This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Russ Crupnick, managing partner, MusicWatch, Inc.
Russ Crupnick is hot-wired to the American music consumer like few others.
A veteran American marketing researcher and analyst, Crupnick excels in probing entertainment trends while providing expert guidance and industry analysis to a wide and impressive circle of clients.
MusicWatch helps clients to better understand the latest market trends, consumer purchasing and listening habits, including providing deep analysis of the role of music streaming services, broadcast and satellite radio, and music devices.
In essence, this Long Island-based company offers a one-stop overview of how and where Americans consume music. It examines trends in purchasing and the acquisition of music. In addition, the firm regularly scrutinizes leading social media trends including their role in the fan engagement of music and artists.
MusicWatch evolved from services previously offered by the global market research company NPD Group.Crupnick worked at NPD in several executive roles including as president of NPD Entertainment which he founded in 2000. He led the team that created NPDís MusicWatch research services which initially focused on the world of physical music marketing, and distribution.
In 2003 Crupnick became president of NPDís Digital Insights division which developed meter-based and custom consumer research centered on digital music and video.
In 2013, the Recording Industry Assn. of America honored Crupnickís service to the music industry by presenting him a platinum record award.
As NPD Group phased out its music-related marketing research last year, Crupnick hung out his own MusicWatch shingle.
How were you able to relaunch MusicWatch yourself?
MusicWatch was the first name of the NPD (entertainment) service started around 2000. When NPD closed that business, and I left a year ago, we just picked up the name that we had for 15 years. It is essentially the same music service that NPD was providing.
Did NPD seek to get out of the entertainment sector or did you want to strike out on your own?
They wanted to get out of it. NPD is a large company and, frankly, as the music industry started to shrink, they were looking for sectors that could offer more growth. Consumer electronics, sports, and things of that nature.
How many people are on staff at MusicWatch?
Iíd say that at the moment thereís 15 to 20 people working on the projects that we are doing. Everything from production and software development up to client services.
You donít have an office other than your home on Long Island?
Thatís correct. I set up an office at home. I was recently describing what we did to somebody, and they said, ďYou have sort of built a virtual company.Ē
You take music marketing research, and help clients--labels, trade associations, technology and streaming companies, and distributorsóbetter understand current market trends, consumer purchasing and listening habits?
We try to be reasonably agnostic, reflecting the consumer and not necessarily reflecting any (industry) side, if you will. As some of my counterparts would say, we need the music industry to figure out how to get consumers to spend more money so our clients can have more money to spend on research.
What are clients looking to you for?
One of the wonderful things that has happened in the 15 to 20 years that I have been involved with music has been the (music) industry embracing research. When I first started, it was amazing how difficult it was to get people to respect research.
This was from when you led the team that created NPDís MusicWatch research services in 2000 that first focused on physical music marketing, and distribution.
Yes at NPD. When I started in music circa 2000, it was still very much, ďYeah, yeah, yeah, we are going to go by our gut on this thing.Ē Now, if you come forward 15 years, the respect that the industry has, and their ability to use the information, has just grown exponentially. They are really trying to understand things like what are the various sets of consumers thinking? What is the super fan doing and thinking? What is the casual fan doing, and thinking? What are they buying? Where are they shopping? What are they listening to? What motivates them?
Thereís just hundreds of questions that we can ask.
The beautiful thing of what we doóothers do similar kinds of thingsóbut because we are surveying consumers all of the time, itís like having consumers at your dinner. If you could be an executive at one of these companies (with MusicWatchís research and industry analysis), itís like having consumers at your dinner table every night that you can talk to.
MusicWatch also offers artist profiling services so clients can better understand the awareness, likeability, demographics, and music engagement habits affiliated with a specific artist?
For labels or management?
