Author Topic: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?  (Read 3350 times)

matthew

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This topic has been discussed before, but many threads are old and the forum suggested I'd start a new topic when I wanted to reply to this one started by Pete Kelly.
http://www.hypnos.com/smf/index.php?topic=1811.0

My question is foremost to "listeners" so not so much about releasing:

1. What's your reaction to an artist releasing digitally vs. one releasing on CD?
2. What's your reaction to an artist moving from CD releases to digital releases?

In other words, does an online release "cheapen" or downgrade the artist?

It is something I have been interested in ever since releasing on mp3.com back in 1998/1999. I was fortunate enough to have the above answers removed for me by H/S Recordings being kind enough to release 7 of my albums on CD in the past ten years. I see a shift in my line of work (games) from physical media to digital distribution. It started slowly, with prices much higher than physical media. Nowadays both the content en pricing is very competitive with physical distribution. Games are going the route of "freemium" where a large number of players is attracted to play a game for free and only a small handful is enticed to pay for so called "micro transactions". This is mentioned in Pete's thread also.
In the near future, the physical console will be replaced by very simple/cheap hardware, that will simply "stream" a game from a high capacity server, which accepts the input of your "controller" and then renders a frame; sending that it back to your "receiver" build right into the television. In essence removing all the gaming/console hardware from the living room.

But how do "listener" consume this kind of product? Can one cherish a digital release? I find it hard to answer that question myself as I don't have that many digital releases. The only place I have them is in the apps section of my iPhone and if I think about that, I don't perceive it as any different from having a game on a disc.

Matthew

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2010, 08:13:48 AM »
Ignoring the whole I'm a releasing musician and run a label...

As a listener - I've transitioned almost completely to my iPod.  The convenience of having 120 gb of music at my finger tips at work where I listen to music the most - is amazing.  It fits my needs perfectly.   It doesn't downgrade my thoughts on the artist that released it one bit.

Do I miss the wonder of opening a new cd?  Sure.   I love cd's, I love vinyl.  I still listen to cd's in my car - but they're a royal pain to deal with.  Can't wait until I can dock my iPod in there... ;-)

At home - I'm either streaming StillStream.com or Pandora - or listening to artists on Soundcloud.  I rarely pick up a cd - except to put it in a computer and rip it to mp3.

If you go back and find my comments from 2 years ago...  I was still completely against mp3 players, but open to the idea.  Once my wife and I bought mp3 players - the cd collection moved downstairs into storage (although I still have about 200 cd's to rip and I miss some of those!)

What I really appreciate is an artist or label that makes sure the information about their releases are up to date and on their website...  since there are no longer booklets and liner notes and decent sized cover art!   Which again - I do miss - but I don't miss so much as to not use an mp3 player...

...

So back to me as a musician and running a label - I'm perfectly fine with downloads as that's exactly how I buy music.  I really still love physical product, and I know a lot of listeners do - so made an arrangement with the wonderful and fantastic and amazing Hypnos peeps to make and sell cdr copies of Relaxed Machinery albums (thank you Mike and Lena!).   

:-)

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2010, 08:30:29 AM »
I think both forms are completely acceptable.  The key really is if anyone is willing to pay.

The convenience of digital is the main advantage but there are disadvantages, the move away from hi-fi up until now the quality has been getting better but not with mp3s.  Also, a move away from good quality speakers.  I know a number of people who don't use speakers anymore.

Also, with physical release as a producer you need to add more.  This is something I've been considering and as a result I'll be trying to do something a bit different with the covers, as well as do a bit of video.

In conclusion I prefer a physical release which then quickly gets ripped to the iPhone.  If I'm listening on speakers, I reach for the CD.

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2010, 08:33:41 AM »
I gotta agree with JKN; I wasn't 100% on board with downloads a year or two ago, but after ripping my collection to a media server, I'm sold on the convenience factor.  I can now access my entire CD library from any PC in my house.  My wife & I both work at home; now we can each listen to whatever we want in our separate offices, in the main living room, the basement, etc., without the need to go to the CD rack, pick what we want, load a CD player, etc.  We can take 120GB of music with us on road trips, camping, etc. - no more of those annoying multi-CD carriers to deal with.  

