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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Downloadable Movies Won't Kill the Packaged Media Market (Not the Buggles Hit)

13 Mar, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ooooh, baby...er, Good morning! Forgive me--I just woke up after a most nostalgic evening. First, one of my one of my college faves, Peter Frampton, was given a best seller award by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of his landmark Frampton Comes Alive album. Then, I was invited to a special party at the Rhino suite in which a portly gentleman named Sonny entertained us all with a stirring karaoke rendition of Deep Purple's "Hush," while video maven Mary Lou Bono was talking up today's release of The Rutles DVD and threatening me with bodily harm if I didn't mention this fact in today's Morning Buzz.

And all this, after a raucous Digital Music SuperSession in which the fur was truly flying -- more so than at any other event during this, the 43rd annual NARM convention and trade show.

A scholarly fellow with a shaved head and a gentle demeanor, research analyst Aram Sinnreich of Jupiter Communications angered the retail audience when he proclaimed the record album -- and all packaged media, for that matter -- is "dying." The future, he said, lies with digital, downloadable media, because today's generation doesn't give a hoot about packaging and extras.

He cited a Jupiter consumer survey of what matters most to potential subscribers of a music downloading service. Album art and exclusive content were ranked way down on the list.

"They are vestiges of physical product," Sinnreich said, "and are becoming less and less important."

He pronounced "physical product" as though it were a dirty phrase.

Well, forgive me, Aram, but I just don't agree with you. I believe there will always be a market for packaged media. Human beings are, by nature, hunters and collectors, and one of my greatest joys has been scouring record stores/video stores/bookstores for something I want and then finding it, buying it and adding it to my collection.

Granted, I'm a bit of a pack rat. My wife even says so. I have a built-in cabinet in my family room that is home to my 1,200 record albums, all in plastic envelopes. I've got about 500 CDs on the other side of the family room, and upwards of 1,000 DVDs all over the place -- in old suitcases in the garage, in the linen closet, on the top shelf of the laundry room, for crying out loud.

I like to own things. I always have, and I always will. And I don't think it's simply a generational thing. My dad still has a closet-full of 78s he can't bear to part with, and my 5-year-old, Justin, has just cleaned out the middle drawer of his desk as a repository for CDs, CD-ROMs and PlayStation games -- filed as neatly as a 5-year-old is capable of.

I don't think the Arnold Men are alone. And even if we are, there's the gift market to think of, which currently accounts for a whopping 40% of all packaged media sales.

A neatly wrapped CD or DVD makes a great gift. A digital download? I don't think so.

I could be wrong, but I happen to believe in the theory of peaceful coexistence. A market for downloadable music -- and, ultimately, movies -- will surely develop. But it's not going to kill the packaged media market.

To each his own -- double entendre intended.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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