Music Consumption in the MP3 Era
Music Consumption in the MP3 Era

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Name: uao
Location: California

uao is also a contributor to Blogcritics.org, Rhapsody Radish. and FIQL.com.

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Feel free to dig through the Deep Freeze for more, but stuff dated before mid-March 2005 is still formative and impressionistic, and not really worth the effort.

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Note: the copyrighted audio material on this site is for listening only, and is not downloadable. It is provided as illustrations to the articles, and to interest people in the legal purchase of these artists' material. Any copyright holder who would like their material removed should contact me, and I'll remove it.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005
 

Does Your CD Lose Its Value By The Bedpost Overnight?

Chump Change


How well does your CD collection retain its monetary value? If you decided to cash it all in, how much of all that money you spent will come back to you?

One of the interesting things about Amazon product links is looking at the disparity between the price of the new product and the going rate for used copies, both of which are listed below the title.

In some ways, this is a purely economic indicator of the residual popularity of the album; it's simple supply and demand. Some albums, like a good car, retain their value pretty well; others are worthless within a year.

A simple real world indicator of this principle can be had when you truck your used CD's over to the local used shop for cash or credit. All those one-hit wonders you got suckered into buying? So did everyone else; the used market is oversaturated and you get a dime for the CD you spent $15 on.

Conversely, a shrewd buyer of cult titles that maintain a solid fanbase but never get over exposed will exit the store, green cash in hand.

Used CD's


Supply and demand. The supply side can be affected by overpressings and underpressings; going out of print altogether ratchets up the price. However, as a rule, it's not a bad indicator; good, enduring music keeps its value, flash in the pan junk doesn't. The CD model is even more purely reflective of popularity than vinyl record prices, since condition is more of an issue with used vinyl. The prices aren't static; they represent hundreds of sellers, and are updated hourly at Amazon.

To examine this farther, we'll start with the Beatles. The White Album, from 1968, is now the Beatles' biggest selling album ever, and remains among fan favorites. The Beatles continue to attract new first-time listeners at a remarkable rate even now, so the market for used Beatle product is brisk. At Amazon, a brand new White Album, a double disc, goes for $27.99. Used starts at $16.99. That's 61% of its value: a good retention.

On the other hand, Justin Guarini's (remember him, American Idol?) album is selling for $0.49 used, retaining a paltry 4% of its value since its release a few short years ago, confirming its junk status. Evidently, people can't trade 'em in fast enough.

How well does your collection retain its value? Here are ten hypothetical case studies:

1. If you are an alternative rock fan, your collection might include:
Smashing pumpkins: SIamese Dream (1993)

Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream New: $13.99 Used: $4.50
Nirvana: In Utero New: $7.97 Used: $2.25
Soundgarden: Superunknown New $12.99 Used $4.24
Beck: Odelay New $12.99 Used: $3.70
Coldplay: Parachutes New $10.96 Used: $7.32

NEW: $58.89
USED: $22.01
VALUE RETAINED: 37%

2. If you are a classic rock fan, your collection might include:
Neil Young: harvest (1972)

Neil Young: Harvest New: $8.97 Used: $5.95
The Rolling Stones: Exile On Main Street New: $17.98 Used: $8.99
Boston: Boston New: $18.98 Used: $12.88
Yes: Close To The Edge New: $8.97 Used: $5.98
Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV New: $14.96 Used: $5.95

NEW: $69.86
USED: $39.75
VALUE RETAINED: 57%

3. If you are a metal head, you might have:
Metallica: master of Puppets (1986)

Metallica: Master of Puppets New: $14.96 Used: $7.62
Slayer: Reign In Blood New: $13.99 Used: $11.50
AC/DC: Back In Black New: $9.97 Used: $6.98
Ozzy Osbourne: Blizzard of Ozz New: $7.97 Used: $5.99
Pantera: Vulgar Display of Power New: $12.97 Used: $4.99

NEW: $59.86
USED: $37.08
VALUE RETAINED: 62%

4. If you are an aging James Taylor fan, you might have:
James taylor: Sweet Baby James (1970)

James Taylor: Sweet Baby James New: $8.97 Used: $2.29
Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark New: $8.97 Used: $5.45
Linda Ronstadt: Heart Like A Wheel New: $10.99 Used: $6.25
Cat Stevens: Tea For The Tillerman New: $13.99 Used: $6.94
Paul Simon: Still Crazy After All These Years New: $12.97 Used: $8.92

NEW: $55.89
USED: $29.85
VALUE RETAINED: 53%

5. If you are a fan of 80's college rock, you might have:
R.E.M.: Reckoning (1984)

R.E.M.: Reckoning New: $10.99 Used: $4.75
The Replacements: Tim New: $10.99 Used: $5.99
The Pixies: Surfer Rosa New: $10.99 Used: $7.99
Los Lobos: How Will The Wolf Survive New: $10.99 Used: $5.99
Violent Femmes: Violent Femmes New: $8.97 Used: $6.99

NEW: $52.93
USED: $31.71
VALUE RETAINED: 60%

6. If you're an up-to-date hepcat, you might have:
New Pornographers: Twin Cinema (2005)

New Pornographers: Twin Cinema New $13.96 Used: $11.45
Death Cab For Cutie: Plans New: $13.96 Used: $8.31
Doves: Some Cities New: $14.99 Used: $9.75
Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise New $13.96 Used: $9.77
Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better New: $14.96 Used: $9.46

