Maybe you can help.

Posted by on Apr 2, 2008 in Journal, News | 15 Comments

Radiohead Ok ComputerSo I’m ramping up to get my new album finished and out into the world. The thing is I’m not sure exactly how I should do it. I really like the idea of a CD and album artwork and something that you tangible that you can hold onto, and the full-length album experience. Maybe I’m just nostalgic. Ever since the first time I heard OK Computer, I had to listen all the way through. Helmet MeantimeAnd remembering back to high school driving around in my Ford Econoline listening to Helmet Meantime album on infinite repeat. I love the idea of the album, but I’m not sure anyone else does anymore.

Should I even release a CD at all? Does anyone buy CDs anymore? Or are you happy buying tracks as digital downloads from artist websites, iTunes, eMusic, etc? Should music just be free? Or would you feel bad taking music without paying for it? Should I offer the album on a USB thumb drive? Or put together a book of art, photos and illustration that goes along with the music?

I read a good blog post by Scott Andrew, who had some similar questions last year when he was getting his new album together. It does kinda suck to have so many songs just sitting there, waiting for me to get the whole album done. I could just release them one by one on my site– as I spend random evenings working on new music. So, should I dump the whole album idea? Or really find a new and interesting way to make it work?

15 Comments

  1. Spud
    April 3, 2008

    The album concept provides a large scale rhythm to your musical life. If you release one song at a time, it’s just constant flow. No ready-made opportunity to stand back, admire it, contemplate your next move, whatever.

    Also, as a listener, I prefer the pre-packaged, artist-driven playlist that the CD provides, rather than some random order that my mp3 player thinks up based on alphabetical order, what date I downloaded them on, or worse yet, random.

    It’s also a keepsake. Something real. Make a CD. Sell me one.

  2. Calla Flower
    April 3, 2008

    A lot of people still love CD’s. Personally if i have the option to download mp3’s i wont get a cd. The thing i miss about not having cd’s is the artwork though. so i like your suggestion about that. My opinion is you should offer both.
    i also dont feel that i should take music without paying for it. you work hard to create it, and i would feel bad if i just took it and said “thanks” and went on about my life enjoying it. I feel i should give an artist a little something for the pleasure that their creations give to me.
    i want to run and follow you on twitter right this second, but my stupid work firewall wont let me to the site.. i’ll do it later.

  3. scottandrew
    April 3, 2008

    Don’t give too much credence to that post. I was in a whiny mood. :)

    That said, I’ll point you to this comment I left on Brad Sucks’ site:

    http://www.bradsucks.net/archives/2008/03/26/cd-changes/?cp=1#comment-274412

    That’s more-or-less how I plan to do releases from now on. Since the music I play tends to still draw a CD-buying audience, I’ll still do CDs; just not 1000 of them.

  4. soundsourcet
    April 3, 2008

    This might start silly, but some truth is in it…remember the 7 PM! samplers? if I were in your shoes, I’d use MP3’s like the sampler and build demand. Have a small first run of CD’s ready for the market you know you have, but as demand builds from downloads which offer a couple good tracks, make more CD’s. Do the same with artwork- let it be another feature to enjoy when someone gets the cd. Sillyness aside, In 7pm!’s case.the audio quality was so bad, most didn’t want the full product, but still around 10% requested full recordings of bands. Since your music isn’t parody and the audio quality is excellent,i think the model of how i ran things could work really well for you.
    on the other hand, the packaging of a CD can influence what I play on my show…but not much. sorry for bad grammar -one hand typing while holding sleeping laila. overall,excited for your new music in any format.

  5. dave
    April 4, 2008

    both! cds next to the t-shirts at the gig, downloads for everybody else. mp3s are where it’s at but i still believe in the total “package” of the cd (art, sequence, credits, liner notes, etc). and there’s nothing wrong with releasing mp3s intermittently–each time you post new stuff it’s an excuse to promote and exercise your mailing list!

  6. Terry
    April 4, 2008

    We went through the same thing trying to decide how to release our next album. Eventually we decided on getting 300-500 cds on a spindle and doing a limited release with custom artwork. Luckily we have access to an old Heidelberg letter press. I don’t think it’s going to be a traditional jewel case but we haven’t designed the form factor yet. Additionally, we’ll offer downloads through the currently available channels. Maybe also through our own web site.

    The main thing lacking in the industry right now is a standardized format for high definition audio. I don’t care about surround at all, I just want a simple next gen format that is capable of 192kHz 24 bit. I know there’s SACD and DVD-A but there’s no mass market players for your car, which is a problem. Maybe it doesn’t need to be a disc format, i don’t know…people seem to really like downloads but I hate compression. Swishy crash cymbals are annoying. I never download albums for that reason. Compression sucks. I would LOVE to download albums if I could though. I would buy all of my music online if I could get it in a lossless, DRM-free 24 bit format. The lack of a standard for downloadable formats is a problem for artists as well. When you get your album mastered, go to an engineer who uses an analog signal chain and then captures 24 bit again at the end. Ask for both the 24 bit files and the 16 bit “cd ready” master, then you can offer fans more format choice later.

