Terry Currier: A Coalition for Music Freedom
AAJ: When the CD replaced the LP, the industry had to know that the consumer would eventually replace their album collections, and CD sales would then fall off.
TC: Well, the record industry hasn't always been very bright. In today's climate, they are only interested in how to make money right now. And this wasn't as true early on, but each one of the major distribution companies was also trying to come up with a new format that would interest the public enough to buy and replace their music all over again. Each one of them wanted to develop that new piece and get a patent on it. But that's also when it all started to get away from the passion of the music, and the 60s' and 70s were built on that passion.
Then MTV came along and discovered that a three to five minute video of a song and image on a television screen could make people into stars overnight. The motivation became strictly monetary and the industry moved away from the passion of the music. The bean counters took over.
Originally, cassette tapes were only capturing 25% of all music sales but when the Sony Walkman came along, cassette sales increased to 50%. And that happened over the course of just one year. Then the CD came along. They were sexy and attractive to the consumer and it became the first new thing since the walkman. People replaced their albums with CDs and quite a few people just dumped their entire vinyl collections. And in a very short time, the CD had overtaken sales of vinyl to where LP's were no longer being published with new releases.
AAJ: I believe that you are still turning vinyl.
TC: We never did get out of the vinyl business though some stores did. The national chain stores dropped vinyl around 1988 because they just didn't want to add a third format into their stores. They didn't have the floor space nor did they want to pay more for it. So the major record companies told the chains that vinyl was going away and that the CD was going to replace it. And that's when we really saw the major change happen. The large chains got rid of their vinyl selections and brought in the CD. So in a way, it was really forced on the consumer.
AAJ: So what are the independents doing today?
TC: The reality is that record stores are trying to succeed in a declining sales mode. The large chains are closing and despite the fact that downloading is increasing, the economy hasn't helped either. But there are always going to be a lot of record stores. They are going to keep fighting because they are passionate about the music.
Three years ago, some record stores developed a national Record Store Day. It was developed from the concept utilized for national Comic Book Day that was developed amongst comic book dealers. They would have specific and special comic books developed for one particular day of the year. And through it all, it brought some awareness that there are still comic book stores out there. Out of this, the independent record stores developed Record Store Day.
On the first Record Store Day, many labels developed unique releases that only came out on that one day and it brought a lot of customers into the store. There was a lot of media attention and the reason there was a Record Store Day was because we were really getting tired of all of the death stories that record stores were going away. And even though they were declining and some were going out of business, there was still a good healthy market place of independent record stores. And we wanted to get the story across to the public.
AAJ: Do you see a new format on the horizon that could possibly replace the CD?
TC: There is the Blue Ray audio disc but there really hasn't been anything new that anyone has come up with. And unfortunately, many of these new formats just confuse the consumer. It took awhile to educate the consumer on the CD and then right away new formats were being developed to replace it such as with Super Audio CD and Dual Disc. It was just too soon and the consumer turned their nose up at all of that.
But something that was really important throughout the 70s was in trying to capture better sound. And with vinyl, you could accomplish this through hardware. When CD's came out, the consumer was told that CD's had a better sound and that was one of their selling points. But in actuality, a lot of those CD's had inferior sound. And the reason that CD's had better sound to some people is because their records were not taken care of very well and they had a lot of scratches. But there also wasn't anything being done to enhance the sound when it was being transferred to CD. It wasn't until people started recording digitally that it transferred well over to CD, or until there was good re-mastering being done by the right person. But there has always been a quest to get better sound.
But if there was the right format today, would people come back from file sharing to a physical piece of product? It's a possibility. But for a lot of the people that are into digital delivery, it's also the only format they have ever known so it would be very difficult to get them to change. But there may be a way to have those that grew up with the CD and vinyl to come back to a more physical product.