Todd Durrant’s Random Thoughts
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About Collectors and Legal Digital Downloads

In a recent conversation with a great electronic pop fan and long-time customer, Jesse “Overbyte” on my Facebook page, I was made to think more about the digital download market.  So, I might as well blog about it and solicit everybody’s feedback, right?

Though I’ve talked quite a bit on this blog about my gripes with the illegal downloaders who seem to have a flippant yet destructive attitude about the music they claim to love,  I haven’t talked much about the statistically smaller, yet much more important crowd– the LEGAL download buyers.   I shouldn’t pretend like they don’t exist or like they are unimportant in the music market, because they indeed are real customers and real fans.   There are enough of them to fuel sales at huge download sites like iTunes, Amazon.com, Rhapsody, etc. and make them multi-million dollar enterprises.   Wow, just imagine if all downloaders were as responsible and honest as these legal buyers!  The music market would be thriving in an unbelievable way!

A few years ago, I decided to open a legal download branch of A Different Drum’s website, using a cheap (and cheap for reasons of low quality, I might add) program called Easy-Be.   With a few hundred dollars and a lot of time, I had the basic store set up.  Yes, it did take a lot of time to upload even the small selection that was available in the store, and it required additional time to keep the store updated.   Legally, I was restricted to A Different Drum’s own label releases, since I do not have digital distribution rights for all the product in the physical store.  Getting those rights would require a huge legal undertaking, and I once again would not have the time or the means.   I thought I’d let the store run for a year or so and measure how it was going.

There were only two or three customers who purchase downloads from the store on a regular basis.   I offered a free sampler album, and that, of course, was the most popular item.   I would have to say that it was a stretch to say that the store paid for its initial costs right away.  Reaching that point probably took a few months.   The site was hacked once, where content was messed up just because a hacker thought it would be funny (they did it to several other stores using the Easy-Be program, since it was easy to hack).   I decided that the digital store needed to offer some exclusive content to make it more interesting, so I offered an exclusive album from a side-project of Syrian.  The album was unavailable in the physical world.   It got exactly two download purchases.  Then I released an exclusive album from an Israeli synthpop band that sings in Hebrew– another item unavailable in the physical world.  Hmm, I don’t remember that one selling at all.

After a year of having the digital store, I began to doubt it’s value.   It is true, I did not spend much time trying to beef it up.  It is one of those cases where I only have so much time in a day, and I have to spend time where the income is being generated.  So, if I’m getting a couple hundred dollars per day in sales on the physical site, and a couple hundred dollars in sales per quarter on the digital site, you know where I am going to be spending my time.   Maybe those sales could have gone up if I’d just sucked-it-in and put more time into it?  But in the end, I decided to streamline and close the digital store.   My feeling was that all those albums were already being sold on iTunes, Amazon.com and three or four dozen other download stores (with the exception of the exclusive ones which didn’t sell anyway), so why bother duplicating the effort?   It just felt like setting up a small household goods store next door to Walmart– somewhat pointless.

OK, but now I’m brainstorming more, because Jesse was mentioning very specific ideas in our discussion.  Why didn’t A Different Drum use that digital store to offer the exclusive material that would only be found on limited edition bonus discs or on CD singles?   I’d only listed the regular versions of albums in the digital store.  Maybe more people would have used the digital store if they were getting that rare stuff?   Well, my feeling is this:  A Different Drum had advertised those limited editions as “limited”.   Meaning, there are only a certain number available, ever.  That has always been the meaning of “limited edition”.   If I were to release the songs from a limited edition bonus disc on a digital download page, then it is no longer limited and thus loses it’s meaning.   After all, a download is available forever, to everybody, and there is nothing limited about it.    So, I felt that limited editions, to keep the integrity and purpose of those releases in the first place, should remain physical products only.   The same went for singles, which were generally limited from the start.

There are a few bands that have since released their singles digitally– they chose to do it, and the physical CD’s were out-of-print anyway, so why not?   Well, I leave that kind of thing up to the bands.  It is, after all, their music.