At the moment for labels, but we have done it for management. NPD, even before my time there, in the late Ď70s started a service doing artist profiling for one of the majors labels. That is what evolved into all of the things that we do today. Back then, there were probably two ways that you could find about who your customers were. You could do what we did which was to survey them or you might put a postcard in the CD jacket, and hope that somebody would send it back and tell you why they bought Bruce Springsteenís ďBorn To Run.Ē
Whatís interesting now is thereís probably more of a need than ever to understand who the fan is for a particular artist. From my perspective, I think that you need survey data that hits a cross section of all the people which is what we try to do. That looks at the whole population. Youíve got other companies, Next Big Sound is a great example, who are doing social media work that gives you a good lens into the people who are engaging with that artist on social media. ItĎs not everybody, but itís an important cross-section. So my point is that I think that if you are a manager, if you are a label, if you are a brand anywhere, then you need to put together a portfolio of research that helps you understand who the fans because this gut thing isnít going to cut it anymore.
Research on an artist over several tours, and over several release cycles likely would reveal much about their audience.
Itís very interesting that if you look at artists over time their fan base changes. The fan base can change naturally and organically for several reasons, or the artist or label itself can make change. Taylor Swift is a good example of someone broadening their appeal. I remember an early project that we did with Warner Bros. on Enya, a new age artist. They did a re-positioning and, without giving you the result, it dramatically changed the look of her fan base. It was a successfully relaunch for her, and for Warners. I think that understanding how all of this changes by using our information, using other information, is crucial today. You mentioned tours. Live Nation can help with that information. Although I want you to come to me, I often say that I donít care what church you go to as long as you believe in God.
As long as a client is receptive to research, itís all good?
Iím a true believer in that. My hope is that someone will call us. But you have to be doing this (research) these days.
What do you like best about your job?
Wow! Thatís a really hard question. I always say that if Iím doing my job well Iím just sort of communicating what consumers are saying. Nothing makes me more crazy than sitting in a conversation hearing, ďI was talking to my cousin Jimmy, and my cousin Jimmy thinksÖ.Ē as we are all just sitting around in a conference room in New York or LA spit-balling ideas.
Why does that type of comment make you crazy?
Consumers are going to make or break this industry. Thatís the way it. The best part of my job is to be the voice of the consumer. Iím sure that I have a bias here or there but, hopefully, I am just channeling what they are saying and, hopefully, somebody is listening.
Unlike so many, you are absolutely optimistic about the future of the music industry.
I am. From a strictly consumer perspective, the number of ways that consumers are engaging with music is probably more than ever before. Folks are spending about on averageóthat includes casual listeners, and very heavy listenersóthey are spending about an average of one day each week listening to music. Iím not naive that there are clearly issues around monetization. Thereís also clearly more competition. With all of the new ways that we listen to music came other ways of entertainment distraction that can take away from the intensity of music.
According to your research, however, fewer than 4 out 10 people pay for music in America.
Itís an interesting stat. Iím sure that we are not the only ones who put out something like that being about 40%. But how do you define paying for music? When I started in music around 1998, Iíd go into a store, and Iíd buy a CD. I might buy a ticket, occasionally, and, even, a T-shirt. But how we do define paying for music today? The model that MusicWatch uses is, in truth, a little bit deceptive because if I am using an ad supported service then Iím paying for that. I am just paying with my time listening to ads. In a sense the same thing on broadcast radio. So the traditional way of measuring things in terms of, I buy CDs, I buy downloads, and, even today, I pay for a subscription to Spotify or whatever...
Okay, so where does the 4 out of 10 figure come from?
Well, thatís CDs, downloads, and subscriptions. If you take the three of them and average them out, 4 out of 10 people have one or more of those modes of payment.
Music file-sharing, streaming, and satellite and terrestrial radio makes it difficult to track where people hear music, and whether they are paying or not. As well, music consumers are a mixed bag.
The idea of understanding the consumer imparts the following. Thereís 10-20% of consumers who are super-duper uber fans right on the cutting, bleeding edge of everything. Discovery, engagement, whatever. Thereís probably 50% of people who are very happy to get in their car, listen to their AM/FM radio, and listen to their CDs. They think that the worldís best listening experience. Thatís a really big audience. They may not spend as much as the uber fan, but they are massive, and they used to buy a ton of CDs. Thatís the consumer that we need to understand. How do we move them to where we want to move them?
