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Jamaica logs on to digital store - Vinyls, CDs give way to downloads

Published:Tuesday | May 7, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Tony Rebel

Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter

In recent times, the music industry has been through many changes, with technological advances being at the forefront. With these advancements, there has been a shift from vinyl and CDs to online sales, which many persons believe has more advantages.

Executive vice-president for 21st/Hapilos International Digital Distribution Johnny Wonder explained that more and more artistes are turning to him for the distribution of their songs and albums.

While he has fully embraced this digital revolution, Wonder noted that he too has experience in making physical CDs. However, after a while, he realised that it was costly.

"I've tried to put out CDs and I couldn't get orders, even with the hottest stuff. People go online and buy music, nobody goes to the stores. They are so conditioned to download. Nobody will go in line and buy records on a Saturday. It is 2013. We don't do physical CDs, it's very costly and you don't make any money. In New York, there used to be hundreds of record shops, and there are three left," he said.

Not only is it costly to make CDs, he said it is also very difficult to get returns on those investments.

"You are in Jamaica and you press up a thousand CDs. You have to pay for them cash, but when you go to sell at the record shop, they take them on consignment and then ship them abroad. When you do things digitally, it is one click for the world to see. You reach more people in a day than you could in a month selling records. I come from that era, but thank God I don't have to do that no more. I wasn't making any money," he told The Gleaner.

Singer Tony Rebel has also had experience with vinyl, CDs and online sales.

"The truth is, both of them serve their purpose with their times," Rebel said.

During the days of vinyl, he said, a lot of persons were able to make money from sales. In this digital age, however, he said there are advantages and disadvantages.

"During the times of vinyl, we made more money from that. Online has advantages in terms of how quickly it (music) can be distributed and a wider cross section of people can buy, but it is also very easy to pirate," he said.

"The digital era is here to stay so we just have to know how to capitalise on all its features. I think the digital has tremendous potential."

Plagued by piracy

During this newer era, he said the industry is plagued by piracy and illegal downloads. While this can help to popularise songs and artistes, he said it is not as beneficial to producers, who spend a lot of time and money on their projects.

"It is not so easy to secure from piracy. You put it (song/albums) out and all your hard-earned money is gone," he said

While Tony Rebel believes music piracy has a negative impact on sales, this is refuted by a study called Digital Music Consumption on the Internet:Evidence from Clickstream Data, which is a working paper by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, published earlier this year.

"Taken at face value, our findings indicate that digital music piracy does not displace legal music purchases in digital format. This means that, although there is trespassing of private property rights (copyrights), there is unlikely to be much harm done on digital music revenues. This result, however, must be interpreted in the context of a still-evolving music industry," the paper said.

"It is, in particular, important to note that music consumption in physical format has until recently accounted for the lion's share of total music revenues. If piracy leads to substantial sales displacement of music in physical format, then its effect on the overall music-industry revenues may well still be negative."

While Wonder pushes for this digital revolution, producer Blaqk Sheep says online sales is not always a good thing.

"You still have a few people who buy CDs, but most people go online. It evolve and it really mess up music. The digital age kill vinyl, it kill CD, it kill everything," he said.

Dancehall artiste Demarco sees things differently.

"Right now, all of the young heads and everybody that have computer, iPods, iPads and all types of music players, they just buy the music and download it to their devices. It is the digital age right now. The CD thing kinda played out. If you buy an album, you can put it up as souvenirs and maybe get the artiste to sign it for you," he told The Gleaner.

According to Demarco, his song I Love My Life, which was released two years ago, is still selling well online and remains one of his biggest sellers.

"My songs sell a lot on the Internet. I still get a cheque every month," he said, noting that the music video for his song Continue Wine will be released soon.