I have mentioned before that several of the limited editions (the CD’s with a bonus disc) ended up being a bad decision.  There are some releases by newer bands or unestablished bands that I chose to release with limited editions.   I spent the extra money to do it, and what we have now is a limited edition that has been sitting in storage for a few years.   There was not an established demand for certain artists, so it was my own bad choice to put out a limited edition.   By the very nature of my lack of pre-release evaluation, the limited edition already has no value in those particular cases.  Only when a limited edition sells out quickly does it fill it’s purpose, which is to boost initial sales and create a sense of collectivity with the product.   In those cases where the limited edition is still sitting in storage, maybe putting out the bonus tracks digitally wouldn’t have really hurt anything, because there obviously weren’t many people who cared enough about the bonus material to buy the 2CD anyway.  But in those cases, maybe there wouldn’t be much demand for digital downloads of those tracks?   If they weren’t hot items in the physical world, it’s hard to imagine they would have sold much digitally either.     On the other hand, if someone suggests that I should have put out the bonus tracks for some Neuropa album where the limited edition was sold-out in a couple of months, then it ruins it for all those people who jumped on the limited edition while it was available.  The value of their treasure would be thus diminished.  If you want to hear a collector grumble, just saturate the market with something he / she thought was valuable.

This brings up another concept from my discussion with Jesse.   Who are collectors?  What does that mean?  I’ve always argued that collectors only exist in the realm of physical products.  They want something they can put on their shelf, to display, to protect, to treasure.  But am I being prejudiced or naive in that thinking?   Could a collector exist in the digital realm?   They collect…files?   For some reason, I never think of my MP3 library as a “collection”.  I think of that hard drive full of Mp3’s as a convenient way to listen to the songs from my collection, which is actually sitting on shelves upstairs.   It is so hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of collecting something you can’t pick up in your hand, look at, admire, and put back into its place.

I’ve seen a couple of popular bands, like Erasure for instance, release an exclusive remix only available on the digital download version of their single.   That is the polar opposite of my approach– the band says, “to get the rarities, you must buy the download!”  I’m an Erasure fan, and I never do it.  I don’t buy those tracks.  I choose to live without them because it doesn’t seem real to me.  I’m so old-school that I have a hard time seeing the other side.   That is my own weakness.  I’ve never bought an MP3 and I doubt I ever will, no matter how exclusive the claim, because in my own mind, it can’t be “collected” in that format.  See, there is something like a mental block in my brain!

I’ve seen newer bands switch over to digital-only releases.  One band I’ve worked with on past albums just released their new album as a download only.   I can see that as a viable option for new bands who are testing the waters and don’t want to spend a thousand or two dollars to make a proper CD (no CD-R’s please!).   But for a band on their third or forth album?  Wow, it seems like a step backwards in my mind, but again, this shows how blind I am to the appeal of the download market.   I’m beginning to see that I have serious issues!  I find myself thinking, “If you don’t believe your album is good enough to print up 500 copies, then why are you taking the time to record the album anyway?”  But that’s wrong on my part, because they obviously think their music is great, and they want people to buy it.  They just want people to buy a download instead of a CD.

Now, here I am, always thinking of ways to boost sales and continue making a living in the music industry.   And with days like today I wonder if I’m just too darn stubborn, and too darn blind to the new virtual world to ever “get it”.   I’ve read interesting discussions before about the market becoming over-saturated with so many songs from so many bands because of the download revolution, that the quality is taking a huge dive.  There is no standard by which a recording needs to be measured to be thrown into the digital market.  Anybody can do it.  I can literally record burping and farting onto my hard drive, then put it together as an album, spend about $30 and have it sold in iTunes and every other major store.   Really!  I could!  You could too!   Maybe nobody will buy it, but nobody buys a lot of the stuff out there.

So, the discussion turns to this intriguing question– will there ever be a backlash against the digital market because it is so full of garbage that people don’t want to hunt for the good stuff anymore?   Will it all run full-cycle and turn back to a physical product, where the mere existence of a physical product justifies it as “something worth buying”?   Can you understand this thought process?   The consumer thinks, “Somebody somewhere spent thousands of dollars to put this out on CD with a complete booklet, and even wrapped it in shrink wrap, because they believe it was worth spending the money to do so.”   That can be compared to my burping and farting example– would ANYBODY (no matter how fragrant the farts or how beautiful the burps) spend $2000 to put it in a pretty package and sell it on a shelf, instead of just the $30 to sign it up for iTunes?   Maybe down the road, the physical nature of a music release will indeed validate its supposed quality?  Or maybe I’m wrong again, though I’m not the only one who thinks that way.