    If I were to suggest one thing, it would be to diversify. Because the industry is still in its infancy when it comes to digital distribution, offer multiple formats. I agree with what some other people here have said about the “album.” I believe in the album as a collective work of art. I’m not a fan of singles. Especially for an independent artist, it’s hard to get buy if someone is only willing to invest a dollar on something that may have taken you years. I think that Trent Reznor and Radiohead may get away with the “pay what you want” model because you can afford to throw away half of your sales when you have hundreds of thousands of fans. On the other hand, maybe as independent artists we CAN afford to throw away some sales since we generally don’t make much off of cd sales anyway…i don’t have a solution to that problem…any suggestions out there?

    I can’t wait to get the new State Shirt record and I would love to see these options:

    1. $10 gives someone access to download the entire album BOTH in mp3 and a high definition (>44.1k sample rate, 24 bit) lossless codec like FLAC or Apple lossless.

    2. $15 gets you a cd in the mail with artwork, a data DVD-r with the high def files also in the mail, and access to the downloads right away so that you can have some instant gratification.

    3. $30 “independent artist support” package gets you a t-shirt, cd, data dvd in the mail and access to the downloads.

  7. patricia
    April 4, 2008

    I would do a CD because when you down loud music it take up space and cd don’t.More people are likly to pick up a CD and look at a store then online. patricia

  8. nurby
    April 5, 2008

    There was a day when I was younger that I remember saying “I will never get rid of my cds”. It literally made me tear up at the thought of not having my cds. I accumulated over 3000 cds and I thought I loved each of them. But then that day came 10 or so years later. Somewhere in me I am still nostaligic for the cd and when I’m in a cd store I start to get excited. But I just can’t bring myself to buy cds anymore. I don’t want to store them and all I will do is burn it once and then listen to it on my computer or iPOD, I don’t even have a cd player in the house anymore and I never was a fan of playing them in the car because they would get scratched. I am now left with downloads, but with that said I like the whole album experience. I always prefer a cohesive album.

    I was really impressed with how NIN just released the Ghosts album. I love the downloads and the artwork that they gave you with the downloads. Not to mention the album is excellent. I also liked buying it from them directly vs. iTunes, because I really felt like I got the whole experience of the album they way NIN wanted to present it.

    I also think it is worthy to make a limited run of the cd also, because what do you do at shows? Can’t wait for the new album!!!

  9. John Rhoff
    April 5, 2008

    I vote people pay a fee then you have to go to their houses perform for them whenever they want to hear the songs. Personally I prefer to listen to music when I’m on the toilet so be ready for that.

  10. Lunkhead
    April 5, 2008

    I second a few of the comments: CDs are great to have for sale at a show so that people can buy them on impulse and get hooked on your music. After that, and for people who can’t come see you live, downloads are probably the way to go. You can offer the art/liner notes/etc. in digital format, too, for folks who want that. Digital distribution produces less waste, and that part of it appeals to me personally. The audio quality issue hasn’t been solved yet, but perhaps you could investigate a way to offer people uncompressed/lossless downloads, too. I think most people won’t refuse to buy your music if it’s only available in >=192kbps MP3, though.

  11. state shirt
    April 6, 2008

    Thanks so much everyone. There is some really great stuff here.

    So I’m still going to do a CD, but I really like the idea of also offering some custom hand-made packages as well. And the high-quality audio downloads are a great option. I’d also like to find a way to help the downloads feel more like an album (artwork, etc).

    So lots to think about…

  12. Evermind
    April 21, 2008

    I pretty much just listen to full albums nowadays, since I love albums, and see them as a cohesive whole. It’s always disappointing for me to hear an album which doesn’t have any consideration to a consistancy in mood. I like to hear all sorts of songs that seem like they have something to do with each other.

    Artists like Pink Floyd, The Who, The Mars Volta… Just think about how their albums would sound if you randomized the track order.

    It’s another dimension that you can put to your music, and I think you should if you’re willing to put the thought in.

    =)

  13. Ivycurlz
    April 24, 2008

    I prefer a CD, I will still buy the CD vs buying it online. Its pretty much the same price anyways..

    Its there in your hands something to show I purchased this item. The artwork, the inserts, THE CD.
    I can keep it, sell it, give it away, hold onto for 30 years after my MP3 player is out of date as well as my computer.
    CD PLEASE!

  14. stateshirt
    April 26, 2008

    Ok I’ve decided to just do 78RPM vinyl!

  15. voidone
    August 20, 2008

    give me a vinyl copy with a mp3 download coupon inside
    thats what I plan on doing..

    my turntable will survive any plastic digital obsoleetness

    thats how i feel about it.
    i never really bought cd’s
    (due to lack of a cd player, and then the one i had sucked)
    seriously to this day, aug. 20th 2008 i have paid for 4 cds in my lifetime… and i am 25 years old.
    tho i do like artwork. most of the stuff i like was on vinyl as well, and since i had a turntable already and its cooler and better sounding to me, i would just get that. plus with vinyl you get 2 huge pictures. (front and back) plus you can get one of the 11X17″ posters fold them in half and have that too =)
    or go all out and have 12×12″ sheets of stuff and stuff on the record holders like radio head’s stuff. pink floyd etc..

    so thats what i hope to do. have high quality and coolness for my home stereo and a portable mp3 for the same 1 price.

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