What trends are you seeing in the way consumer music habits are shifting? There seems to be a struggle between streaming, and ownership--whether itís a download or a physical product like a CD or vinyl recording.
Some of the trends that we see in terms of consumers reflect what everybody sees in the marketplace. We are seeing a declining number of consumers buying downloads. We are seeing a declining number buying CDs. Interestingly, and sort of contrary to some of what the pundits say, consumers still like the ownership model. I donít think the ownership model--in and of itself--is dead.
Was the American recording industry too hasty in killing the CD?
I always felt that the CD got a really bad rap, and that the industry tried to kill it. But, in hindsight, you had retailers who were basically saying, ďGive this product to me (cheaply) or I wonít stock it; and, by the way, Iím cutting 20% of my shelf space.Ē If you are a label or distribution executive did you want to be the guy in the conference room kind of supporting the CD, and being seen as a Luddite?
Still physical isnít going to fully go away in the next 3-5 years.
I would agree with you, but I think that the CD was killed off in the United States way before consumers were ready to walk away from it. We have to understand that there were some mitigating circumstances.
While many predicted that car CD players would be extinct in America by 2015 that hasnít happened. Instead, CD players seem to be only mildly endangered.
We did some work with a major car company and, because we have a 5 year product planning horizon, we were able to show them the amount of consumer affinity that still exists for the CD. So they changed some plans of how quickly they were going to remove them (CD players) from cars.
Ten years from now we are going to laugh at these things the way that we laugh at 8-track players. In hindsight, the CD probably could have lived a lot longer and, maybe, softened some of the (economic) blow. I think that the other thing that I always struggled with was Iím sure that we as an industry didnít make a good enough case to enough consumers about digital downloads. When youíve got your buyer base dropping by half between one format and another, something is wrong there. If we were going to look back in hindsight thatís one of things that also could have softened the transition a little bit.
Does that ownership model not depend on having suitable content as in the cases of artists like Adele and Taylor Swift?
It is critical. If you go back to 2010, and look at CD salesónow remember in 2010, there was streaming, piracy, and iTunes---but CD sales by teenagers were up by 20% at a time when everybody was saying that teenagers donít buy music. It hasnít changed in the last couple of years. What happened in 2010 that didnít happen in 2007 or 2008 was (album releases by) Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and Eminem. Releases that were right in the sweet spot of teenagers, and they spent money. We are seeing the same thing now with Taylor Swift. I will guarantee that when Adele comes out with her new album, you are going to see some older folks step up, and you will see an uptake of their purchases on iTunes and at Wal-Mart and Target.
Consumers apparently have not yet given up on paid music downloads, or physical music products.
The audience is saying that Iím enough of a fan that ownership still matters. Now if you ask are we going to have the same conversation in a decade? No. At one point streaming will become so dominant that faucet will turn off. But listen, until we donít have CD players in cars, until folks stop using iPods, or stop putting their digital collections on their iPhones or their Android phones, thereís still some runway out there (for ownership).
[The full turning off of the CD faucet will almost certainly come but the music format accounted for $1.9 billion, or 32% of U.S. music revenues in 2014, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Amazon continued to lead the pack of CD retailers with a 26% share of revenues last year followed closely by Wal-Mart, at 23%, and Best Buy at 15%. Independent music stores accounted for 5% of American CD sales in 2014.]
Streaming may surpass paid downloads as the largest revenue source for the music industry, but will it ever match the revenue streams that gushed in the past for the music industry? Will revenues ever rebound to that extent?
I made the same argument when I was doing the same type of work in home video with the transition from DVD to Blu-ray and onto streaming. Itís a very similar kind of pattern. Itís true with video games, and it may be true with books. What troubles me the most is this chasm that we went into when we had everybody buying CDs, and only a minority of people buying digital downloads. Thatís what really caused the revenue declines that we saw in the late 2000s. It was the failure to get everybody on the iTunes platform.
Now we are in a situation where the participation numbers on streaming are going back up again. They are very high. Almost 70% of the internet population in the U.S. is streaming at this this point. Now we have the question: How do you start monetizing that?