On the topic of me being wrong…it was only a few years ago that I told an interviewer (I don’t remember the exact article or publication) that digital downloads would not become more popular than physical music products.    Basically, I said, “music downloads will be more popular than physical CD’s the day that virtual sex is more popular than the real thing.”    Well, I either underestimated the appeal of downloads, or I had a complete misconception about the popularity of virtual sex.   I’m pretty sure it is the former.  Either way, I was dead wrong!

Maybe I gave up too soon on A Different Drum’s digital store?  Maybe I’m too focused on physical products?  Maybe I need to find ways to play along, even against my own nature, if I want to survive?

The question remains, what to do going forward?  Maybe I’ll focus on more t-shirts?  Maybe I will try a kind of flash-drive delivery system for higher quality digital files, if digital is what people want?  Argh, I wish it were easier.  This is where any feedback is welcome, because as you’ve seen displayed above, my brain has a hard time understanding what it is the new market wants…besides everything for free, which is a hard way to pay the bills.

-Todd

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21 Responses to “About Collectors and Legal Digital Downloads”

  1. I totally understand how you feel and I’m glad I didn’t use that application though I considered it. I’m actually only just now getting into attempting to “do it digitally” myself. Unfortunately, though I’d always boldly stated, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m here for longevity. etc.”, I found myself on an extended hiatus that was unplanned. Of course, life issues had a lot to do with it too. I’ve seen many labels drop out of this industry since this all began and I’ve wanted to continue but it has become much more complex to do so.

    I think that if nothing else the one thing you can count on is CHANGE. This seems to be where the market has gone and I don’t think it will ever go back but I do think that collectors will always prefer physical product. I think this forces us to review the industry in a new light and have to change the way we do things. Maybe Terrence McKenna was right and we are heading toward a sort of TimeWave Zero – everything is going digital, faster, worldwide, etc. The industry will have to take a new approach to stay alive and somehow learn to win in a way that keeps the indie labels thriving and does not drop them all out and give a monopoly to the major players only.

    Creativity will have to be tapped in a major way like never before. We have to rethink everything and keep an open mind to change. The same teenagers who never purchased physical copies of music and received all of their personal collections from either recording from the radio or copying their friends albums are the same people who are filling up hard drives of MP3’s. Unfortunately, some valid buyers are likely following in their footsteps just because it’s easier and the economy is not!

    I still think this is not a losing situation. If anything, independent artists are more likely to focus even more on DYI and less likely to look to get signed to a label. However, I still think label recognition is valid and viable and helps fans locate music they like etc.

    I haven’t come up with any solid solutions myself but I think about this EVERY day!!! Don’t give up!!! WE WILL figure this out. 😉

  2. ADD had a digital store?

    Yes, there are people who collect files – files of all kinds, from Jason Scott’s textfiles.com archive to people who love all sorts of strange and odd music that they won’t find at the mall. Hebrew nerdcore, Vietnamese punk, Portuguese goth, and even synthpop. For them it’s not having the package sitting on a shelf (though you can’t get an MP3 autographed – somehow, a detached PGP signature just isn’t the same), it’s about the music itself.

    If you went back to the digital store format and more people found out about it (I started buying from ADD in 2000 with some friends back home and none of us knew about it, though the plural of anecdotes isn’t data) it might take off. If it were possible to purchase USB keys with the ADD insignia, and if purchasers could pick what tracks they wanted on them, you might have something that stood out enough to catch on. Audio files, certainly, but maybe some music videos or concert footage from the bands to sweeten the deal.

    • Though I understand that people like to collect (or possibly “gather”) files, here is why I don’t see it as truly “collecting”. This was explained also by my friend Shervin in a Facebook discussion. Something you would put in a collection has a value, and the higher that value, the more satisfying the collection, or the collector’s piece.

