The music industry needs to listen to kids like Andy Guerrero, who was one of five young people who participated in the "Music Fans Speak" panel at the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers conven






Tamara Conniff is co-executive editor of Billboard.






Andy Guerrero, a 23-year-old senior at the University of Colorado at Denver, wants to save funk music. In fact, he wants to save all music and the artists making it, which is why he buys albums and legal downloads. However, he is also very hard on retailers and record labels. According to him, CDs are too expensive, DualDiscs suck, big-box retailers are too impersonal and the iPod rules.

Andy was one of five young people who participated in the "Music Fans Speak" panel at the National Assn. of Recording Merchandisers convention in San Diego this month. These kids, all members of the Recording Academy's interactive advisory board What's the Download, know more about consumer trends, marketplace needs and the business models of the future than any music biz executive -- or me, for that matter. These are the people we need to listen to.

Yes, they have caught on to the wily ways of the business. They will not buy a CD based on "one hit single." All of them agree that record stores should have listening stations where they can hear the entire album before they lay down some cash. And as far as those rereleased albums with a few bonus tracks that hit stores a few months after the initial release, 22-year-old Bahareh Batmanghelidj, a recent graduate of the University of Southern California, says that just does not fly: "We've caught on to that trick."

Four of the five panelists said that DualDiscs are a huge disappointment. The whole flip-it-over thing annoys them. The discs do not play on all machines, and they are more expensive than regular CDs. These consumers would rather have a bonus DVD in the package, separate from the CD.

But what about piracy -- illegal downloads and CD burning? Well, that is easy: Most music fans go to free peer-to-peer networks to find rarities and live tracks. These are exactly what legitimate sites rarely offer because of licensing issues. But when they do, the fans are happy to pay. Christie Osborne, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of San Diego, says that when iTunes offered an exclusive, previously unreleased Bright Eyes track, it was the "highlight" of her week.

They do not feel guilty about burning a CD for a friend -- personal use, anyone? In fact, Osborne says such sharing makes for good marketing. In the long run, passing a CD to a friend can benefit the music biz by creating a new fan to buy a concert ticket, a T-shirt or the artist's next release.

Food for thought. Truths from the mouths of babes.

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