Up until recently, I bought hard-copies of new music, on the theory that I would always have a backup; I could rip the CD at maximum sound quality; and I had something of value that could be resold if I ever chose to get rid of it.  But with hard drives being so cheap, I can now have triple-reduntant backups of my MP3 files; I can buy downloads at high bit rates; and the value of physical CD's seems to be dropping as everyone dumps their CD's on eBay (after ripping them, of course - illegally - a topic for another thread.)  

I'm realizing more and more that the way I will ultimately use the music should dictate how I buy it.  In all honesty, things like cover art and liner notes are nice, but after enjoying these things when I first get the CD, I rarely look at them again.  Nostalgia for LP's and their expansive cover designs shouldn't influence how I purchase music now.  With books, I can't see going to a Kindle-type thing, since I like the tactile sensation of holding a book, turning pages, etc.  But with music, the sound is the same whether my stereo is playing a CD or streaming tunes from my PC.  My ears don't care how I bought it.

I don't think digital-only releases 'cheapen' a musician or his/her music - it's the way of the future.  My nieces and nephews don't own physical CD's (unless they got them from their parents); they think my huge rack of CD's is bizarre.
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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2010, 09:17:08 AM »
Also agree that digital downloads don't necessarily cheapen a release.
I always choose a download over a physical CD if its available.
Matter of convenience and space and cost.
i don't use an ipod/mp3 player though. I listen over good speakers or
good headphones from a computer hard disk. But I'm home all day :)

I do think downloads are cheapened when they don't contain all the
graphics and info of the physical release, and when they don't even
have good id3 tags. Shows lack of care.

As I've said many times before, the cost of downloads is getting stupid.
Once they get over $9 I think its a rip-off, and the cost saving of getting
the download over the CD is being lost.
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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2010, 09:18:58 AM »
re:  books

I was exactly the same way - always prefering the physical book.  The feeling of holding a book, flipping pages, the ink, the "collector" in me liked seeing all the books from an author on my shelf...  

And then I found I couldn't hold a book anymore and actually read it (due to my annoying problems with my hands/wrists - sorta like carpal tunnel which has really gotten worse the last 5 years...) - so Heidi bought me a Nook (Barnes & Noble) - and I *love* it.  I sold or donated about 150 books a couple weeks ago.   I can actually read again.  It's fantastic.

I live in a small house - physical things sometimes take up too much room - I found I was able to let books I'd owned for 25 years go.

To me - books are now fast becoming nostalgiac like vinyl... I'm fine with ebooks.  It's the words on the page that set my imagination on fire... not the physical object.


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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2010, 10:07:45 AM »
I hear you - I hate clutter, and the thought of clearing out all my bookshelves does kind of appeal to me...

One problem I see with digital downloads - and this is not related to the quality of the download - is the perceived value.  I can buy a download of a new Loscil release for $9, or go get it for free at some blog.  Legality and morality aside, the availability of free downloads from blogs tends to make the pay downloads appear expensive.  So, if you're a kid raised in the download and MP3 era, a $9 release can seem like a ripoff.  A friend's teenage son thinks it's foolish to pay for music; he gets whatever he wants free online.  The moral & legal issues never even enter his mind.

The percentage of folks who get their music via free blogs (and torrent sites) is only going to go up as more and more people realize that they can get stuff for free with almost no risk of getting caught; at some point, pay-per-download releases are going to have to lower the price to try to make these folks buy rather than steal.  At $9, that won't happen; but at $4, maybe someone who's on the fence will choose to pay.
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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2010, 12:58:18 PM »
To me, the mp3 has always been to the CD what the cassette was to the LP.  It's more convenient, but you lose something in the process, and, ultimately, it's sonically inferior.  I will sometimes try out a new release on mp3, and, if I really like it, will gladly spring for the CD.  Yes, digital files can be lossless, but I am less likely to think of a putting on an album if there's no visual or physical frame of reference.  Of course, if you prefer to listen to music by random shuffle, then the concept of an album is not really an issue to begin with, and you are probably more likely to prefer mp3s to CDs.