      An MP3 file, even if purchased legally, has a value that is A) exactly worth what most people would pay. Seeing as the majority of Mp3’s in the world are shared, that value is approximately zero. Yes, please buy it to support the artist, but unfortunately, the majority doesn’t do that. B) The value also depends on supply vs. demand. If there is more of a specific item than the demand, then the value is low. If the demand is high and supply is low, then the value goes way up. An Mp3 file has infinite supply, and thus, the value is near zero again.

      On the other hand, a CD with complete packaging represents one of a fixed number that was manufactured. If the label or band manufactured more than the demand, then the value is low, but rarely below the cost of the materials (since material has a fixed value). If the demand continues after the supply is depleted, then the value climbs fast. Thus, the collector sees the value of their collection growing. This doesn’t happen with an MP3 file, because you can always make more, instantly. Duplicating a file worth one dollar doesn’t make it worth two dollars. Think of it more as cutting the value in half, and since it can be done infinitely, you know where the value goes.

      If there were an endless supply of Ford Mustangs, easily duplicated and more than the existing population could even keep in their collective garages, they would have no value. But since there not, and the supply is different based on the year of manufacture, then the value remains intact.

      That is the nature of collecting– purchasing and keeping pieces that at least have a “hoped” increase in value or that maintain value over time. Sure, I might decide to collect something like cigarette butts, because I want to have a lot of them sitting in cans in my basement, but there is no perceived value, so it is more like “gathering” just to say “I have them” rather than building a collection.

      Gathering a bunch of interesting music or text files might be fun and may have a value to the person who enjoys reading or listening to those files, but on the open market, it isn’t worth anything. It isn’t part of a collection, like a physical painting on a wall, if it is just a file for personal enjoyment. That isn’t to say that gathering is a bad thing, if it is something that you enjoy. Sure, buying exclusively Mp3’s has great value to the person who enjoys listening to them. I just don’t see it as a “collection” in the traditional sense– not the kind where a collector is on the hunt for that special piece that will make the collection more complete, and more valuable.

      That is only MY perception and definition, and admittedly will not match up with that of other people.

      -Todd

  3. As an additional note, I love MP3’s as a format of convenience. I have my entire CD collection ripped as MP3’s and stored in three different places. I can listen to whatever song I want with a quick search and click. I love to listen to the entire collection on shuffle. It’s cool! I have no problems with MP3’s as a way to listen to music. I just wouldn’t ever buy one. I by a CD for my collection, then rip it.

    Here is a note shared on a Facebook discussion about the different between “general consumers” and “collectors”, which I wrote in response to somebody who said they are a “collector of digital music” because they only want certain tracks here and there, and can’t afford albums:

    –>What you just described above is what I consider a “general consumer”. Not that there is anything wrong with that. A general consumer buys only the minimum of what they want or need, spending as little as possible for that particular item.
    A “collector” buys “pieces” to have them…to collect them. A collector buys a new VNV Nation album even if they only like 2 songs, because they have all the other VNV Nation albums, and their collection is not complete without it.
    When it comes to affordability, a lot of people simply can’t afford to be collectors. I don’t collect vintage automobiles, because I could never afford it, even in my dreams. But other people do– not so they can actually USE the cars, but because they are collectors and they want particular pieces.
    That’s the difference, with music too. Heck, I held onto the so-so Cetu Javu “Where is Where” CD forever, not because I liked it (not such a great album), but because it is a rare collector’s piece.

    -Todd

  4. As an ex-large customer of yours and now occasional buyer, the main reason why I stopped purchasing large chunks of tunage is simply because of the convenience of downloading. 90%+ of my music purchases now are actually through emusic.com (and, I know you had a problem with a disreputable distributer who put your label stuff on there without paying you), although that MAY be changing with their new pricing structure now that they have (as I understand it) access to Sony’s back catalogue.

    If I decide I want something, I can download it now. Instant gratification. I downloaded the new New York Dolls from Amazon for exactly that reason.

  5. I have to agree with Gandalfe – Downloading via Amazon & Itunes
    offers several things:
    Cheaper than physical cd’s
    No shipping charges
    I don’t have to buy, then wait for days for a package in the mail. I have my music within minutes.

