You'd think everyone who wants to listen to Queen's "Greatest Hits" already owns a copy of the
album. But here, you'd be wrong.
Last week, old albums outsold new ones for the first time since Nielsen SoundScan started tracking U.S. album sales back in 1991. The first half of 2012 brought sales of 76.6 million catalog albums (i.e, albums released more than 18 months ago) as opposed to 73.9 million current albums. Some of the best-selling catalog albums are fairly recent beasts that won't go away (Adele's "19," Taylor Swift's "Speak Now"); some are ancient classics that should be carved into Mount Rushmore ("Dark Side of the Moon," "Licensed to Ill").
According to Nielsen analyst David Bakula, the primary catalyst for the trend is cost: Catalog albums are usually priced between $5.99 and $10.99, while new albums are often $13-$18. "I really, truly do believe that there probably is a consumer that is buying music here that wasn't buying music in the past," Bakula told the OC Weekly.
But surely there are other reasons, things that depress the sales of new albums more than they inflate the appeal of old albums: everything from streaming services to the effects of the Long Tail to the overlap in demographics between file-sharers and fans of new music. Right? Plus, y'know, the fact that there's a longstanding bias (masked as "traditional wisdom") suggesting old music is simply better than new music.
So what is it? Do you buy new albums? Old albums? Would you buy more new albums if they cost less? Is cost even a factor? Are you buying any music at all, old or new, or what?
Copyright 2012 Buzz Media
For the past two years I've been listening to Fitz and the Tantrums, a great neo-soul band out of LA. The band is made up of a bassist (Joe), a keyboardist (Jeremy), a saxophonist (James), a drummer (John), and two singers (Noelle Scaggs, who also plays tambourine, and Fitz). Their sound is extremely rich and full, despite the lack of guitar. I had to go to three different Target locations to pick up their album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, but it was well worth the wait! Two of their songs have received wide exposure: "Winds of Change" was used in a commercial for an HTC cell phone and "MoneyGrabber" played on a TV in the background while an unsub attacked at the beginning of a Criminal Minds episode, both in 2010.
I also had the opportunity to see them in concert this year, and I think it was the best concert I've been to at this point in my life. If you get the chance to go to one of their concerts, I highly recommend it. Fitz and Noelle sizzle with chemistry-they even kissed during my concert-and sing as well as they do on the album, if not better. Their energy never flags, and your energy is sustained as a result. After the concert, the band held a meet-and-greet at their merchandise tent. I got in line because I had bought a FATT poster while one of the opening acts performed and I wanted the band to sign it, and judging from the size of the line, I would say that most of the fans stayed for the meet-and-greet. The drummer wasn't able to make it, but the rest of the band did. Both singers smiled and hugged me when I finally got to the tent. Fitz said "Hi, sweetie!" at the same time as Noelle said "Hey, how are you? Are we gonna be taking a picture?" They signed my poster and passed it down to the rest of the band while posing with me. I made sure to talk to and take pictures with James, Joe, and Jeremy, or "the horn section," to borrow a phrase from David Letterman. James said he really appreciated it-I don't think the horn section gets as much love as they should. The line still looked about as long as it had been when I first got in it when I left the venue, and judging by the way FATT treated me, I'm sure they stayed until everyone got at least an autograph.
Sorry for rambling. In short, good music is not dead, Fitz and the Tantrums are one of the most talented bands out there today, and I think you'll like them if you like older music.
Wow! Kids are starting to realize that Dylan is better than Jay-z, or Springsteen is better than Bieber, or Ramones and The New York Dolls are really PUNK bands NOT...NOT Green Day?!? BLASPHEMY!!!
All I can say is check out Spotify. I will never buy another CD again.