The $10-compact disc album--long viewed by record retailers as a key in keeping alive consumer enthusiasm for older product--has finally arrived.
The concept appears to be such a hit that Motown Records is already planning to introduce a series that could be marked down in the highly competitive CD marketplace to the $8- to $9-range.
"The whole CD situation has changed dramatically in recent months," said Jay Lasker, president of Motown Records. "A year ago, CDs appealed mainly to an affluent buyer who would buy just about anything because there were so few titles in the stores. But you can now buy CD players for under $100, which has opened CDs to the average record buyer. Thus, the price of CDs becomes an important consideration.
"Average buyers will pay the (regular) $14 or $15 for the new U2 or Lionel Richie CD, but they rebel when it comes to older albums. This is especially true at the discount department stores, which sell lots of records. Stores see $10 as a magic number . . . a dividing point for consumers.
"They'd like to get all CDs down to that level at some point. That's why I think the real boom in CDs is still ahead . . . the day when the new hit product can be sold for $10, and I don't think that's an unreasonable goal a year or two from now."
The major breakthrough in pop CD pricing is Columbia Records' "Collector's Choice" series, which discount-minded retailers around town are selling for $9.99.
At Tower Records in West Hollywood, the series--which debuted this month with 50 albums by such pop artists as Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash and the Hollies--was so successful that there weren't enough of the CDs left late this week to maintain a respectable display area.
George Slaiman, CD buyer for the store, had put 250 copies of the budget packages in a special rack before going on vacation 10 days ago--but only about 25 were left when he returned this week.
So, he and Howard Krumholtz, another Tower buyer, put the remaining budget CDs back with the regular stock and turned the display space over to recent--and more plentiful--full-price releases.
The shift in consumer demographics is so dramatic that other labels--including PolyGram and MCA--are rushing out their own $10-range CD packages.
Until now, Motown and MCA had both leaned to a "two-for-one" packaging that offered two old albums on one CD for the price of a single CD. That concept's main selling point was that each CD generally offered more than 60 minutes of music.
In adopting a budget series, MCA Records is discontinuing its "two-for-one" series. Harold Sulman, vice president of sales, said research indicates customers are more concerned with price than the number of minutes in an album.
Rather than back away from its ambitious two-for-one strategy, Motown is thinking of dropping the price of those packages to better compete with the new budget discs. In addition, the label is putting together a series of CD-only "greatest hits" samplers, which will offer 10 to 12 songs in the $8-$9 range. More comprehensive, 20- to 25-song "greatest hits" CDs will continue to be offered at regular prices.
Don't expect to find the most prized old albums in the budget lines. Every record company is continuing to market the best sellers from previous years at regular prices. Columbia, for instance, has more than 1,000 full-price catalogue titles on the market and 400 new ones on the way. By contrast, only about 200 CD titles are expected to be released as part of the budget "Collector's Choice" series. Also: Don't expect to find every store selling the budget CDs for $9.99. CD prices vary greatly and some stores may only approach that low mark during special sales.
MCA plans to release 30 titles as part of its first budget shipment in June (including Tom Petty's "Long After Dark" and Elton John's "Rock of the Westies") while PolyGram's initial batch in May will include 36 titles (including the Allman Brothers' "Brothers and Sisters" and Cameo's "She's Strange).
BEATLES CD BULLETIN: The next three releases in the Capitol/EMI Beatles' CD series--"Help!" "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver"--will be in stores Thursday, not Monday as noted in a review of the three albums in Sunday Calendar.
CD DIGEST: New CD releases include Fleetwood Mac's "Tango in the Night," K. D. Lang's "Angel With a Lariat," Joe Jackson's "Will Power," Al Green's "Soul Survivor," Whitesnake's "Whitesnake," Lyle Lovett's "Lyle Lovett." . . . Full-price titles from the vaults: The Band's "Music From Big Pink" and "The Band," Judy Garland's "Judy at Carnegie Hall," Prince's "For You," Van Halen's "Fair Warning," AC/DC's "High Voltage" and Yes' "Yessongs."
LIVE ACTION: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers will be joined by the Georgia Satellites and the Del Fuegos on June 6 at the Pacific Amphitheatre and on June 8, 9, 11 and 12 at the Universal Amphitheatre. Tickets go on sale Sunday. . . . Run--D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys will be at the Pacific Amphitheatre on June 20 and at the Greek Theatre on June 21-23. Tickets for both engagements go on sale Monday.