  6. There are a lot of pros and cons to both. However, while I agree there is instant gratification in downloading, there is also the extra knowledge and enjoyment one receives not only from the physical product (ie layout, graphics, etc.) but also the basic information that does not come with digital files. For instance, just this week I downloaded 3 remix collections from iTunes for a band called In Strict Confidence. I enjoyed listening to them but severely missed the information about who mixed what and who collaborated with whom that I would otherwise have had I purchased the physical copies instead. I miss this but I also know that this perspective is a minority view and one that relates more to the “collector” than the “general consumer”. Obviously, I love In Strict Confidence, specifically the albums that these remixes were created from and thus wanted more. Not something general consumer normally does. I also have to comment to Todd specifically that “COLLECTIONS DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE MONETARY VALUE”. Keep in mind there are people who collect strange and completely valueless things for the shear aesthetic of it. I have collected underground vampire comics in the past which to this day still have zero value and I’ve always known this would be the case, yes even with comics, because they are produced from mostly independent artists that will never become known enough to ever increase the demand or even knowledge that they exist. However, for me this was valid collecting and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I still have them today though they are completely worthless. LOL 😉 Just something to think about. (reframe)

  7. Just recently saw this example of how the market has changed so drastically and found it interesting…

    http://www.side-line.com/news_comments.php?id=42805_0_2_0_C

  8. I resisted the digital “revolution” for a long time. Only in the last year have I actually started buying digital albums regularly. However, I usually only do it if the real album is not available domestically (like jpop), the domestic album is significantly more expensive or that’s the only way to get the album.

    I am a digital music snob though. I only purchase 256kb encoded files or better. Fortunately, Amazon fits the bill. Fixt encodes in 320 and sometimes they sell a WAV (lossless) version too. Japanfiles also has most of their music at 320kb.

    Two other reasons why I might buy a digital album:

    1) I can get it today, usually within half an hour. Most of my music tastes can’t be found in Wal-Mart, so this is sometimes important to me.

    2) I am running low on space at the moment. When to hit the 600+ CDs line, you need to keep organized or you won’t be able to find your favorite album(s) any more. This has been annoying on several occasions, which is why I rip all my CDs to a lossless format on my PC. I use a RAID, plus an external drive to keep the files safe.

    Anyway, thanks for the article. It was interesting once again.

    – Mike

  9. I totally understand. I was initially very resistant to digital files as well and purchased only CDs. However, for the very same reasons I have begun to buy more digital. I am actually having a severe CD storage problem and am in the process of removing jewel cases to put the CDs and inlays into poly sleeves to save space. Since I do music promotion as well as have a very large purchases personal collection (use to work in a record store got a huge discount and took total advantage of that to expand my personal collection) my collection is over the 2.5K mark now. So for audiophiles who like music that can’t just be heard by flipping on the radio, our personal collections tend to get very large! Being an audiophile, quality is important so we don’t put any downloads up for less than 320Kbps for Latex Records, though this is a very new format for my label. I have to say I LOVE the idea of the iPod and having a portable, hand-held, digital “jukebox” at my personal disposal at any moment. 😉

  10. I make more sales through my 1-2-3 Music Store (that’s the name of the product – easybe is the company) than I do physical sales. Occasionally people complain that clicking on individual links to download each song is a pain, but on the whole, it’s nice to have. It hasn’t been hacked since that first time. The mp3s sound better than iTunes or Amazon, and fans can support me directly.

    As for collecting, I’m a passionate collector of files! It’s not just about convenience. My iPod is, for all intents and purposes, my music collection. Most of the stuff is lossless, so there’s no quality hit. Everything is organized exactly the way I want it, and I don’t have to worry that the CD comes in a digipak that doesn’t fit in my case, or whatever. The CD ends up in a folder anyway. The only reason I keep the CDs is because it would be unethical for me to rip the CD and then sell it.

    I also love my Kindle. All my books are in one place, and I can search them or look up words in the dictionary effortlessly. I look forward to the day where I can buy a bigger one in full color.

    There’s also the environmental factor to consider! Most people don’t know that CDs are a petroleum product.

