U2 interviews suggest distracted listening and slower engagement with recorded music may contribute to declining CD sales

Nekesa Mumbi Moody (Associated Press) reports comments by U2 bassist, Adam Clayton and guitarist, David “The Edge” Howell Evans suggesting that the connection with listeners through recorded music is becoming attenuated and slower to develop.

Even in U2’s league, recording sales are down

Moody summarizes Nielsen SoundScan statistics that indicate sales of U2’s March 2009 CD are less than one-quarter of what a release in 2000generated. The draw of live performances and audience response at them imply that the music still connects. So what is happening to CD sales?

Is it still relevant to think of  a fan who buys CDs for the enjoyment of the music?

Clayton draws on his own early interest in jazz to suggest that full-on engagement may be limited to a smaller group of listeners for whom music is an essential part of life and whose lifestyle does not represent the pop listener mainstream. The level of engagement found in the broader base of listeners may no longer be sufficient to motivate purchases. “The concept of the music fan — the concept of the person who buys music and listens to music for the pleasure of music itself — is an outdated idea,” said Clayton.

Listening environment may contribute to disengagement

“Music exists in an environment where people are multitasking, and I think that’s a very different environment,” said Clayton.

Radio hit singles do not quickly translate into album enthusiasm. “There’s [sic] a lot of records that make great first impressions,” said The Edge. “There might be one song that gets to be big on the radio, but they’re not albums that people … play a lot.”

Even dedicated fans are slower to approach new recordings

“This is one that I gather from talking to people,” said the Edge.  “… Four months later, they’re saying, ‘I’m really getting into the album now.”

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