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The emperor’s new CD?

NPR / Marketplace

Listen to this story

Universal
Music wants to save the compact disc. The company said today it’s
unveiling new packaging to make CDs more attractive to consumers who’ve
been lured about by digital downloads. Lisa Napoli reports.

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KAI RYSSDAL: We talk a lot on this show about digital
music and downloading. But the good ol’ compact disc still accounts for
90 percent of the music industry’s sales.

It’s getting a makeover from the world’s largest music company. In
Europe at the end of the summer, the Universal Music Group is going to
jazz up its packaging and raise the prices on the hot new releases. And
at the same time it’ll simplify packaging and cut the prices on older
offerings.

Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli says some feel that’s incredibly beside the point:


LISA NAPOLI: Dressing up the compact disc and
charging more money for it is kind of like the Emperor’s New Clothes.
So says Dave Kusek, co-author of the book, "Future of Music."

DAVE KUSEK: Packaging is not the issue.
It’s value and convenience is the issue. It’s part of a continued
denial that the music industry has a problem.

The problem isn’t that some people hate those flimsy CD jewel cases.
And the solution isn’t to make sturdier cases, or add extra tracks and
videos. Industry observer Bob Lefsetz says CDs are a dying format and
the industry just wants to maximize revenue.

BOB LEFSETZ: This is like, you now, a
complete sideshow. It’s irrelevent. It’s to what degree is it
Smith-Corona typewriters and one day you won’t be able to sell them.

Lefsetz says it all goes back to those peer-to-peer file-sharing sites where people get music for free.

LEFSETZ: More tracks are traded P-to-P in
a month than are sold in a year on physical formats. For every track
that is sold at the iTunes music store, there’s in excess of 10 that
are traded.

In other words, to make money from music will take more thinking outside the box.  Not just revamping the box.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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