Letter: CD campaign deserved to fail

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The Independent Online
FOLLOWING the finding by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission that CD pricing is fair, I hoped to see Jack Hughes express some remorse at having orchestrated a misguided campaign for cheaper CDs, which obliged the record industry to waste millions of pounds and thousands of man-hours to provide evidence that confirmed what most of us thought all along. CD prices are in line with those for comparable entertainments and are less than a seat at a Premier League football match or a London theatre.

When I was earning a typical low-to-average wage of pounds 15 a week 25 years ago, LPs were about pounds 1.50, roughly 10 per cent of my weekly wage. At pounds 12 to pounds 14 today, CDs are slightly less than 10 per cent of an equivalent low-to-average wage of pounds 150 a week, despite far greater costs for major record companies in artist advances, recording and marketing costs.

The current newspaper price war should alert Hughes to the dangerous consequences of a campaign that makes price the only basis of a purchasing decision. I have continued to buy the Independent despite the lower cost of two rivals; on Hughes' logic, I am being nave. I buy CDs at full price at my local independent record shop, which does not offer the massive discounts on wholesale prices that enable big chains to sell major label releases at the low prices Hughes encourages his readers to look for. These discounts are sometimes so big a chain store can sell a record to the public at less than the wholesale price charged to independent retailers; hundreds of 'indies' have gone out of business in the last two years.

Independent record labels have also been endangered by Hughes' campaign. The profit margin of a CD priced around pounds 13 enables an independent label to break even from sales of about 2,000 to 3,000 copies provided recording costs have been modest and marketing costs minimal. With a staff of three, the World Circuit label has been able to develop a substantial career for the Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure.

If the Monopolies Commission had supported Hughes and obliged the major companies to drop their prices, the smaller companies would have had to drop theirs too, despite having higher manufacturing costs on their small runs. Many would have gone out of business, and the world would have become a much duller place.

The Independent should support the principle of independence, even on Sunday]

Charlie Gillett

Oval Records & Music

London SW9