I recently read an article about how people are less likely to retain information they read in a digital medium than in a physical, tactile medium such as a newspaper, magazine or book.  I think you could extrapolate from that that music may be experienced on a far deeper level when there are more senses engaged, such as in a phsyical medium like the CD or LP.

I certainly wouldn't second-guess an artist's decision to release digital only, but as a consumer I'd be less likely to buy it, or would hold out for a physical release (even a CDR).

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2010, 03:35:56 PM »
It's amazing to me how fast sentiments have changed. Many CD labels have disappeared not over the 10 years past, but specifically as recent as the last two years. I wasn't thinking about downloads two years ago either, but I sure do like the convenience of a digital player and it's storage, though refuse to use anything that is not lossless. The convenience eliminates the question of quality all together.
Convenience is dangerous as downloading is easy and easy quickly becomes the norm. Once used to the norm, it is hard to still make an effort. Who would ever want to get up again to change channels on a television? The "clicker" though, has created a culture of programming that is shallow, bite size, less involved. Sorry, I am going slightly all over the place with this ; )

I love the CD and I think I finally truly understand what those old vinyl lovers hated about it when it became obvious it would replace vinyl. Same for Laserdiscs, same for video 2000... it's progress isn't it. Those where incremental steps, the medium was always still physical. What makes this so hard to accept is that there is nothing any more that contains the work. The work itself doesn't change, but does that also hold true for the way it is consumed? The process of opening a CD, placing it in a player; even waiting for it to arrive once ordered. It builds a certain tension. I'm repeating what has been said before me in this thread, I agree.

SunDummy, the "perceived value" is a very "actual" topic in games. Microsoft put it as creating an "economy of value" and the iTunes game business imploded in a single month around this time last year, when app builders noticed that the best way to sell was having a game in the top 15/30 list. Within a few weeks, apps where 99c. This meant that people bought both expensive games and bad ones for 99c. Now, a year onwards even I consider anything above 99c to be expensive. The reasoning is not that 99c is impossibly cheap for a product that was made by a company of say five creative artists, working for 3 months on something.

Does quality work in the same way? If there a sort of "maximum" enjoyment one can receive from a download as opposed to a physical medium, simply because the later takes more effort. It makes sense that there would be some truth in that. A new generation is growing up and they will hit their teens, when their music involvement and musical-"forming" reaches its peak. They might cherish their download as much as I did my CD's back in the day, as did the generation before me the record.

A good release is a good release, but to be able to release it physically; that requires money. Money to get it made, designed and distributed, all equally expensive. Digital distribution takes away a lot of the up-front money and hassle too. 10 years ago, when the studio became more and more obsolete and people where able to record from their home, the quantity went up and the quality went down. When it costs a lot of money to record something, the effort to do it well is greater. Similar, the public (listeners) are less attracted to pay for quality unless a huge marketing investment teaches them that the product is worth the money, talk about your catch 22.

Perhaps it's simply us old folk refusing to accept the winds of change (sorry), exclaiming how much better it used to be.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2010, 03:41:03 PM by Matthew Florianz »

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2010, 12:22:55 AM »
Hi Matthew,

I agree with of lot of what you said.  I think that the convenience of legal and illegal downloading, combined with a glut of supply, and a relegation of the medium to near invisibility, diminishes its status and reinforces the idea that music is a disposable and interchangeable commodity.  Not all change is good, unless you are a compulsive gadgethead.

The article I was thinking of was from a new book by Nicholas Carr about the internet's ability to distract and inhibit deep thinking.  There is an extract from Carr's book here (ironically, on the internet):

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/05/ff_nicholas_carr/all/1

Forrest

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2010, 01:33:55 AM »
Matthew,

I have to say that I would much prefer to have a CD made up for my releases, but practicalities are dictating otherwise.
Perhaps I am in a similar situation to yourself, I've got albums I want to finish and release this year, but I don't think I can justify getting a
run of CDs made. It makes me a bit sad but its the way things are going. So the releases I'm planning for this year will probably be digital
releases. I use the term 'digital releases' to differentiate from the term 'downloads' because I prefer the sound of it :)

I'm thinking of having an option for people to buy a DVD of the WAV files / Flac files if they are after the best sound quality.

