i have albums of music
no one especially wants to buy them and i don't especially want to sell them. good!
the label is very nice, full of friends, their artist roster is super impressive such that i am humbled to be involved, and the audience they attract make me feel like part of something
here are some questions.
1. who is buying physical media in 2020?
a. i do not know. i still buy CDs but that is definitely an idiosyncracy of mine, probably nostalgically. i was too young to understand both tapes and vinyl. yes, these days the layperson knows about the fidelity and warm satisfaction of putting a record on a turntable, but i do not personally purchase anything but my very favoritest albums on vinyl.
do people buy cds? all signs point to no. do people who are interested in the things i do buy cds? probably at a higher rate than other people, yes, because they tend to have obsessions with digital media. do ANY of these people PLAY cds? i think just car-havers.
do people buy tapes??? apparently yes! and they listen to them too. the label is even selling 8 tracks. this is all i can say.
do people buy records? this is already well established yes. and they play them! is it a superiority of format thing? maybe. the issue with records is that they cost much more to produce, and take a long time to manufacture.
the OTHER thing that I can't get over about vinyl is - I make my music on a laptop, with consumer grade microphones, interfaces, software, instruments. i have exactly one professional piece of equipment and it's a preamp. everything is digital, every step of the way, and not particularly high-quality digital either. what is the sonic benefit of putting medium-fi digital music on vinyl?!
2. wait. who is buying MUSIC in 2020?
music is free. don't let anybody tell you otherwise. you can sell it, but you can duplicate it. that's good. this isn't a complaint. i already give everything i make out for free. i buy music sometimes and sometimes i just stream it.
first off, there's a fucking national crisis of virus, fires, police murder, political incompetence at literally every level of government. why would someone buy a fucking cd
here is my answer: i just bought jukebox the ghost Safe Travels on cd, because i love that album, and have for years, and didn't have a physical copy of it. so my answer is it makes me happy to own in an archivist/collector way.
what's the last New album i purchased? i don't know. probably something physical.
3. talk about manufacturing now
ok i will. i like to make stuff myself. first off, if you've ever been in a local band with lofty ambitions, you will inevitably pay like $60 into a $300 pot to get 500 copies of your debut album at masterdisk, which will fucking haunt you as you move from apartment to apartment, unable to throw away all this plastic someone convinced you was a bargain. if i'm going to get anything made, it has to be a short run.
but i don't want to get anything made! i don't want to involve a factory in china or der bundesrepublik or even west virginia involved in my small-scale music production. i'm not john legend. i want to have like 50 nice packages that i can give to my friends, maybe a couple for sale in case anyone stumbles upon them.
i like doing things myself. it makes me feel useful, and productive, and like the skills i have committed myself to learning have a small purpose in making myself and others happy. when i did my last CD, i got to draw on my and my partner's experience with digital printmaking and zine development. it feels good to make a stack of things and go to the post office.
obviously you can't do it all, or at least you choose not to. i'm not making my own paper, i'm buying stuff from suppliers and printing/burning the content myself. does this cancel out my DIY leanings? maybe. no ethical consumption etc
the other question is, what is left to do in a CD. in 2018 when i made that disc, i considered the absurdity of manufacturing and selling a CD in that year. I HAVE ALREADY WRITTEN ALL OF THIS, ON THE DISCS THEMSELVES.
the next album i also intend to release on CD (because it's like the default medium, in my head) but i have designs on doing fancier, fine-art printed beautiful paper and die-cut cardboard packaging. everything is paper except the disc itself. i was inspired by a number of albums packaged this way that I bought from the label "rag and bone shop," the packaging designed and manufactured by hand by one Mark Lerner. i was in touch with him something like five years ago and he was incredibly kind and encouraging and indeed sent me physicals of every albums he packaged that way.
but the label I get to involve myself in has standards of quality and manufacturing that a homemade package does not fit with. is there a middle ground somewhere, where i get the discs themselves made by a plant and i do everything else at home? i don't know.
the point of doing things myself is i can afford to experiment with mediums that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. but the comraderie i get from the label is i think more valuable than the joy i (and my friends/"customers") get from an interesting cd package.
but maybe not. for example, it's time to reissue my old album, and i just do not know what to do to it to keep it from being fucking boring. i am not a designer. i'd "like" to do a physical version of "american legends" mostly because i really want nice prints of the front and back photos in the hands of people who want them. but that's it. i don't want any more jewel case blood on my hands, and i don't want to make a boring product, but i do want to participate in this particular marketplace.
but i don't!!! i don't want to sell cds like in 1999. i want to sell a nice thing that i made for you.
where the hell is my boss