  11. Todd –

    Both Michele and I are collectors: DVDs, books, CDs. Actually, we perform the term “library” over colleciton, as it denotes a scholarship integrity to it. Since we’re both in school, and studying film, our DVD “collection” becomes our “film library” – think it has a better ring to it 🙂

    As a collector, I do like the physical, tangible object. I like holding a DVD/CD in my hand, reading it, admiring artwork, and displaying it. People come into our flat, see our huge DVD colleciton, and go “wow!!!”, it’s kind of a nice feeling, you know?

    I also strive for what the most definitive, best of the best, releases. Why buy a single disc DVD when I can get the 2 disc with extra suppliments? Why buy the single CD when I can get the limited edition with extra tracks? I especially love acquring things when they are out of print.

    However, as a collector, I also resigned to the fact, things got to get re-released. The comming of Blu-Ray will take my old DVD that were special editions at the time, release them, and then package them with even more stuff. Out of print items become in print again. Sure, it’s a sad day to find out so and so is being released again, but you know what – I sitll have my original, and that version is still OOP. And besides, who am I to get mad because the content of whatever media I had is now open to more people who can now partake in experiancing something they could not before?

    On the subject of value, this I am not sure of. Todd, I hate to break it to you, and PLEASE don’t hate me for this, but the bands in the synthpop scene, and even in the large scope of industrial-goth-electronic-aggrotech-futurepop-whatever, they are all subaltern bands. Case in point, DVD is VERY popular in our scene (are they still? Actually, it’s been a while since I looked them up), but take the population of America, and tell me: who has heard of VNV Nation and who has heard of Garth Brooks? I hate to say it, but that limited edition Nueropa CD is going to be worth pribably less in 10 years than it is now. No to belittle the band at all, or any other bands on your roster, but in the grand scheme of things within our subaltern music genres, there is a ceiling on collectivability. Using VNV Nation for example. the originals of Burning Empires, and original Praise the Fallen. Or KMFDM’s original Naive album. Sought buy collectors, sure, but really, do they fetch astronomical prices on ebay? $100… maaaaybe $200 tops, but really stretching it? Right now on ebay someone is selling original advance and follow, 14 bids, 105 bucks. Maybe for a 18 year old goth chick, that may break the bank, but it’s really hardly a item that’s truly out of reach. I don’t think $100 bucks is not going to put food on the table for a month. Now compare this to say, an imaginary limited editional Michael Jackson CD that has his autograph on it, limited to 5 copies. We’re talking thousands of dollars here, which I think, could break someone’s bank 🙂

    What I am trying to say is, unless the bands in this scene reach collasal superstar power, there is a ceiling on their monetary value of the collectability, and it’s not a very high ceiling either.

    I think perhaps the best way to approach collectibility is perhaps to take the neofolk approach. Von Thronstahl put out 2 CDs, Return your Revolt into Style and Sacrifacare in the glorious, glass boxes, with large books and oranate embossing. Expensive to make, oh yeah. Expenseive to sell, definately. But for the hard core collectors, who must have everything, you only need to make a few. Number to to 50, and charge more than cost to make, bam? That’s an extreme example, but the point is, for collectibility in the physical world, make the physical experiance unique that cannot be replicated. Colony 5’s limited CD: nice metal tin, autographs inside, postcard, buttons. Nice Set! Or Pzychobitche’s album that came with a pair of knickers. I don’t thinik you can get women’s painties off of iTunes! 🙂

    Personnally, I really love these gimmiks. Make the artwork different that the standard release, make the booklet different, include cheap knick-knacks and doodads. Do digipacks – actually digipacks are an evil-nice idea, because if the digipack itself is damaged, you have to buy a new digipack! Or evne weirdo, Death in June released 2 of their albums: Brown Book and The World that Summer in the huge MARBLE boxes. Talk about fancy. If there is one band that sees re-release after re-release of their back catalog, but people still collecting without making a fuss, it’s DI6.

    Anywho, to sum up – I agree, I am old school with the physical CD as a collector, but I also resigned myself I am collecting in a subaltern genre that is pretty specialized, and the only demand is perhaps within that genre itself. I would say take the biggest advantage of the physical CD, it’s actual physicalness, and exploit that to make it limited, more desirable to collect, etc.

