The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Apple of My Eye

Robert Avrech is a very big fan of Apple Inc. He is a user of their computers and iPods. He is an enthusiastic shareholder. He and I have recently been discussing Apple in an email correspondence. He is still bullish on the stock even though it has recently run up after their iPhone announcement. I am also a huge fan. Although I haven't made the switch to a Mac, I am the proud purchaser of about 7 iPods of the past couple of years. And, my recent foray into the Apple store on Fifth Avenue sealed it. It is one of the coolest stores I've ever been to (more on that when I have time).

(I told Robert that I also wanted to buy Apple stock last year but my $85,000 tuition bill got in the way. Of course, had I bought enough apple stock, its appreciation would have paid a significant portion of that tuition).

The real point of this post is that Apple has changed the word. In particular, the iPod has changed the world. Even more specifically, the iPod has changed the Jewish music world forever.

This has been brought home to me over the last few months since I released the CD I produced, U'Shmuel B'Korei Sh'mo.

Although sales have been solid, they don't seem to be anywhere near the level that they should be at based on the play that Nachum Segal has given the CD and the very positive feedback and word of mouth that it's gotten. Incidentally, Shlomo Katz is experiencing the same thing with his new CD, V'Hakohnim. Everyone he meets seems to have it but sales do not reflect this.

My experience today at the Mother Ship confirmed what I've been thinking. During my trip in September, I left a box of 50 CDs with one of the boys. When I returned today (with OYS who is checking it out for next year) only 15 had been purchased. This surprised me. For a minute.

I later took a tour of the dorms with OYS. Every student has an iPod. Many have an iPod with a docking station that allows them to play the songs on their iPods through speakers.

So, why should I expect a kid purchase a useless piece of plastic? None of the students has a CD player. (In contrast to when OOS went to yeshiva and everyone had either a portable CD player of a boom box).

Like it or not, the paradigm has changed.

So, the Jmusic world has to respond to the changes or die.

Here are a few thoughts:

1. CDs will soon go the way of the cassette. Every car will have a built-in transponder that will allow you to play the music on your iPod over the radio. (You can buy a very good transponder today for $70). iPod docks will replace stereo systems.

1. Well produced CDs will only be possible with independent funding (such as what I will be providing through my not for profit, Shirei Shmuel, Inc.) or if the big bands are interested in promoting a performer with a CD as a loss leader (with a couple of exceptions for the Shiny Shoe megastars).

2. A lot of lousy CDs will be produced using home computer technology.

3. The major distributors of Jmusic will have to quickly develop their own version of an iTunes store or they will be hard pressed to remain in business.

My bottom line is that you can't fight city hall. I am no longer going to get agmas nefesh over CD piracy. I will adjust. How exactly, I don't know. But I will never produce another album with the expectation that the proceeds of CD sales are going to make me whole.



  • At 4:43 PM, Blogger Fern @ Life on the Balcony said…

    I'm a big fan of Apple as well (I am typing this response on my Apple laptop...). That being said, I have the Monster Cable iPlay which is supposed to be one of the best FM transmitters and it's not very good. I live in the LA metro area and there just aren't any good, unused radio channels available. I think in the future, cars are going to have a dock of some sort (or maybe Blue Tooth?) that would allow you to plug your iPod directly into the car's stereo system. The FM transmitters are just a cheap, easy fix until the car companies catch up with the technology.

  • At 5:15 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said…

    And Jewish Music will never be a way to make good money because the kids will continue to steal as long as they can get away with it, and the old folks will never figure out how to use ipods (present company excepted).

  • At 5:21 PM, Blogger SaraK said…

    NYC has the same problem.

  • At 9:31 PM, Blogger uberimma said…

    Well, I have here two shiny new Shlomo Katz CDs, one still shrink-wrapped, from the concert we had tickets to but couldn't go to for lack of babysitter. (I know, it should be my biggest problem, but... but... sniff!) My husband went without me (I told him to) and got me the CDs as consolation. Somehow I don't think I would have been as consoled by a download. I like having something in my hand. But I guess I'm old-fashioned that way.

  • At 10:04 PM, Blogger leeby said…

    Mostly Music, which is as far as I can tell the biggest Jewish music website (in terms of selling) offers many many albums in mp3 format for slightly cheaper than the cost of a cd. I don't know what the criteria are for which albums are offered this way, but yours is not available as mp3's. The people who run this website might be a good resource for information. (And I love your cd and bought it anyway but had to put it into itunes on my own)

  • At 10:45 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said…

    The real issue is what will become of the "album". In the old days, when you could only buy songs in collected formats, the artists decided what songs would be included and what order they would be presented, which on side A and which on side B.

