Thanks for the comments to my post about CDs.
CDs are preferred by a number of people. That’s not surprising because CDs are a cool medium. They sound good and are very sturdy and long-lasting… if you don’t leave them lying in the sun.
That being said, I am not sure I want to go that route. Not only is there the carbon footprint of the CD and its packaging, and the plastic that will someday remain in a landfill for decades, but also the carbon footprint of shipping those CDs, from the manufacturer to me and from me to you. We have to start taking that footprint into consideration.
I am glad there were calls for more La Semana-like special packaging. I love that box. It’s a piece of art and won two prizes for packaging. But it was also the dumbest thing I have ever done. It ended up costing almost $20 per box because everything was custom and thousands of the boxes had to be hand-assembled. The visuals were a huge labor of love. I remember making the paper look old by staining it with tea. People didn’t want to pay $50 for that edition and so I stopped selling it and stored the leftover boxes. I gave some of them to people for special occasions and still have a bunch of them. Last month, when I was in Santa Fe, I gave one to Tom Ford.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m not going to release another album via the regular channels. Music is broken. Subscribers will be able to download very high quality files (24/96k) which will sound much better than CD (16/44.1).
Here is an illustration of what a higher sample rate accomplishes. The brown line represents the analog audio wave. Inside that wave you can see examples of a low sample rate and a high sample rate. As you can see the curve becomes much smoother when more samples are taken. The lower sample rate looks like a series of steps – not smooth at all.
This post is going to become a little esoteric now and I’ll get into some of the science of digital music, so feel free to skip ahead if that bores you. I’ll try to keep it simple.
Image found here
The sample rate for CD is 44,100 samples per second. Hi Res files have 88,200 or 96,000 samples per second, and can have 192,000 or more.
What’s the diff between 16 bit and 24 bit? It can be quite large:
- 16-bit can handle 65,536 levels of information
- 24-bit can handle 16,777,216 levels of information
- 16-bit digital audio has a maximum range of 96dB
- 24-bit depth has a maximum of 144dB
Since db uses a logarithmic scale it’s not “just” 48db more it’s… (scientific term alert) a shit-ton more.
Image from Sony
But, since CDs are still preferred by a number of people, and others mentioned the La Semana box, perhaps I need to examine new ways to create a limited edition CD:
I do not want to have CDs manufactured. I won’t have CDs distributed at all. Instead I will burn one CD at a time by myself. Each CD will be numbered and signed by me. I will design a folded paper cover for that CD… that little foam button we used for the CD inside the La Semana box was pretty cool. Perhaps I’ll have a number of cover sheets printed in color ahead of time. Then I will ship this limited edition CD with folded cover/booklet to people who want a physical object. The price of this “handmade” CD will naturally be higher than the price of a CD that is mass-produced and distributed. It will also be a numbered and signed object that will only exist in a very limited number. An edition could be as few as 100 pieces. Imagine an art-print or lithograph rather than a postcard. I want to figure out the carbon offset for the CD itself, the paper for the cover, the foam button, if I want to use that, plus shipping, and will take care of that for each package.
Those who want a CD will thus have two choices. They can download the file and burn a CD on their own CD-drive or order a limited edition CD that I will burn and sign for them.
Perhaps this isn’t a smart plan and maybe it won’t work. And yet, I am certain that I don’t want to continue with the current business model. I am at a point in my career, and also of an age, that means I should do something crazy like this. I have more than 30 albums out there and many of them have been certified for huge sales. As my friend Channie says, my grey hair should tell you that I can do what I want. ;-)