    Or perhaps we are all doomed in 100 years to live in a futurist setting where everything is digital and we ask the master computer that controls our home to replicate our music and foods for us. 😀

  12. To follow up on some other comments, to me, it seems to be a simple issue. If your product is not available, customers cannot buy your product. If customers cannot buy your product, you can’t make money off the product. Having physical cds go out of print, and not offering them via Itunes or Amazon, seems silly to me. It may not be financially worthwhile to run your own MP3 store, but with major outlets like Amazon and Itunes now carrying plenty of synthpop label releases, it seems to me that it would be easy to make currently out of print singles and such available. I don’t understand the concern for the collectors and de-valuing their collections. ADD doesn’t make money off their collections, and the out of print releases that do get sold now usually are sold by third parties, and ADD doesn’t see a penny of that “collectible” price. As an example, I recently picked up a used copy of Paradigm’s “Soul Flight” single off the amazon marketplace. I would have preferred to get a digital download of the single, but it’s not available. Is there great demand for that ADD release? No, but ADD isn’t going to receive anything from my purchase of a used copy of the single.

    • When it comes to collectors and “limited editions”. If something is announced as “limited to 500 copies” or whatever, then it becomes a question of honesty and respect for those customers who purchased the limited edition. To offer it digitally shows no respect for those customers, and basically creates a lie. “Haha! That limited edition wasn’t limited after all, I was just pulling your leg to get you to buy it early…”

      Now, with old singles, there is nothing that says the bands can’t release it digitally if they want. Cosmicity does it. Blue October UK does it. But if there was a bonus disc announced a limited edition, I DO feel obligated to keep my word.

      -Todd

      • Why would it have to be the bands that make the older items available for download? Does ADD only have rights to do the one-time release (in this case, physical cd)?

        I can understand the concern regarding the OOP “Limited Editions”, and that’s true, and I see your point, and it is true. I understand and appreciate your concern for your customers. But there are several older ADD non-limited releases that are no longer available, and aren’t available digitally. The A Different Mix compilations and the Mix Rinse & Spin compilations, and the Rise compilations are all not available for download. Was the ADD release of Elegant Machinery’s “Yesterday Man” limited? No, but it’s not available as a download. The Echoing Green’s “Electronica” is also unavailable as a download. Echo Image’s “Compuphonic” is also not available. There are several other examples, but I think my fundamental mis-understanding may be that I thought that ADD would be able to release stuff the label had released digitally as well as the physical cd that had been previously released, but that might not be the case.

  13. Hi Jason,

    Concerning singles, I don’t claim the right to release band’s material forever. Yes, I do make contracts only one-at-a-time and the contracts say that the bands still own their music. I didn’t want to create the “major label” mentality that if you sign with ADD, you’re owned. So, the bands can release their own out-of-print stuff digitally if they’d like because it is their right. In fact, I’ve even given all digital sales back to certain bands that I still have CD’s in stock, so they can control their own digital sales. I always believe it is the artists that should have the ultimate say.

    As for compilations, I can’t do those digitally for legal reasons. I don’t have rights to digitally distribute songs by non-label bands with whom I have no digital contract. Those old compilations you mention have tracks by Anything Box, Seven Red Seven, Alphaville, and countless others for whom I have never had digital distribution rights. For me to sell them digitally would be theft and breach of contract.

    For even larger compilations (like State of Synthpop) not only is there a legal problem, but there is a logistics problem–tracking sales for 90 individual tracks for one release. Yikes!

    For compilations that feature all ADD label bands, like “Synthpop for a Darkened Room”, “Too Good for Radio”, etc. there isn’t much need to release them digitally because the songs are usually from album releases that you can already buy digitally, picking the tracks you want from each artist anyway. The entire digital download market is a huge “compilation” of sorts, allowing you to pick songs one-by-one that you want.

    Elegant Machinery “Yesterday Man” was licensed from Energy Rekords (Sweden) and I have no rights to digital distribution. That’s up to Energy Rekords. Again, I’d break the law putting that out digitally. The Echoing Green “Electronica” was a limited release, though Joey could certainly put the tracks out digitally if he wanted (mostly demos, etc.). Echo Image “Compuphonic” is a release I don’t put out digitally because the band never signed a contract allowing me to distribute their music digitally, thus I again don’t have the rights.