Those streaming numbers will continue to climb, but may only benefit, perhaps, 200 popular artists.
Yes, thatís probably another phone call. Iím not a huge believer in the long tail theory (devised by Chris Anderson in 2004 to show how the Internet contributed to the long tail theory of marketing). So yes participation is coming back up, but we are still struggling with the ďWhereís the money?Ē So what right down I have to be optimistic?
Artists across the board are not necessarily going to benefit by streaming.
You want to know something? Something that frustrates me in these conversations is that this (the music industry) wasnít a democracy in 1995 either.
Nor in 1970.
Right. I sometimes get frustrated. You are obviously much more educated on the topic, but if you talk to a newbie songwriter about this you would have the perception that anybody who had a Fender and an Ampeg (instrument) were making money in music, and Tim Westergren (co-founder of Pandora Radio) came along, and took their cup from them. Well, hold on a second. That wasnít the case historically.
Many of them would concede that visibility via streaming and availability on download platforms may give artists the ability to make money on other parts of their career.
Right, and you have a better chance as the 500th most popular artist on Spotify than you did in the Tower and Wal-Mart days because you wouldnít have gotten on the shelves.
Whatís most refreshing is that the music industry is now firmly focused today on developing an e-commerce system for the future.
But to be fair, if you are a major record company that (download and CD) shrinkage is hitting you across the board. But to drive my two points, I donít think the revolution has even started yet. We are going to look back at this and say, ďItís amazing that everybody is streaming in their car,Ē and The experience is going to be so good, and so involved, and the market will figure out the message to the consumer that we are going to have massive numbers of people paying for music.
Who are paying for control. Who are paying for that access. Who are paying for the quality of catalog that you have.
By the way it doesnít necessarily have to be Spotify or Apple. I think that broadcast radio is going to evolve. You can argue that Sirius is going to be part of the mix. Iím not picking sides today. Iím just taking a look at it from a macro standpoint and saying that with the technology (on hand), we are in the dial-up (access) days of streaming. Once it gets into the car and once many, many more people starting using this on their iPhones and, maybe, start to use Sonos systems or Bluetooth speakers, things of that sort, then you are going to see the value proposition for all of this elevate in a consumerís mind. Thatís a piece of my optimism.
Does any of your optimism derive from your recent collaborative project with Monmouth University? Despite the wide-held perception that college students might only be streaming music, the study showed that they are engaging with music in a variety of ways, and are more willing to pay for music streaming services than non-students.
I thought that was amazing.
[College students are more willing to pay for music streaming services than non-students according to a Monmouth University analysis of MusicWatchís Annual Music Study, which surveyed 5,000 Americans 13 and over, including over 700 college students. The study revealed that 77% found some feature that would motivate them to pay for a premium music streaming service compared to 46% of overall streaming users.]
Most everyone thinks of college students as being a homogeneous group, and they are not.
They are not. Not only that but I think that the way that they are still engaged with CDs and digital downloads, all of those things that if I had believed everything that (American music industry analyst and critic) Bob Lefsetz saidóand I respect him greatlyóthat nobody wants to own anything. Nobody wants to listen to CDs anymore. But here are college students saying, ďI have a really diverse portfolio of music engagement.Ē
From a payment standpoint what is encouragingÖ
Look I have a college student. She wants dad to pay for a lot of things. We all know that thereís research, and thereís reality. What I thought was a good sign is that there was something (discussed) in the payment model. Some students saying, ďI will, at least, consider the idea of paying. Iím not spitting on it. Iím not poo poohing it like a lot of people do. I will give it some consideration.Ē
It doesnít mean that they are going to pay tomorrow, but the fact that they will even consider it might mean that in 5 years, when they have a job and more money than time to spend file sharing or futzing around, at least youíve got an audience that would give it a thought.
However, about 8% of the Spotify users that had paid subscriptions returned to the free tiers because thereís not enough point of difference between free and premium.