NEW: $70.38
USED: $48.74
VALUE RETAINED: 69%

7. If you're a newly grownup teenager, you might have:
Britney Spears: In The Zone (2003)

Britney Spears: In The Zone New: $9.97 Used: $1.99
Beyonce: Dangerously In Love New $9.97 Used: $4.99
Backstreet Boys: Millennium New: $14.99 Used: $0.01
Avril Levigne: Under My Skin New: $14.96 Used: $5.40
Jessica Simpson: In This Skin New: $13.98 Used: $1.61

NEW: $63.88
USED: $14.00
VALUE RETAINED: 22%

8. If you're a Deadhead, you might have:
Grateful Dead: Workingman's Dead (1970)

Grateful Dead: Workingman's Dead New: $10.99 Used: $6.00
Jefferson Airplane: Surrealistic Pillow New: $13.98 Used: $8.65
Quicksilver Messenger Service: Happy Trails New: $7.97 Used: $7.81
Hot Tuna: Burgers New $10.98 Used $9.14
New Riders Of the Purple Sage: The Adventures of Panama Red New $9.98 Used $5.89

NEW: $53.90
USED: $37.49
VALUE RETAINED: 70%

9. If you're an adult alternative fan, you might have:
Natalie Merchant: Ophelia (1998)

Natalie Merchant: Ophelia New: $10.99 Used: $1.64
Dave Matthews Band: Crash New: $14.96 Used: $2.99
John Mayer: Room For Squares New: $9.97 Used: $3.99
Sheryl Crow: Sheryl Crow New: $13.98 Used: $0.20
Counting Crows: August and Everything After New: $9.97 Used: $1.77

NEW: $59.87
USED: $10.59
VALUE RETAINED: 18%

10. If you're a fan of 80's MTV groups, you might have:
Culture Club: Colour By Numbers (1983)

Culture Club: Colour By Numbers New: $11.98 Used: $5.95
Duran Duran: Rio New: $10.99 Used: $6.50
Tears For Fears: Shout New: $13.98 Used: $9.99
Billy Idol: Rebel Yell New: $10.99 Used: $5.99
Madonna: Madonna New: $13.98 Used: $7.81

NEW: $61.92
USED: $36.24
VALUE RETAINED: 59%

Conclusions: The average disc by a well-known artist generally averages about 30%-50% value retention. The big surprise is on how those Deadheads keep up the demand for old hippie music; an example of specialization being the value-smart way to listen to music. The big losers, shockingly, are the adult alternative listeners, they fared worse even than the stale teenybop record buyers. Sometimes the adults aren't always so smart.

None of this matters if you are amassing a vast library of CD's you will never part with. But if you're the type who might need some cash some day, or likes to exchange stuff for credit, two words: buy used.

Don't worry; Freeway Jam was taking a holiday break. Back again!

     

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Comments:
That is absolutely one of the most fascinating things I've read in a good long while - props to you for doing the math.

After many years of having a "never will I ever" stance on selling my CDs I've actually started considering it. When do I ever play one? My G5 sounds pretty damn good for a single room, and I can hook up my iPod to just about any reliable stereo - and if not that I can plug them into my handy dandy portable speakers. I've got it hooked up in my car...

I'm still buying CDs, but as soon as I upload them onto the Mac... what's the point anymore?

Great article.
 
Thanks kachina; I wasn't sure if it would be interesting or not.

Here's a tip: I spent almost all of my money on records from 1979-1985 (high school + early college)

In 1989, I decided to move to the west coast from the east coast and decided the time had come to say goodbye to the vinyl.

I got diddly. Record shop clerks (I went to 6 shops) all told me the same thing: vinyl is out, nobody wants it, the prices have crashed.

If you aren't playing your CD's anymore, that means a lot of other people aren't either.

Avoid the crash; it's coming...
 
Well.

I think CDs are significantly more disposable than vinyl. I paid about twenty bucks for Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School (Warren Zevon). It isn't a particularly great album, but having it on vinyl feels like coup anyway.

But your point is well taken. And I don't know that there will ever be a cult of the CD, the way there's the Cult of the 45.
 
Thats a great article. Now i seem to sped a fortune in ebay on 'bootleg' cd, simply because they are now there and for years i just read about them. New i only buy when i really fall for an album and can't wait for it to go secondhand - twice this year that happened with Neil Youngs and Stephen Stills' albums. Keep meaning to sell on my vinyl tho - any takers for a mint sgt pepper with inserts...?
Happy New Year
 
A mint Pepper with inserts ought to go briskly on eBay.

I realize that by advising people to "buy used" I am shooting myself in the foot as a guy with Amazon links; it's sure to drive my earnings down from $0.04 per post at least 25%... But I can't lie; if you're going to buy CD's, unless it is a very special or rare title, it makes more economic sense to buy used.

Maybe my iTunes link will pick up now...

Stephen Stills is an example of a guy I always bought used.

Anyway, you have a great New Year's mellow; thanks for your kind visits, I'll always be grateful.

2006!!
 
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