NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The record companies will admit that nearly $10 is too much for most folk to pay for an LP. But the only solution they have is to give you less music for less money.
Record sales were much lower last year than the industry had projected, and the projections had been pretty pessimisic to start with. At the same time, a three-year slump in sales of stereo equipment worsened in 1982.
There are all sorts of arguments that the near-$10 price is economically justified: the high cost of making a record, multimillion dollar salaries paid to artists like Kenny Rogers, and less than adequate royalties paid to the creators of the music -- the songwriters.
The bottom line is that people today can't afford to shell out 10 big ones for an album when the gas bill keeps going up along with the mortgage, the price of stamps and the cost of keeping junior in diapers.
As a result, people have looked for other ways to entertain themselves. Pac Man and his video friends gobbled about $1 billion worth of quarters in 1982. Walkmans were replaced by Watchmans. Videotape recorders jockeyed with videodiscs for the video dollar.
Many Americans have given up on albums. Instead, they invest as little as $150 in a stereo cassette recorder, then tape record albums off the radio or from their friends' collections. It's a lot cheaper that way -- much to the chagrin of composers, songwriters and publishers who don't get their royalties.
Home taping, combined with tape counterfeiting, took another $2 billion from record company ledgers.
Something had to be done.
So record companies have started slashing prices -- or have they?
RCA Records in Nashville announced recently the release of a 'newly developed mini product series featuring a retail price point of $6.98.' What that means is the record company will start putting out records that have only six songs and cut the price from nearly $10 ($8.98 list, not including tax) to $6.98.
Early releases included Louise Mandrell's first solo album, 'Closeup,' Leon Everette's self-titled LP, and 'Those Were The Days' by Gary Stewart and Dean Dillon.
'The $6.98 series will be offered as an addition to RCA Records but will not replace the regular $8.98 LP offerings,' the press release said.
The price cut is a step in the right direction, but it remains to be seen whether people will pay $1.16 for a song. In fact, the six-song mini LP is actually slightly more expensive per song than an eight-song LP. Six songs for $6.98 gives you one song for $1.16; Eight songs for $8.98 gives you one song for $1.12.
The only saving grace is that the sound quality on the six-song disc is better than a regular album.
But the price is the key.
'Heck, you can buy a record for $2.98 at K-Mart,' said one expert record-buyer in Nashville. 'I even saw Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians holiday special album on sale for $1.98.'
CBS Records is taking a similar approach in its 45 rpm records. Instead of offering a song on each side of the single record, the record company is only offering one-sided singles, at a price that should be well under $1.
If you thought the $8.98 price for an album was a bit high, would you believe a 4.7-inch-wide record for $17? The compact disc, with each side holding 30 minutes of music, will be introduced in Europe this fall by PolyGram and in the United States this spring. The phonograph needle to play the disc will go for $750.