Itís (the subscription model is) going to have to find its own level. Right now, if you look at people who are paying for subscriptions itís because they believe in a subscription entertainment model. They are more likely to have Netflix. They are more likely to subscribe to The New York Timesí digital edition. They are more likely to have a gaming subscription. They buy into what I call the subscription ethos. They see value in that.
Subscription is the best long-term model, if only because the consumer is already acclimated to it with cable television, and mobile phone billing.
Well, they also pay for Showtime. We know all of this is changing dramatically with bundles and so on. But there are a bunch of people out there, and the entertainment industry came to them with a business model a decade or so ago of subscription in video, games, books and music, and they say, ďI like it, and Iím going to do it.Ē They are doing it across all of these categories. Itís just a matter of how do we get the next wave to say, ďOkay, Iím not an early adopter. What are you going to say to me that is going to make sense to me?Ē Whether itís Spotify or Netflix or Showtime On Demand.
Tim Ingham at Music Business Worldwide recently noted that the rivalry between Spotify and Apple is starting to boil over. As he pointed out, this a battle on one level of two similar products simply trying to out-do each other. The rivalry between the two is obviously a win/win for both music fans, and the music industry.
If you ask who are winning the streaming wars, the obvious silly answer is the consumer. As a consumer itís like growing up in a town that only has vanilla and chocolate, and walking into Ben and Jerryís with its line-up of all of the different flavors.
Sure, but many music fans donít want to pay for their ice cream.
I do believe that there has to be a fair contract between the public and the industry in terms of saying, ďThis canít be the Wild Wild West. You canít get to eat whatever flavor that you want. You canít come in with little spoons, sample all 20 flavors, and walk out without buying anything.Ē
As I indicated with Spotify, people are doing exactly that.
Right. There are always going to be some customers like that. As we start to move people up the value chain, it (purchasing) will happen eventually.
With file sharing and streaming music so prevalent, itís difficult to figure out where people hear their music today.
Circling back to your earlier question, what makes me optimistic is that people get their music from a lot of places. If you look at the way the average person listen itís not as balkanized as everybody believes. The Spotify user is more likely to buy a CD or a download than the average person. That is also true for the Pandora user. They are not just streaming. They are also buying some downloads, and buying some CDs. (It will be) a different conversation three to five years from now. I think that (trend) is already starting to slow down. Itís the same way with how we listen to music. The average person is listening to AM/FM radio. They are listening to their CDs in the car. They are listening to digital files, and they are listening to streaming services. And they might end their day listening to Music Choice (with more than 45 uninterrupted music channels) on their cable service as they nod off. So even though we (as an industry) are obsessed with streaming, thereís this tremendous diversity in purchasing and a tremendous diversity in our listening habits.
Thatís still a long way to consumers reaching into their pockets to pay for a subscription service. You have to first impress them with accessibility, show that they can have quick use of what you are offering, and that they can get the music that they want.
What is missing is that we are so busy talking about celebrities, exclusives and so on and forth in terms of selling a subscription. If you try different forms of streaming, the paid subscription model offers the most control. In a sense, that is in a lot of times, and occasions that is a great experience. To just to be able to listen to the exact music or the exact album in the exact order that you would like. I think somehow that is a benefit that we are not really adequately communicating.
I will give you a great example.
I was on the (backyard) deck for most of the weekend. It was a beautiful weekend in New York. I put on Pandora, and I let Pandora romance me, and it was a wonderful experience. There are times, however, that I want to control it (listening). That is not unlike when I was in high school, and we could control what albums that we were going to listen to after school. Isnít that worth $9.99? When we talk about the payment, we are so hung up on things that donít matter to consumers that we are missing what the real benefit of what a paid subscription is.
One thing overemphasized is exclusive content. That if you donít subscribe, you arenít going to hear a certain artist. The public thinks, ďAlright, I didnít hear that artist. What else is out there?Ē And, thereís a lot.
I did a Webinar with the Music Business Association a few months ago, and the folks at BuzzAngle Music were kind enough to share some of their streaming data with me. More than 70% of what people are listening to on-demand services is catalog. Leaving aside the fact that the catalog might have holes in it, it sort of points out that if I can turn on a service and have great experienceóyeah, it might be missing this artist or that song-- but thereís so much wonderful music that I can get on that service, than thatís fine with me.
