I respond to my post from 2011:
CDs were always the smallest expense of a production. The recording itself costs the most, perhaps followed by the advertising campaign – if there is one. If one needs a real studio, for musicians and engineers, the cost can hit several hundred thousand quickly. The difference in cost between pressing CDs or selling downloads is minute.
That is still true. Twenty years ago I began to engineer my own recordings in my own studio. That’s not an option for most musicians though. After selling my studio I started recording at home. Excellent recording equipment is smaller and yet of very high quality. I am grateful, though, to have started in the days of analog recording. There was something really amazing about the experience that Jon called a submarine ride – because you get on board and then you dive to the bottom of the ocean and you stay there until the album is finished and the ship can return to the surface. No copy and paste, no moving a note to the correct place. When you played rhythm you had to play the song, not just a few bars. And I always feared working for too long on a piece and having the metal-oxide come off the tape!
I find it infuriating when people have no fundamental understanding wherein the value of an LP, a CD or a download album lies. Like all of my favorite art the value of a musical album lies in the ideas contained in it, not in the value of the piece of plastic or vinyl or digital bits. The album in a store is simply a container for the ideas of the musicians and producers. This is similar to a painting, where the canvas and paint itself would not add up to much…
I like that expression: the album in a store is simply a container for the ideas of the musicians and producers. It’s not just the musical ideas or the ability honed from years and years of practice… it’s also the experience of the engineer who knows where to place the microphon, and which microphone to use. Now the stores have, mostly, gone away, too. If we thought the value of music was not understood when it was delivered on a piece of plastic, now music streams and there is nothing to remind us of its value. The term streaming is really an awful one. It suggests an endless river of music. Just dip into the endless stream of music.
And to say that since musicians enjoy what they do therefore they should be willing to do it for free is such rubbish (((but often read on the interwebs!))). I mean, I know car mechanics who seem to truly love their work, but nobody would consider for a second that they would work for free.
I think most folks have come around on this point. Nobody expects musicians to work for free, we just haven’t figured out what a fair way to pay for music is. What most people do not know is that there are just three individuals – three judges – who determine songwriter streaming royalty rates for each five year period.. Here we are in peak capitalism and three judges decide the rate at which ALL music sells… Isn’t that a little bit like selling paintings by the square inch?
In the past few years, every time I am about to start work on a new album, I think why go through all that trouble, why battle inspiration, why work so cussing hard on a new album when it will be traded worldwide for free, within weeks.
And yet you did, didn’t you! Ten more albums in the last ten years. Here is to the next ten albums – although none of those will be distributed through traditional channels. :-)
I should revisit this post at the end of this decade, for another update.