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Tech News (more headlines) 12-04-2003

Digital Music Consumers Choose Fewer Songs; Deeper Catalog

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While the overwhelming majority of recorded music is sold today in album form, new information from The NPD Group suggests that as digital music evolves the industry will return to the days when singles were highly popular. According to The NPD Group, most digital music consumers prefer to download just one or two songs, rather than downloading all tracks from a particular CD. In addition the vast majority of digital song tracks downloaded by consumers between August and October 2003 were "catalog" tracks that were released more than 18 months ago. These findings also have implications for how the industry attacks piracy and CD copying issues.

When downloading single tracks from the Web in the months of August to October 2003, consumers chose to download only one track from an album 85 percent of the time. Ninety-four percent of the time consumers downloaded two or fewer tracks from an album; they downloaded five or more songs just two percent of the time and downloaded the entire album less than one percent of the time. Among active digital downloaders, 18 percent of songs downloaded were new releases (i.e., released after February 2002), while 82 percent were songs from deeper in the catalog. Note: Sales of physical product (i.e., CDs) in the same period were about even between catalog and front line releases. "From a copy-management perspective, it makes as much sense to protect popular catalog songs as it does to protect an entire front-line CD," said Russ Crupnick, vice president of The NPD Group. "It's important to protect an artist's most popular songs, no matter when they might have been released- because fans will likely cherry pick their favorites rather than downloading individual albums."

Said Crupnick, "the way people are choosing to download music provides lessons for sales of both physical and digital music. It's also a strong endorsement for physical singles. In the world of paid services consumers may prefer buying singles, so record companies must locate a balance between effectively promoting new releases while not losing sight of the revenue-generating power of popular songs from the catalog -- and import or concert tracks, as well. It makes sense to offer a discount when consumers buy four or five songs from the same artist, regardless of what album they originate from. It may not be all about the best selling songs, either. Less-popular tracks offered as free downloads might even be effectively leveraged to market paid downloads of more popular songs and drive sales of full CDs."

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