Now, CDs down and out!
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Now, CDs down and out!

Not only has the sales of CDs in record stores been rendered obsolete, the mail order business appears to be heading in the same direction…history, writes Parag Kamani.

music Updated: May 05, 2009 20:49 IST

The US-based BMG Music Service, the mail order company that gained its popularity by promoting CDs with the offer of ‘12 for the price of one’ ceases business effective on June 30. The writing has been on the wall since March last year when Bertelsmann, the then owner announced in the ‘07 annual report that it planned to discontinue the business in ‘10 “on account of the slump in the physical music market”.

Radical change
However, the slump occured and became a lot more pronounced quite some time back. In July last year, Bertelsmann sold all its mail order businesses – including Columbia House –– to private investors. To complete the flow of what can now be dubbed as historical events; in December, BMG Music Service announced that it had frozen new memberships.

This has been a radical change from those days in the ’90s when BMG and Columbia House ruled the roost. They claimed a large chunk of CD sales in the US. The role that Columbia House (previously known as Columbia Record Club, founded in 1955, and originally owned by CBS Records) and BMG Music Service (formerly RCA Music Club) performed was providing a platform for music listeners to kick start their own music collection.

They could also enhance it with offers ranging from “six for the price of one” to “get 11 albums free”. Sony Music eventually acquired Columbia in 1987; ironically, the same year in which RCA was acquired by BMG (Bertelsmann Music Group) and renamed as the BMG Music Service.

In a net
Those who visit the BMG Music Service website will now receive the following message: “In order to serve you better, we are currently upgrading our site”. It is an obvious euphemism of saying “goodbye” but, I guess, it’s not surprising.

Earlier, the service was a viable option for those who did not live near any major record store –– or even if they did but were unable to find the title of their choice –– BMG Music Service was a fine alternative.

With the internet, more shoppers are choosing to purchase (or acquire) their music as audio files, resulting in bypassing the need for a physical format entirely and, with it, there is no real reason for having a music mail order service.

Down and out
So it’s not only the brick and mortar stores that are affected by digital downloads. I'm sad to see the mail order business being similarly affected.

Soon, the current breed of listeners, for whom downloads and MP3s are the only known sources of obtaining music, will have bypassed the joys of opening a shrink-wrapped CD and reading through the contents of the CD booklet (lyrics, photos, songwriters credits, et al).

First Published: May 05, 2009 20:42 IST