There have been some awful explanations and pretty intense finger-pointing in the bid to find out what killed the music industry (or at least, what the RIAA-PRS believes to be the music industry). Joe Mardin is pointing his finger firmly at the CD.
Yes, the CD:
“In a way, the CD is what destroyed the music business,” says Joe Mardin, a musician, producer, arranger, and engineer. Mardin grew up in the music business; his father was Ardiff Mardin, the legendary producer of Hall & Oats, Norah Jones, Aretha Franklin, and others. “People were buying millions of CDs to replace their catalog," says Mardin, explaining how industry greed ended up killing the Golden Goose. “There was this imperative that started to emerge: 'You must fill up a CD with as much music as possible,’” Mardin says. “The rest was filler. You ended up with albums that were one or two hits and a bunch of wanna-be hits.” The record industry itself killed the album, trying to maximize profits.
So... having a format which persuaded people to rebuy the records they'd already owned with the promise of some sort of better experience was bad for the music industry?
I'm not sure I buy the idea that there ever was an imperative to "fill up" CDs, either - certainly, there's been enough lightweight releases in the last decade to suggest that some people were immune. And hasn't 'one or two tracks you want, and the rest so much bilge' been pretty much the standard set-up for an album since someone said "how about if we spin it at thirty-three and third?"
But even if you take Mardin at his word, he still makes no sense at all - if the music industry put out a load of tosh and killed off their audience, would you blame that on a small, inert, plastic disc - or, perhaps, the music industry management who took the decision? "Idiotic management decisions and greed killed the music industry" is both more honest, and a banner that many of us would be able to march behind.
[Thanks to Sarah D for the link]
UPDATE: Was going to stick this in the comments, but it probably deserves a higher profile - Peter Gorman on album length and the CD