How To: Get Consumers to Buy CDs Instead of MP3s

MuseI may be alone on this one, but I just noticed a small pattern in my CD shopping habits. Here’s an example:

Over the past couple years, I’ve come to love music from the band Muse. British rockers with some serious talent, they have a great sound that is a mix of britpop, rock, alternative, and electronica.

What I realized is that I own all five of their albums in CD format, and that I made all of these purchases in the last two years (during which time I bought almost no CDs, as I’m more into downloading music). So why did I buy these albums as CDs rather than MP3s?

Simple. Their most recent two albums each come with a live concert on DVD. So I could buy the MP3s via Amazon for $8.99. Or I could get the CD/DVD set for $12.99. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but getting a DVD included for $4 made my brain automatically pick buying the CDs.

As for the other three earlier albums, well, they aren’t as easily available in downloadable form. And once I am “converted” enough to a band, I have no problem buying their CDs. But the key here is that the DVD bundling sold me as a CD buyer in the first place.

Now, on the back end, I have no idea how much it costs to make stuff like this happen. And I’m not about to claim that it’s automatically worth it for all bands to do this. But while Radiohead gets buzz for experimenting with new forms of distribution, I thought I should mention a perhaps overlooked old school method of getting at least me interested in buying music.

Of course, you could argue that DVDs are going away too and will soon be replaced by digital content. But even if that’s the case, it’s at a much slower pace than the same transition happening in music. So, at the very least, I think CD/DVD combos could at least slow down the CD’s death while the industry figures out what to do.

But is this just me? Does anyone else fall for CD purchases when DVDs are included?

  • I completely agree with you, Bob, and a quick assessment of my CD-buying habits of late confirms that the way to get me to buy a CD is to offer something else of value along with it. If all I’m getting are the songs and a so-so glossy booklet, I’ll pass. Particularly when the music is cheaper and easier to get on Amazon or iTunes (Seeing $10 albums on “Sale” at Virgin makes me shake my head), and physical storage space is ever harder to come by.

    The last CD I bought (and only one I can remember buying anytime in the last several years) was David Byrne’s “The Knee Plays”, which came with a DVD containing a phenomenal synchronized photo slide show (1 shot taken every 30 seconds) of Robert Wilson’s performance work for which the music was originally written. Talk about worth it. Of course, this was preordered from Amazon…

  • Good to know I’m not alone, Kevin. Another thing we have in common, interestingly enough, is that even when we’ve bought CDs, they were from Amazon. Take Amazon out of the picture, and the last time I bought a CD was probably about 7 years ago.

    I guess I never want music so much (with the extra content) that I can’t wait two days to get it (and if I really can’t wait, I’m not going to the mall, I’d simply forgo the extra content and download instead).

  • You know it is funny, I only recently started considering buying digital downloads (with and/or because of Amazon’s DRM-free music store). I still like having the uncompressed source so that I can change formats. I’m probably an isolated case though as I still rip my music into Ogg Vorbis instead of MP3/WMA/AAC.

    I did buy one disc that had a DVD with it too, and I have never watched the DVD. It doesn’t do anything for me. Instead of including a DVD, they could include a code to get into a special website that had all of the same content, but then they wouldn’t have to package it in for all of the people who will never watch them.

  • Interesting, Paul. I wonder if a code for a “special content” site would be as appealing. It’s just that I still value content coming on a DVD much more than watching the same stuff online.

    I guess it’s just that if the CD is $4 more, I’m not willing to pay that $4 for access to something on the Internet. But I will pay it for a DVD.

  • Good point, on the web everything is supposed to be free (ugh…) so most people probably wouldn’t value it as being worth anything at all. Funny enough though, that is how much/little the DVD is worth to me. I wouldn’t pay much more for either.

  • John Riley

    I think CD’s should be priced a lot lower to entice people to buy a disc with nothing more than music on it. My purchases of Concert DVDs and CD’s remastered with DTS and Dolby Digital Surround have far exceed my purchases of regular music CDs. In fact I scour the used bins at my local record for most of them.

  • in the past i was always enticed by the extras (DVD). but i noticed the quality of content on these DVDs was usually pretty weak. the labels know that the simple inclusion of a DVD (regardless of quality) will help with sales. in the end, its just another desperate ploy by the industry. make the content worthy, then its worth caring about.

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