Most people donít care about the exclusives either.
No. What our research shows is that for most people exclusives aren't terribly influential as a motivator to subscribe. Netflix doesnít have every movie ever made out of Hollywood either. Exclusives have to be part of a larger consumer value proposition, but they won't work in isolation.
Did Tidal misfire by emphasizing exclusives, and the celebrity aspect of the service? It doesnít seem to have picked up much traction.
Well, they have not. The research shows that. I think it was a terribly misplaced launch. A tremendous miss. I started my career out of package goods where we were trying to sell people consumer packaged goods. Laundry detergent, potato chips, and ketchup. The lessons that I learned is that, yes, price is really important but you have to have a core consumer benefit. The consumer really has to be able to say, ďThatís a product that makes sense to me, and (itís) for me.Ē I think that is where Tidal completely missed the mark where (people are saying), ďYeah Jay Z is cool, and everyone loves Beyoncť, and Nicki Minaj has fans and everything, but you are asking me to spending $120 a year, and you are not explaining to me why except that a bunch of very talented, fortunate, and successful people are going to pay more money to artists,Ē which consumers donít really care about or understand anyway. They needed to find someone from Procter & Gamble to help them launch that product.
The music industry continually misfires due to a lack of vision.
Iím not sure that I would agree. Look change is hard. Back in the day, you had this whole retail infrastructure (for the sale of music)
Distribution was everything.
Yeah. The industry looked at a lot of digital options before iTunes but they werenít.....
The recording industry was the first media sector to feel the full impact of the Internet, and technology-empowered consumers. It missed years of opportunity to bulk sell music on the internet because of fears over the conversion of music to files. It tried to discourage consumers from copying music across the internet by suing alleged infringers; and trying to implement a secure digital watermarking scheme.
I know. I know. I did a lot of the tests on these products, and I told the record labels that this or that wasnít going to work. Iím sitting here in my office and Iím looking at the "Mamma Mia" soundtrack on slotMusic, and the slotRadio player from SanDisk. All things that we tested. I think that they were trying to be innovative, and were trying to think about the digital future. But if you are holding the golden goose, itís really hard to let go.
In 2004, iTunes awakened the music marketplace, but until then labels didnít want to go down the road where MTV had built an industry at their expense. Plus the mobile and internet communications communities and the music industry were colliding with one another.
I wasnít in the room, but I have talked to some of the people at Warners and at EMI who were involved with all of the discussions with Apple in the early days.
People like Ted Cohen who created and implemented EMI Musicís worldwide digital strategy, and led licensing negotiations with Apple/iTunes, Microsoft, RealNetworks, Rhapsody and others?
Ted was who I was thinking of as well as Paul Vidich at Warners. Iím sure that there were others. In fairness, I think we are in media, you have the Queen Mary. Itís hard to turn it around. The technology (issue) is really hard to predict, and estimate. You wonder if the movie studios would have even created something like Blu-ray if they had they known that streaming was going to be right around the corner. These (label) guys have tough jobs. Thinking about folks like Ted Cohen and Paul Vidich -- folks like that back in the day, you not only have to be a visionary and smart, but you also have to be right. Itís a hard, hard job.
[As EVP, Paul Vidich was responsible for Warner Musicís global business development and technology strategy, closing the first major record company agreement with Apple/iTunes in 2002.]
Even today with all of the industry talk going on about the fair compensation to artists and songwriters, the public doesnít have a clue of the issues, and donít care.
Thatís exactly what I was saying. Just about closing the loop when you talk about Tidal or if you talk about any service unless you convince people. I did an experiment recently. I was in a car for eight hours in one day. I was the driver. I was the passenger. I was alone. I was accompanied. It was the perfect test situation. I tested all of the services during those 8 hours. What hit me was how terrific the control was. I could pick what I wanted to. It sounded good. Why are we not communicating those things? Why are we communicating about things that consumers donít care about? You have to remember that a lot of consumers still thinks that that artists live the life (shown) on the MTV show ďCribs.Ē That you pick up a guitar, and you have a mansion in Beverly Hills. They donít understand at all the argument that are going on (about monetization) and I donít think that we should involve them in that.
