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The CD Store Is Dead

Since physical music sales started tanking big-time, the only sector that hasn't gone belly-up is non-traditional outlets.
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Leave it to rock's Social Security set to figure out this whole music marketing thing. Bob Dylan used Victoria's Secret and the iPod to help give him his biggest record sales since the 70s. Not to be outdone, Paul McCartney got eight zillion Starbucks outlets to not only sell his new CD, Memory Almost Full, but to play it nonstop for the caffeine-addled masses the entire day of release.

Sir Paul's pretty hip. He knows that record companies selling CDs through record stores is so last-decade. He also knows that debuting his video on YouTube is a lot more cool than giving it to MTV, which probably wouldn't have touched it, anyway, and reaches just as many of the young'uns. His innovative marketing strategy has generated a ton of publicity, and he didn't even have to shave his head and flee rehab to get it.

The run-up to the album's release was flawless. But now that Memory Almost Full has been released, latte-drinkers nationwide will find it in their local Starbucks outlets for a whopping $15.99. That's not exactly priced to move, especially when you can find it on Amazon for $9.99. If you want the deluxe edition with extra songs, Starbucks isn't even stocking it.

It'll be interesting to see what kind of numbers Memory Almost Full does in its first week, especially in Starbucks. Because if they can sell a $15.99 CD that can be found in almost any other store for a lot less, then the presumption that the CD is on its last legs will have to be re-thought.

The CD is far from dead. It may not have a clean bill of health, but still accounts for more than 80 percent of music sales. Rather, what's dead is the CD store. And that's a whole 'nuther story. Just because people don't want to go to a store that only sells music doesn't mean they don't want to buy music while also getting a mochaccino from Starbucks, or a flat screen TV from Best Buy, or some ammo from Wal-Mart.

Since 2000, when physical music sales started tanking big-time, the only sector that hasn't gone belly-up is non-traditional outlets. Market the music in the right way and you can still sell it. Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart are huge stars again, and I see more posters advertising their CDs at my dry cleaner than in any record store. Neil Sedaka, for crying out loud, just placed an album in the Top 30 for the first time since I was in Underoos, thanks to heavy TV marketing. About one out of every four copies of Ray Charles' Genius Loves Company was sold at Starbucks outlets.

There are a lot of prospective music buyers out there who don't have iTunes, don't watch MTV, and don't go to record stores. Recent history has shown that these people will buy music, even at a high list price, if it's marketed to them in the right way. Paul McCartney knows this, and he's been smoking what I can only imagine to be the highest-grade pot for decades. What are the CD naysayers smoking so that they can't see the dollar signs right in front of them?

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