On a positive side, there isn't the constraint of a 74 minute release with a digital release. The albums that I'm planning on releasing are both
significantly longer than 74 minutes, this was a factor in my choice of how to release them.

I agree that download prices are too expensive, but it's mostly out of the hands of the artist.

There's quite a buzz in the Hi Fi community around people using the computer as the primary sound source as opposed to a CD player and using a high quality USB/SPDIF DAC to connect to the amp and speakers. People are listening to music in a different manner at home as well as out and about.

I still play CDs and have kept a 'master' copy CD of all my releases, as it's quite important to me to 'document' the album and its artwork. In the
future, who knows...

cheers
Pete

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2010, 10:59:55 PM »
I get curmudgeonly (more so than usual) when this topic comes up. Speaking strictly for myself, not interested in convincing anyone about anything, but my one small opinion is that downloads suck and will finally put music in its grave as far as people paying for it. I'm all for free downloads - and I will be a bastard here and say that if an album is released download only, it absolutely deserves to be traded for free on the net. I hate myself for saying that...

CDs are already degenerate enough. Weird collectors, people I know personally who don't even have a record player, have been known to buy a vinyl album release just for the art and luxuriant experience, and to buy a cd copy for the listening. So there are still the hardcore art/music fusion lovers out there.

I am heading to the house of some friends this evening, the house of metal dudes. They have a massive all vinyl collection stacked alluringly in their living room. Joyful hours are spent there poring over the elaborate 70's gatefold art while drinking in the sounds. This experience is quite fun, and compared to buying "air" for $9 off the internet, I know what I would choose.

Dear music makers, we (artists and musicians) need to start collaborating again like we did in ancient times. Let's make musical objects that people are actually willing to pay for, that can be enjoyed, touched, seen, and heard for years to come.

If you only have the wherewithal to release a download, you should rethink the idea of being paid for your music at all.

The divorce of music and art has not been finalized.

But that is one man's totally backward, out of step with the times, and perhaps idiotic opinion...


« Last Edit: June 12, 2010, 11:07:58 PM by 9dragons »

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2010, 11:44:53 PM »
Computers, iPods, downloads, etc. have totally revolutionized the music industry, while ironically at the same time leading to its downfall.  I don't hold anything against an artist for partaking in the available technology, but I am more likely to spend the time and money on a physical product.  I'm an old-school music fan--I like record stores, CD's, and home stereo systems.  I know the "end" is somewhat near, so I'm savoring these final moments until movie theaters and CD's disappear from the planet. 

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2010, 06:36:04 AM »
I am heading to the house of some friends this evening, the house of metal dudes. They have a massive all vinyl collection stacked alluringly in their living room. Joyful hours are spent there poring over the elaborate 70's gatefold art while drinking in the sounds. This experience is quite fun, and compared to buying "air" for $9 off the internet, I know what I would choose.

One of my fondest childhood memories is rooting through the bins in record stores and department store music sections drooling over the cover art. I didn't even know what most of these albums sounded like, but I wanted them.

Quote
If you only have the wherewithal to release a download, you should rethink the idea of being paid for your music at all.

The question is more along the lines of whether labels, not artists, can afford to produce and distribute physical formats. I'd love for some label to release my next album on vinyl in a gatefold cover with a pop-up inside. But it ain't gonna happen. Now, I have been told that I should not release my music at all, but for other reasons... ;D

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2010, 07:42:31 AM »
If you only have the wherewithal to release a download, you should rethink the idea of being paid for your music at all.

The divorce of music and art has not been finalized.

It's as though you are thinking of music as not being art, and that music
separated from a visual physical object has little or no value and did not
itself take labor and skill !?! Very strange view, and kinda anti-music ...
pro visual art.

