FLAC vs. CD price

Discussion in 'Marketplace Discussions' started by crookedbill, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. crookedbill

    crookedbill Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I want to shed my CD buying habit (lack of storage, minimizing disposable plastic etc.) but I don't want to sacrifice audio quality, so 16/44.1 FLAC downloads are the no-brainer solution. However, an album as FLAC is generally priced more expensively (7Digital etc., $12-$16 or more) than a CD (on Amazon etc., usually $10 or less). Why is this?

    An album in FLAC format requires none of the expensive physical and logistical resources that CDs require, so why on earth would a new album be more expensive as a FLAC than as a CD, especially when both have the exact same audio quality? It's actually cheaper for me to buy the CD (free Prime shipping), rip as FLAC, and throw the CD away (or sell)- but that's really untenable.
    doppelganger and bmh5879 like this.
  2. Spitfire

    Spitfire Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest
    Doesn't make sense does it? At least now we have a choice. What happens if CDs go away?
  3. tmtomh

    tmtomh Forum Resident

    While it would seem to make no sense that FLAC albums cost more than physical CDs of the same albums, the reason is the pricing tiers established when record labels first negotiated prices for lossy digital downloads with Apple and other online vendors. Lossy AACs and mp3s typically are priced at $0.99 to $1.29. Sometimes there's a discounted flat rate for buying a whole AAC or mp3 album, but sometimes there's not.

    FLAC, being lossless product, is considered a premium product compared to the lossy ones. So it's often going to be more expensive, both per-track and on a full-album basis.

    So... AAC and mp3 files cost less to produce and distribute than CDs of course, but the record labels demanded higher profit margins on them because of the greater risk of piracy due to easy file sharing. Once lossy digital albums were established as generally being about the same price as CDs or even slightly more expensive, the lossless digital formats that became popular later had to be priced even higher.

    Finally, as CDs have declined in popularity, their prices have modestly declined too - even new (or at least recent) releases often are available for $10 or less as you say, from online vendors. But digital files have not decreased in price.
    superstar19 likes this.
  4. crookedbill

    crookedbill Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I think you're largely correct in that precedent was set long ago and it's tough to reverse or change. However, CD sales continue to decline dramatically and downloading is losing out to streaming. Most people just do not seem to care about ownership or audio quality anymore - and haven't, for at least a decade. It's all about convenience.

    My theory is that since FLAC occupies such a small niche market, there's no sense in labels or online retailers making it any cheaper (or even comparable to CD) for the general public. The biggest digital retailers, iTunes and Amazon, have not and will not ever carry that format and even CD Baby has just ditched it. The general public has never heard of FLAC, can't play it, and wouldn't know how to convert it to a usable/portable format anyway.

    At this point I think download (mp3, AAC, FLAC, whatever) will actually fade out more quickly than CD, with streaming conquering all other formats in the end. It's a shame.
    tmtomh likes this.
  5. tmtomh

    tmtomh Forum Resident

    Good analysis.
  6. Gaslight

    Gaslight Q8 Listener

    Northeast USA
    It's a similar issue with ebooks. There's this perception that e-media should cost less than physical media, but the reality is that there's much more to an album that the media it's printed on (or not). There's the cost of recording, post-production, marketing etc. and those costs still exist regardless of the media channel. Even warehouse costs for CD's are minimized in a distribution channel such as Amazon.

    But coupled with that are the more strict pricing structure with electronic media and you have this current setup we're in. CD's are priced lower basically because the distributor is actually permitted to do it.

    Like many here, I just go with the lower price between the two (lossless 16/44.1k versus a CD). And yes, CD's generally seem to be the cheaper option right now.
  7. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Because they are not selling the "album". They are not even selling "music".

    They are selling you the thing you think you need, at a price commensurate to enrusing the product has the appearance of worth. If it costs more in a bottle than a can...well, you know which the public thinks tastes better.
  8. cdash99

    cdash99 Forum Resident

    I predict one postscript...the labels (not the artists) will make streaming content available in an on-and-off again manner, similar to movies. Right now, certain movies are available on HBO, Showtime, or Netflix, but never or rarely more than one at the same time. The alternative is pay per view.

    Welcome to the music industry's future. Buh bye!
  9. crookedbill

    crookedbill Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    As I surmised. Physical indeed outselling downloads, but still (and never again) nowhere close to streaming.

    CDs, vinyl are outselling digital downloads for the first time since 2011

    Convenience and cost, not quality, win every time when it comes to media consumption. Why would anybody under 25 "buy" a single hi-res FLAC album download for $15 when they can listen to any and every album they'd ever want for under $15 a month?
    Dale A B likes this.

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