Tuesday, December 16, 2008

CD RIP

I've been meaning for awhile now to fully set down in print why I've abandoned the notion of pressing up a bunch of CDs of my new music and trying to sell it online, the way I did with the One Week in December album earlier this year.

Folks, as many of you know, the CD is dying. Heck, the very concept of the album itself seems to be fading. This has been hard for me to accept, since I grew up with LPs and eagerly made the change to CDs, but always thought of music in terms of collections, rather than an ongoing bunch of new music dribbling forth every so often. I'm still attached to the idea of the artist presenting their work in a cohesive format and a larger concept/context.

The dying gasp of the CD really hit home for me a few weeks ago when I was scrounging around at a local used CD/DVD shop. They've got so many used CDs that they have some of them sitting unorganized in cardboard bins below the shelves. In one such bin, I found a copy of Genesis' classic live album Seconds Out--a 2 CD set--for $4.00!!! I snapped it up, of course, but I found it kind of sad that the state of the album world has come to this.

But to progress, you have to let the old things go. For a non-commercial artist such as myself, the ability to release an endless string of new musical pieces as I finish them has its own appeal. It doesn't have to work as an album, and I can rework and rewrite multiple themes as I see fit. I can record whatever suits me at the moment, without having to think of a way to fit into a larger concept. This is especially true because I don't see the need to conform to the old "Brill Building" notion of each piece being 100% distinct from everything else I will ever write. Reusing themes and melodies is a good idea, not a cop-out.

Pressing CDs is incredibly cheap now by historical standards. I went with high-quality CD-Rs in professionally printed sleeves and paid under $300. Doing regular silver CDs would have been more expensive, because nobody will do orders of those under 1,000 copies. For those large orders, the silver CDs are actually cheaper than CD-Rs, but I have no need for bulk orders. I sold exactly two (2) copies of One Week in December. I've given some away and still have a box full of the damned things. What would I do with 1,000 of them???

So, for me, CDs are equivalent to vanity publishing. Might just as well release my toxic little tunes for free online and achieve wider distribution. Download it, share it with your friends, upload it to file-sharing sites, whatever. It's all good for me.

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