Why Buy Music? An Artist’s Perspective.
When you buy music, you are directly supporting the work of artists you enjoy. Buying music sends the right message to the record labels, music distribution channels, local record stores, and concert promoters: there is a desire and market (yes, we live in a capitalist system) for our art. This in turn, hopefully will assure that we are able to record/release another album or play a concert in your town.
There is no substitute for holding something in your hands. Opening a package, putting an album on a record player, seeing (and appreciating) the artwork, reading the lyrics’ sheet; all while listening to the real thing — it’s a modern daily ritual for many of us.
Unlike (poorly-encoded may I add) digital files, a physical medium creates an emblem in your living space: it reflects your taste and personality, just like pieces of furniture and art contribute to the interior design aesthetic of the place you call home. Every time you walk by your record collection, it brings back memories of what you were doing (and perhaps who were you with) when you acquired your albums. It also reminds you to listen to them. How many digital files are buried on your hard drive, never to be played more than once?
To many the convenience of digital is important, thus grabbing a hi-quality digital version (wav/aiff/flac/lossless) copies of an album is the way to go. Most physical releases actually come with a download code. High-resolution music files tend to be hard to find among the P2P communities or so-called “locker sites.” YouTube and similar websites might offer high-resolution but that is entirely dependent on your ISP’s bandwidth (throttling anyone?). Think of how many times you’ve been watching pixelated content on Netflix. It’s the same principle with audio: quality will go down all the way to 96kbs (that’s not even suitable for human consumption!), depending on traffic/volume/isp. After spending so much time/energy/money to craft an album, you and the artist creating the content both deserve better.
That leaves us all with these streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and many others. They are no substitute to curating and owning your private collection of music. One thing I really appreciated while growing up and discovering music was the fact that I had only so many records. I didn’t have much money, so my collection was fairly small (but potent). I would hang on to an album for a very long time and listen more frequently, as opposed to jumping from one track to the next track or randomly letting an algorithm dictate what I’m supposed to listen to next. Because of these limitations (and lack of access to immediate information like we do today), I developed fond memories of music I listened to and how it related to events in my own life. Having limited access to music made the albums in my collection really special. Music wasn’t disposable. I remember putting on records I disliked (or even hated) on first listen, only to start enjoying them after listening some more. Eventually some of those records became my favorite pieces of music.
What’s the point of subscribing to a service and having access to millions of songs to only listen to a very small percentage of those on a regular basis?
During my record buying lifetime, I have gone thru several copies of My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” for example — the original cassette version I bought got played until it was literally eaten by the tape deck. I’ve had some CD’s played so many times, the coating material pealed off (maybe this is how an artist like Oval got their original prepared CD idea, who knows!). All of these examples tend to create fond memories (at least to me) of music I love. Could we say the same thing about streaming services?
Simply put: when you buy music and you own your collection, you appreciate it much more.
Not all file-sharing is created equal. Sharing an album with a close group of friends, exchanging music as either mixtapes, burned CD’s or music files is similar how we all traded cassette tapes growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. To me that is totally benign and a great way to spread culture. I’ve gotten many emails from people in remote places where my music is not easily available (or in some cases outright prohibited), and it warms my heart to know it forms part of a soundrack to social changes happening. It is however, an entirely different thing to post an album by an artist (with buzz or otherwise known) to a blog/website in order to generate revenue on the Google Adwords income it’ll generate from all the online traffic hits. The latter is profiting off the hard work of others. It is digital colonialism at its worst.
I do not believe we need draconian new laws or even outright censorship. All we need, as artists creating content, is listeners that support what we do by buying our music, going to our shows, and telling their friends/peers to do the same. We do this already with other things we enjoy: we buy books, we pay to see films, we buy coffee, tea, alcohol, hell we even fork 99 cents for that extra side guacamole at a restaurant, so why not pay for the music that serves, in most cases, as a soundtrack to your own life?
I don’t really want to be part of a world in which the only music we will listen to are the one made to support corporate advertising campaigns, video games or television programming. I do not want to listen to albums that get continuously interrupted by “sponsored content,“ and thus ruining our immersive listening experiences. It is certainly not how I intend the music I create to be heard.
To all of our regular listeners who have bought an album at a gig, at a record store, or directly through Bandcamp: Thank you for supporting this lifestyle choice, it is not an easy one, but it is sure fulfilling.
Let’s continue on this path, I can’t wait to see what comes next!