    I remember working on the song order for the first Kabbalah album, and having a definite ebb and flow to the songs on each side. I also remember the great pains I went to to make sure the sides A and B were exactly the same length, so there would be no "blank" tape at the end of one side.

    And the effort that went into the cover logo, or the interior layout. All of that will go away.

    And most of the songs will go away too. With the exception of very few "masterpieces", most albums have at most 2 or 3 "hits", and then a bunch of filler songs. But I found myself coming back to and listening to the filler songs more than the hits. But there won't be any more fillers. When you pay per song, you're only going to buy the ones you know.

  • At 10:21 AM, Blogger MKARP said…

    just curious why is shaalvim the "mother ship"

  • At 11:27 AM, Blogger david said…

    It's unfortunate that the stealing goes on, but people would be willing to pay per song. I've stopped buying tapes or cds because I'm tired of paying for all the filler songs. (I don't copy the tapes either). I would be willing to pay per song however.

  • At 11:37 AM, Blogger PsychoToddler said…

    David: that's the problem: People won't pay for filler songs because they will be paying per song. But the filler songs are where the artist usually does something interesting, because there is no pressure to homogenize it into a radio hit.

    EG: The Beatles Abbey Road Album had a few hits like Come Together, Something, but would Here comes the sun have been released? Or Octopusses Garden?

    Especially, as Mo points out, with diminishing CD sales and the skyrocketing cost of studio production, there will be more of focus on making the money count, and just knocking off sure-fire hits.

    That equals boring music, especially for Jewish music, which isn't exactly known for innovation.

  • At 2:39 PM, Blogger Israel Beat said…

    Why is it called an "album"? Because in the days of 78rmp records, you had a record album similar to a photo album where you coudl flip through your records. You could only it about 15-20 inuts on one side of a 78rmp record. After that they started marketing singles. What was Elvis Presley's first album? Did eh even have one? What about Chuck Bery? These artists relased singles on little records that held one song. No one cared about the album until the 1960's. FM radio started album-oriented formats. This of course is all before my time. I can fit 10 albums on an mp3 player. Can I walk around carrying 10 CDs? And I can illegally download Yosselle Rosenblatt and obscure Dave Tarras klezmer. But I still think it would be apropos for a musician to have a disc to give to someone at a concert, something someone can hold in their hand. Now the question for me is what does this man for my radio show? That people can listen to me while driving? I sure hope so.

  • At 12:06 AM, Blogger Natan said…

    One of the biggest problems that is facing the Jewish Music world specifically is the sheer cost of the CD's. At $18 a pop very few people can afford to buy an album let alone a few of them.

    If your CD was selling for $12 I imagine that you'd see more movement. Sure you would still see people burning and making mp3's of the CD but the people that will take the mp3's will do that no matter what the cost.

    There are two ways to make buying a CD worthwhile.

    1. Liner Notes - But time and effort into them, good stories, lyrics, etc. Nochi Krohn's CD he's got short stories about each song. He's on the right track. (Your CD does very well here too)

    2. Make the publishing the cheapest way you can. See Adi Ran's Unplugged Album. It's 2 CD's for $15 in the cheapest made CD case I've ever seen. It should cost over $30 but they kept cost down so people would actually buy it.

  • At 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I certainly wouldn't steal music. Just plain wrong.

  • At 1:23 PM, Blogger PsychoToddler said…

    An Album is like a show. You go from song to song, there's an ebb and a flow. The slow one leads into a faster one. There's one stuck right in the middle that you'd never think to cue up on its own, and yet it feels right just where it is. There's the quirky one on the middle of side B that the producers wouldn't have allowed but the artist stuck up for it and now it's a favorite song.

    The great albums of the sixties (think moody blues, pink floyd) connected the songs thematically.

    All of that is going away. Everything will sound like Britney Spears latest radio hit, or Lecha by the Chevra. Get ready for a lot of boring music.

  • At 4:50 PM, Blogger Jacob Da Jew said…

    Your CD is great! I play it all the time.

    You are totally right about CD's becoming obsolete. Look whats happening to tapes! Most new stuff is only available in CD now.

    I think that when the Yeshivish World really catches on to iPods, someone will make a lot of money.

    Whoever is first to market with a "Kosher Pod" and provides a database with popular tunes will make such a killing. Only problem will be getting a licence of the tunes.

  • At 7:30 AM, Blogger who am i said…

    i think natan said it best, jewish music has priced itself out of the market. i would happily drop 50 bucks a few times a year if i could walk out of the store with a bag full of music. but i won't put down a 20 when i'll walk out with one albumn, and on it only three songs i'll listen to more than once.

    that being said, i don't condone "aquiring" music without paying for it.

    would be nice if sameach and friends could get their stuff on itunes. it would make for happy customers and bigger business.


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