 75/25% split, I beleive typical retail and commercial galleries have a split more like 50/50. That might sound unfair, but CiBshop provides the market. Without them you have supply but no demand.
I thought a lot of stuff in the shop was good value too, maybe if prices were hiked 25% and CiBshop kept the extra, they’d have enough head room to keep going?
i made a CD to be given away for free….. it’s a ‘proper’ CD with 15 fully mastered tracks on it. so far it has been given out 500 times on CD and downloaded 13,812 times since april 2009.
as the creator of the music, i enjoy it most when the music gets played on the radio, in clubs and on jukeboxes and people recognise it from their ipods / computers / etc… i’m happier that it is out there being enjoyed rather than gathering dust on a record shop shelf
it’s unfortunate that the nature of the industry currently is that people don’t pay for music that they can download or copy for free. the money is in performing.
i’m fortunate enough to have been booked to perform at several festivals and a lot of nightclubs that pay me on the strength of the music that i’ve released and the attitude behind it. that’s where my revenue comes from.
please have a copy of the album, here’s the link
@cracktown. The word consumer can stick in your craw all you like. If you’re selling shit, you need a buyer. Your argument is totally on the supply side. But unfortunately the “dismal science” of economics teaches us that it’s not suppliers who dictate price. It’s buyers.
If you look at it from the supply side only, then it’s not a “shop”, just as Matt says, but something else… an exercise in futility, perhaps ?
@karlheld – i don’t think you’re entirely correct on two points (which isn’t to say i don’t agree with you):
the period of ‘the album’ was a very short one indeed – late 60s to early 90s (if even as late as that), & comparatively few artists really embraced the album format as a curated whole; for the most part albums have always been just delivery vehicles for bigger collections of singles; whereas itunes etc might have made it harder for artists to sell the songs people didn’t really want to buy anyway, i don’t think it has killed the album as a concept because the album barely existed as a concept in the first place.
again, i don’t think you can blame itunes for this – even if you don’t count radio as having done this, filesharing platforms such as kazaa, napster, & even usenet did this over a decade before itunes was ever thought of.
‘they offer their punters something beyond the steady drip-feed of dross and mediocrity that is the bread-and-butter of yer actual HMVs and WHSmiths’
Both these retailers offer a range of CDs, many of the bands featured within these will have started out as local independent label acts. The idea that because a shop is large, the artists featured within it’s catalogue must be ‘dross and mediocrity’ is incredibly stupid. Would you consider Nick Drake, say, as ‘dross’. You’ll find his music in both these stores.
I’d imagine any musician would be only too happy to find their work within the shelves of these stores and therefore available to a wider audience.
An interesting post, let’s face it an MJ box set or even the radio 2 friendly KOL bringing out a box set for hardcore fans would fetch no more than 12.99 in the current climate. A CD package priced in this way would not sell, so rightly shouldn’t have been featured in the shop.
The CIB shop has a lot of footfall, and therefore needs to sell products for the target market and CD’s priced in this way would not have worked.
Personally I think the music industry is fucked and got out of it a long time ago, the only way you can make money from it is touring, a sponsorship deal with Burger King or by selling your instruments.
@simongray – you are of course right. I was using ‘i-tunes’ more as a metaphor for the disaggregative (is that a word ?) effect of the online offer, whether commercial, DRM’d (itunes etc. or piratical and fileshared.
I agree also about the brief life of the album as an artform (a number of tracks making up a whole). But I do think that the online offer has compromised it also as a “product”.
A few years ago, if you’d have heard a great track on a radio show, chances are it was something like Track 3, Side 2 of someone’s last but one album. The only way you could own that track was to get down to your record shop (whether that was an indie or a HMV… they could all order it in for you) and buy that album. And you got the other 9 tracks whether you wanted them or not (chances are, you were happy to give them a listen). But more importantly, you PAID for them… whether you liked it or not.
With itunes, file-sharing, etc., that is now not the case. Somehow or other (other being “Google”), you’ll find that track on its own. So, where previously the artist and distributor could count on your £5.49 (that’s how much I paid for albums in HMV etc. in 1988). Now they can count on 79p for the single track AT BEST. At worst, of course, they can count on nada, if the track is illegally downloaded.
To return to the origins of this thread: for Ben to fly in the face of this by trying to sell a CD (album) at £80 is a Canute-like endeavour.
Thank you for responding to my blog Putting A Price On Art at bohemianjukebox.com. For a week in May, the blog stimulated some interesting debate on pricing, the state of the music industry, and the consumerism of art today.
The blog got an average of 200 hits a day, and of these 200 hits, 35 were converted into comments of some sort, most of which were well-made and useful.
As it turns out, 14 people asked for a CD for free. One person did shell out £80 for the album. For that price, I felt that I had to offer them a guarantee that if they didn’t like it, that they could return it and get a refund. The order didn’t come from Birmingham, or England, but far across the Atlantic Ocean, then over the whole stretch of the USA, to Santa Monica in Los Angeles. As The Wizard says in the Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver “They’re way ahead out there in California.” Or maybe they’re just crazy. Two weeks after sending the CD, I’ve not heard back from the buyer, so I assume that she’s happy with it. Interestingly, no one bought the CD for the standard price.
On reflection, my hypothesis was proved: That if someone wants to pay for an album of mine of CD, they are willing to pay for it at a premium; the high pricing piqued someone’s interest, they thought the album might be worth the high price and they paid £80 for it.
With hind-sight I whole-heartedly admit that the Created in Birmingham shop was entirely the wrong context in which to carry out this experiment, or if it was I went about it in completely the wrong way. Offers like the one I made perhaps can only work within the context of the internet.
The comments and the results of the offer have helped me to work out strategies for recording and releasing my next album, Festive Road, and they have informed how it will be packaged, priced and sold.
Go to bencalvert.com if you are interested in listening to some demos to see how the album is shaping up. Thanks for getting involved in the experiment.
@simongray – you are of course right. I was using ‘i-tunes’ more as a metaphor for the disaggregative (is that a word ?) effect of the online offer, whether commercial, DRM’d (itunes etc. or piratical and fileshared. I agree also about the brief life of the album as an artform (a number of tracks making up a whole). But I do think that the online offer has compromised it also as a “product”. A few years ago, if you’d have heard a great track on a radio show, chances are it was something like Track 3, Side 2 of someone’s last but one album. The only way you could own that track was to get down to your record shop (whether that was an indie or a HMV… they could all order it in for you) and buy that album. And you got the other 9 tracks whether you wanted them or not (chances are, you were happy to give them a listen). But more importantly, you PAID for them… whether you liked it or not. With itunes, file-sharing, etc., that is now not the case. Somehow or other (other being “Google”), you’ll find that track on its own. So, where previously the artist and distributor could count on your £5.49 (that’s how much I paid for albums in HMV etc. in 1988). Now they can count on 79p for the single track AT BEST. At worst, of course, they can count on nada, if the track is illegally downloaded. To return to the origins of this thread: for Ben to fly in the face of this by trying to sell a CD (album) at £80 is a Canute-like endeavour.