The showdown over the sale of used compact discs has escalated dramatically in recent months. This is clearly an issue where no one can afford to stand on the sidelines.
The simple, inescapable fact is that the sale of used and promotional CDs cheats songwriters, recording artists, producers and all the others up and down music's food chain out of the royalties they depend on to earn a living.It has been estimated that an unchecked used CD market could grow to as much as 20 percent of unit volume in the next five years, and that loss of income to the majority of those in our artistic community, who are already living perilously close to the edge of financial ruin, will spell disaster.
The growth of the used CD market will not only dramatically impact the sales of new recordings, it also will dig deeply into catalog sales. Consumers who get turned on to an already established artist can be expected to seek out used copies of that artist's earlier recordings. No one from the artistic side gets a nickel from that transaction.
The musicians who are being damaged are the lesser known and cutting-edge artists that the used-CD retailers like to cite as beneficiaries of their practice. You've heard the argument before: New artists supposedly benefit from used and promo CD sales because consumers are more likely to take a chance on the unfamiliar if it doesn't cost as much.
The problem is that, even in the best-case used-CD scenario, where consumers buy a recording they otherwise would have ignored, the artist still gets nothing.
But the more likely scenario, especially with retail outlets stocking used and new CDs alongside each other, is that customers who walk in planning to buy a specific new CD will instead walk out with its used equivalent.
As retailers repeatedly reap profits from the sale of used product, the artist gets less than zero, and the loss in sales means fewer artists will manage to even recoup recording costs.
That will cause labels to take fewer chances on unproven music forms, which will inevitably curtail the development of alternative music forms and artist development. It ultimately will shrink our talent pool. This loss in revenue will be passed back to the consumer through higher CD prices.
This is all reminiscent of the battle that took place a few years ago in which the industry fought successfully to eliminate the record rental nemesis. The regrettable difference is that we were fighting together on the issue - everyone had something to lose, and that victory was only achieved by the imposition of federal legislation.Comment on this story
The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences is committed to preserving and promoting the rights of our constituents - the artists and technicians who together create this country's musical legacy.
It is incumbent upon us, and the recording industry as a whole, to actively oppose the proliferation of the used CD trade with every fiber in our being. The greed of retailers must not be allowed to ride the curl of the digital revolution at the expense of our artists, songwriters, musicians and recording community.