    So indeed, most of the cases you find where something from the label is not released digitally, there is a legal reason– licensed from another company, no existing digital contract, or digital release would be duplication or undesired by the artist, etc.

    -Todd

  14. I just have to give you kudos Todd for, Yes, I do make contracts only one-at-a-time and the contracts say that the bands still own their music. I didn’t want to create the “major label” mentality that if you sign with ADD, you’re owned. I am the same way with Latex Records. I always want what is best for the band and people think I’m kidding when I say it but I am actually trying to convince one of my better artists to leave my label for better, larger, more well trodden pastures.

    However, I think that most people see the digital version of a release differently than the physical copy. At least, I do. To me personally, the digital copy has little or no real value as you have said and thus ONLY the physical copies actually have any true value at all. Thus, if you have a limited CD release – it is still limited to only so many “physical” copies and therefore I do not personally have an issue with digital releases regarding limited editions. Those who want the ‘valued’ limited edition will purchase it and those who just want to hear the songs from it and don’t care about the CD value will download it. *shrugs*

  15. “I’m so old-school that I have a hard time seeing the other side. That is my own weakness. I’ve never bought an MP3 and I doubt I ever will, no matter how exclusive the claim, because in my own mind, it can’t be “collected” in that format. ”

    While I don’t consider myself a collector, I do share those sentiments that you have expressed.

  16. I agree with TG Mondalf. To the collector, the physical copy is all that counts. My latest EP is limited to 100 physical copies, but is distributed everywhere digitally. I suppose the only difference is that I was up front about that fact, but you had no way of anticipating iTunes back then.

  17. Todd, like yourself, I also had reservations about an “all digital” music world. I was attached to CDs and the quality of packaging that surrounded them. It was part of the atmosphere that came with a full album.

    However, after struggling through the operation of traditional label, I soon realized that it would be WAY more cost-effective to do everything digitally. Thus, I turned my label, The Fossil Dungeon, into an entirely digital label. Then I started the first all-digital extreme metal label (my first passion has always been metal music).

    What I realized is that consumerism is based on convenience. As has been noted in this post…a music fan has instant gratification when buying digital. For the label, it’s convenient as well. Why ship CDs out that have to pass through numerous hands (each time getting marked-up in the process), when it’s way more simple to send a file via an email or FTP?

    True, the market is over-saturated. What will distinguish a good album from an album of farts and burps is the marketing power behind it and that’s where the label comes into play. Any artist can publish themselves these days, but the only thing benefiting a label is their marketing power and network of contacts. That’s really our only leverage now, so I suggest focusing efforts into that area. You already have a strong grip as your brand is known quite well in the scene. You have a great advantage!

    As for setting up a digital store. Use this company…they are the best: http://www.klicktrack.com (tell them Mike from Fossil Dungeon sent you). They have an excellent platform. Also if you’re paying money upfront to have your releases distributed, I have a distribution service that works differently than this and requires no upfront costs. So please get in touch if you’re interested. Best of success to you!

    – Mike (The Fossil Dungeon)

  18. I don’t have room to store any more CDs. I don’t own a home, I live in apartments and we move around a lot. I’m actively trying to GET RID of a lot of my collection – and nobody wants it.

    I feel kind of bad for winning that box of 50 CDs because there were only maybe 6 or so that I actually liked.

    I’m sure there are people out there who like this kind of music, but since it has a limited appeal you can’t really expect people to spend their hard-earned money on it. As an artist, I experience the same thing. Only a handful of loyal customers ever want to buy my crappy art – which is why I have not yet attempted to publish anything in hard copy. But since we have the internet I can still build a fanbase and with on-demand printing someday I WILL be able to see a book of my work (once I actually make something WORTH printing, that is) without having to make a huge investment.

    Todd, I guess it’s because we’re from different generations (in the 80’s I was just a baby), but I think digital downloads, on-demand printing and stuff like that are far superior to the old way of doing things.

    Bottom line: I buy digital downloads – but I STILL only buy stuff I REALLY like.


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