The last few months have not been good for the British record industry, especially those companies that make their money selling vinyl. Over the last two years we have seen the bottom completely drop out of the vinyl and CD compilation markets and as a result there have been a number of high profile casualties. There are several key reasons for this. The first is the well-publicised problem of people downloading unlicensed software from the Internet. It is this that’s getting all the major US labels worried as their artists are finding it harder to sell records. More relevant to the vinyl market is the arrival of the Pioneer CDJ CD decks. For the first time ever DJs have been able to play CDs as easily as vinyl and so a number of big DJs have stopped playing vinyl completely (Erick Morillo and Sasha are good examples of this). This too has lead to problems since most CD DJs copy and swap CDs that they’ve burned themselves so again the record companies lose out. When a company is used to making most of its money from vinyl sales having everyone suddenly playing CDs has proved very bad for business. The final factor that’s really affecting sales is that a lot of record companies have become lazy with their A&R (A&R = Artists and Recording which basically means finding great new tunes to put out). So many record labels have been used to shifting units purely on the fact that they are well known to the public and promote themselves well. Their approach has been to flood the market with endless sub standard tracks as opposed to putting out less records but spending more time ensuring quality rather than quantity. You only carry on like this for so long before the buying public realise that much of your output is crap and so stop buying your records. The thing is that companies like this probably don’t deserve to stay in business and so by going it is really just a case of ‘survival of the fittest’. The clever record labels are the ones that have realised that they are never going to sell as many units of vinyl as they have in the past and so look to ways of adapting their businesses to fit the changing market. In my next column I’ll look at the way that some of these companies are evolving and will highlight a few recent success stories.
Until next time Tom