here i will try to explain my feelings about physical media as concisely as possible (for me which isn’t saying much)
1. pressing up records and CDs is a big financial investment. it does not make sense for someone like me who does not tour or pay for college radio promo or PR to spend thousands of dollars to press up a bunch of records. i feel like the way it is now, where you can hear the music for free and you have the option to pay me for it directly if you feel like it, is very clean and simple and uncomplicated and for me at least, very satisfying. music is not a career for me, i do it for fun, and it would stop being fun really fast if i had to start worrying about hitting whatever sales targets i’d need to hit just to break even on a physical release. economically it’s not worth it for a project as small as mine is. i’m not out there evangelizing my shit to people, i just want it to be there for people to hear or stumble across if it interests them. having boxes of unsold records sitting around would run totally counter to my worldview and approach to my own art
2. i don’t collect records, so i don’t really personally get anything out of holding physical copies of my music in my hands. i don’t even actually have a copy of “ruin” or “ruin 4” in my house. all the music i’ve bought in the last several years has been digital and even when it comes to video games i usually buy digital copies unless the game absolutely definitively is only available on disc. if i was a great lover of vinyl or CDs i could see myself thinking it was worth it to lose a bunch of my own money or give up 50% ownership of my record to a label partner in order to have it on vinyl, but i’m not so i wouldn’t.
3. CDs and records are made of PVC which is one of the least biodegradable substances on earth. technically vinyl is a little better environmentally than CDs because the sleeves are cardboard and record plants recycle old records to make new ones, but especially considering that a lot of studies have shown that collectors don’t even listen to the vinyl they buy a lot of the time, i’d still rather sell digital files or try to find some kind of biodegradable physical token to sell people if i thought there were enough people in the world who absolutely feel like they need one to justify manufacturing expenses, i.e. a t-shirt or some kind of book
4. this is point is more esoteric i guess but i feel like attachment to physical formats is kinda holding independent music back. major labels are basically at war with physical music formats now because they’re basically at war with the idea that music is something consumers should own master-quality recordings of. they’re much more into the streaming model where music is something they own and the consumer buys access to. as consumers of major label music start to migrate over to this worldview i think it’s gonna destroy the market for CDs and probably itunes and leave vinyl as a niche boutique market
it’s not super easy to get ahold of sales data for new indie releases, and you see a lot less bragging about first week numbers of big indie label releases now because by and a large they are a lot less than they were a few years ago. major labels have decided that they’re gonna move everything over to streaming, which they stand to make a lot of money from because their content is valuable enough to platforms like spotify and google play or whatever that they can really leverage it and make favorable deals. indie labels do not seem to have any answer to this - they’re responding to the fact that they’re not moving as many copies as they were back in the halcyon days of veckatimest by locking new signings up into 5 album deals instead of 3 album deals, demanding percentages of publishing and merch sales in contracts, and taking more than 50% of streaming income. i don’t know why you’d want to do this. if creators and consumers of independent/alternative music could move on from vinyl/CD and attach themselves to a format like digital files that doesn’t require the massive upfront investment that vinyl does, there would be no reason to go through labels at all. any individual can get their music onto itunes and spotify and google play and get the same shitty deal that all the indie labels get.
if everyone could let go of CDs and vinyl, bands could dub their own cassette tapes or make their own biodegradable physical art booklets to put download codes in and sell those at shows instead of records and CDs. they could keep 100% of the proceeds and not have to worry about whether or not the pressing plant is gonna have records ready for them by the time they leave on tour. maybe a netlabel could set up a patreon account where supporters could commit to automatically buying every new release. potential new signings would be able to see exactly how big of an audience they’d be reaching by going with the label, and maybe labels would have to worry more about whether or not their releases are actually any good, for fear of alienating their supporter base
anyway not like that has anything to do with me, like i said, my thing is a hobby. i don’t play shows and i don’t really do anything to promote myself unless you count posting on tumblr as self-promotion which it fucking isn’t ok
shirts i might do, same basic problem as vinyl in that it costs a lot of money to get them made and i’m not sure i could sell enough of them to break even but the margin of error isn’t as harrowing as with vinyl and i could just donate them to goodwill if no one bought them
there’s some unfinished music left over from the MP2014 period including alternate versions of sophie and everything is a lie that i might finish and put on the internet at some point if it feels right and i recently found some music i made ten years ago i might put on the internet and call “magical pessimism 2004”
but if i do put any of that stuff out you will still have to download it sorry
A clear & passionate statement about the music biz. —KM