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On the overall market for the cd and what the future could hold, it might
be instructive to look at what's happening with the movie industry right
now.

Currently, the studios are moving towards streaming and download models as
they see sales of physical discs decline and fewer retail outlets to carry
them.  Screen Archives Entertainment has been licensing older films for
release on blu-ray from the studios in limited editions of 3,000 copies -
basically, the studio has a hi-def master, but doesn't think they can sell
enough copies to justify pressing a run of the discs.

In general, the new release of older catalogue titles has stopped on dvd,
replaced by moving the titles to "manufacture on demand".  The older titles
released on blu-ray have been limited to some of the "big name" classics or
films featuring specific stars that the studios know they can generate
volume on and get in retail outlets like Walmart.

Warners hopes to have pretty much every catalogue title they own available
on MOD eventually.  At the same time, they're selling digital download
versions of the films on sites like Vudu and offering a monthly streaming
service.

Of course, with MOD, you're paying more for catalogue titles and getting a
"burned" disc that will probably not be as stable in the long run as a
pressed disc.

Smaller "indie" and art house distributors are still pressing dvds, but
some smaller restoration projects are going the MOD route since the
audience is fairly small and its difficult to predict how well they will
sell.

My guess is that the first record label to offer a MOD service for out of
print or catalogue titles will set off a trend where older albums are taken
out of print on pressed compact discs, similar to what's happening with the
movie studios, and only new popular releases or major "star" reissues that
can generate volume get a press run.

Younger listeners aren't buying physical product as much and are moving to
online downloads or streaming.  Eventually, physical media will become a
kind of "niche" product - the real question is how long will it be before
pressing plants start shutting down so that pressing a cd becomes a more
expensive "boutique" proposition.

A similar thing has happened with the lp.  It never really "died", but has
continued as a specialty product.  It's not as cheap as it was in the 80s
to press up a run of lps - there are fewer pressing plants handling much
less volume - and represents a small part of the overall music market.

Randy

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Randy A. Riddle
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