You and I grew up browsing at record stores but with America not having much of a retail music sector anymore that doesnít happen anymore.
For years on a weekly basis, the same way that SoundScan tracks unit sales, we tracked how many CDs consumers would purchase at the cash register each time they shopped. It was 2.1 CDs. You are exactly right. I would walk in for the "Eminem Show" CD and while I was in the section I would see, maybe, another one of his albums, or another album that I liked, or something that I wanted to buy as a gift. On average, people were walking out with a little more than two albums on average every time that they went into a retail store. That was true probably until 2009. So it lasted for a long time.
Launched in in 2008, Record Store Day has gone on to become a major event in music retail. Certainly, it has had an impact on consumersí awareness of vinyl.
One of the participants in that is not too far from my home is Looney Tunes in West Babylon here on the island. You walk into Looney Tunes, and you think, ďThis is what retail needs to do.Ē Youíve got store management who can really relate to the consumers. You have customers who are engaged, and who are spending a lot of time in the store looking through racks. Youíve got music discovery going on. You have all of the right elements going on at retail. I canít tell you if they are making a profit or not, and paying their rent and paying their employees, but you look at it through that lens and you go, ďThis is what retail needs to do in order to be successful. In order to compete with online.Ē
Does Looney Tunes have a good selection of product?
Oh, itís wonderful. Over the past couple of days I got some emails about some live shows that they are doing. They do a real good job of communicating with the customer and making them aware of in store events and so on. I sort of go and look at that and I think, ďThatís a model for retail.Ē Iím not naive. I have a daughter who only buys from Amazon, and God bless, but I think as we start to think about Record Store Day and the consumer and so on, hereís one small example of retailer who, at least from my perspective, sort of does it right.
Has Record Store Day been a bit of a game changer in redeveloping that close relationship with music customers?
Absolutely. I think we have to be honest with ourselves though. Is vinyl going to turn around the fortunes of the music industry? No.
[Record Store Day has spawned off-shoots in Europe, Canada and Mexico. Since the breakout year in 2008, vinyl albums sales have increased 223% to 6.06 million units in 2014. Nielsen Music released its mid-year report on July 2, 2015), revealing the year's most successful artists, albums and singles. Vinyl sales have continued to grow in 2015, showing a 38.4% increase from 2014, with 5.6 million units moved year-to-date.]
Whatís intriguing is that 50% of the people who purchasing vinyl are under 25.
What I like about vinyl is that you have people under 25, and youíve also got people who are over 50 who are obviously buying different things. You still have people who are still buying jazz and classical, and you have people who continue to collect music from the Ď60s and you have young people. Someone told me that Taylor Swiftís album (ď1989Ē) is the #1 vinyl record being sold at the minute.
[Nielsen Musicís mid-year report, in fact, revealed that the album topping U.S. vinyl sales in 2015 to date is Taylor Swift's 1989Ē at 34,000 units.]
Where are you from?
Iím from Long Island. Iím one of the few people that has never gotten off the island. Iím in the Huntington area.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up on the south shore in Merrick.
What university did you attend?
I went to Alfred University and Hofstra University. I got my degree in marketing. It was a BBA in Marketing.
What did you do following university?
When I came out of school I was at NPD for about five years. Back then it was a company focused almost entirely on packaged goods. Fast moving consumer goods, and health and beauty aids is a great training ground for anyone who is going to go into consumer marketing.
What did you do after the five years?
I did a variety of things. I went into business with someone. I worked for a variety of research and then found my way back to NPD and not long after I got bitten by this music bug.
Were you a music fan as a child?
I was. I do remember sneaking down the basement stairs to watch The Ed Sullivan Show when the Beatles were on.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record.
He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book ďMusic From Far And Wide.Ē
Larry is the recipient of the 2013 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the Canadian music industry. He is a board member of the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ontario.
To learn more about Larry LeBlanc and to see some nifty historical photos check out:
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