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Tuesday, July 13, 2010


If "flat is the new up" these days, then paid downloads are doing okay. But for many artists, simply giving it away seems the better route.

Perhaps it depends on the perspective and position, though the numbers are showing decreased interest in paying the piper. According to Nielsen Soundscan, paid downloads slipped a modest 0.2 percent to 597 million units during the first half in the US, a possible prelude to bigger declines ahead.

Actually, some other formats were popping - so to speak - including vinyl. Wax gained 9.1 percent to 1.3 million, a meager amount by industry standards but certainly something for smaller stores and artists. Digital albums, meanwhile, gained 13.7 percent year-over-year, to 42 million.

But those are mostly sideshows, and for a recording industry in crisis, the absence of a serious revenue-gaining format is troubling. And for artists, the situation introduces a tricky decision between upfront profit and longer-term awareness.