I do think that there is no reason not to include some good visuals with
a download, and these could be printed. But many listeners are there
primarily for the music, not the physicality and visuals. And of course
many musicians are certainly that way, and would not be too pleased
to hear you say downloaded music should be shared for free and is not
worth paying for.  :(



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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2010, 08:20:37 AM »

From an artist's point of view, a finished album is a collection of wav or aiff files (presuming that the work was created/mastered on a computer).
Historically the 'master' format has been:
Reel to reel tape / ADAT tape / DAT tape / Minidisc and more.
The next format conversion stage is to CD / mp3 / Flac etc.

The spinning silver disc is obviously just a format. The 'art' is the music and the act of listening to it, and that hasn't changed.
The appeal of the ownership of the silver disc I can see, but its still a physical copy of the original.

Just because an artist decides to release a digital release doesn't mean that it's a 70 minute jam over some loops that he/she did last night.
I think there is still a feeling that if its a download, its not a 'proper' release. Well, I'd be interested how this pans out in the next few years,
when (I suspect) they'll be even less CD releases...

Pete

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2010, 11:32:33 AM »
I think CD Baby let the artist set their own price for downloads, the artist pays them to put the release on there.

As for dowloads being thought of as not a "proper" album, this happened a few years ago with cassettes and Cds. Small independant labels would release their artists on cassette, others would do CD, artist on cassette would be eventually "ignored" as to be on CD meant you were a proper artist. Its a silly argument because any self respecting artist would put exactly the same amount of effort into the music regardless of what medium it was going to be released on.

Now we have download v CD/CDR, as well as CD v CDR, some people won't buy downloads, they want a CD but not a CDR, others are quite happy to buy downloads, and others are happy to buy a CD and a CDR. This will probably never go away, its the world we live in, and everybody is an individual.

There has always been poor quality stuff released, but you get that in all styles of music, not just Ambient, and while the download era is here with us, there probably seems to be more of it. If you look at various download sites you can come across some artists who are releasing 3-4 hour albums every week, I don't know how they do it, and your first thought is, that must be crap music maybe it is, maybe it isn't, I don't know so I can't say, I choose not to buy it.Maybe it isn't downloads that will kill off music, but peoples fear that a download isn't a proper album, and ultimately will choose not to buy it. So putting the ball back into the artists court, what do we need to do to convince otherwise?                 

Sorry if I rambled on a bit.
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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2010, 12:18:38 PM »
I enjoy a CD in a similar way to which I used to enjoy vinyl - just smaller. I don't enjoy downloads and when perusing my music to pick something to listen to I don't think of checking on the computer.

I prefer listening to music in a room via speakers.

I don't think downloads are wrong, nor listening via headphones - but it is not my preference.

I think art etc adds to a release, and I don't think downloading it off the computer does it for me.

All this says more about my interaction with computers than my enjoyment of music - and possibly about my past experiences rather than present world developemnts and the changes in media and music presentation.

I don't dislike computers but I know I don't remember as well what I have read on the screen as when reading a physical object - particularly at work where I have to flick from page to page to complete assessments and the system only allows one page open at a time.

Similarly I don't like making music on a computer (I know a computer is the heart of my VS2480) preferring to have my hands on dials and buttons in real time and space.

Ah, I forgot to commit myself - personally I prefer a physical item so a download is less 'valued' by me personally - if not by the wider world.....

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2010, 01:08:02 PM »
"I enjoy a CD in a similar way to which I used to enjoy vinyl - just smaller. I don't enjoy downloads and when perusing my music to pick something to listen to I don't think of checking on the computer.

I prefer listening to music in a room via speakers.

I don't think downloads are wrong, nor listening via headphones - but it is not my preference.

I think art etc adds to a release, and I don't think downloading it off the computer does it for me."

I'm just going to ditto this. I've had nothing but problems with downloads and CD-Rs of all kinds. I do not respect nor will I buy either. Sadly, my A. Produce CD-R just gave up, my attempt at getting a FLAC of some Loscil variations was too complicated and then there's the storage/hard drive issues. Nope. Press it or lose it.

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Re: Is online distribution less "valuable" than physical distribution?
« Reply #19 on: June 13, 2010, 01:54:34 PM »
For me its ALL about how good the music is.
I won't bypass a great piece of music because its not packaged a particular way.
I'm only likely to skip it if its packaged in such a way as to cost an inordinate amount.
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