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Joined: 14 Jan 2007 14:00
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When I said "if an album is worth downloading, it's worth paying for" I was mostly talking about quality. I am willing to shell out a bit more to make sure I get decent sound quality, as well as context (liner notes etc.) and any extra goodies. Also DRM irritates me and devices fail, so I am willing to pay more for a CD instead of leasing my music from a supplier or storing it on my computer where it will be obliterated by the inevitable disk meltdown. I have never had a problem "affording" music -- music has always been the reason I can't afford other things, like food and clothing. Priorities, I guess.

But that's after I've made up my mind to own the album. I still download and stream lots of music for free as tasters. As other posters have mentioned, I can't afford to buy before I try on every single album I'm interested in, which is, I think, what some in the record industry would like us to do. That's just unrealistic. Downloading single MP3s allows me to make every purchase count.

I like the "peeking at Christmas presents" analogy! That's exactly what sprang to mind when this topic arose.


29 Jan 2010 04:05
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GibsonGrrl wrote:
I don't get that logic. If someone went into a store and decided a loaf of bread was too expensive, it would therefore be okay to steal it? Just because one can do something does not mean one should.


If stealing bread from your own home without any real threat of consequences was a possibility, the bread industry would have cause for great concern.

As for me, I bake my own bread.


29 Jan 2010 07:40
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Maybe one of the main problems, if not the main problem is that digital downloads are too expensive. In reality, digital files can be perfectly replicated a million times for virtually nothing. If the price dropped dramatically then I think this would stimulate sales and certainly deter large swathes of file sharers.

Obviously the downside is that overheads and costs involved in producing music would have to be recouped over a longer period of time. Oh well, the major labels would just have to get used to getting rich slowly instead of fast from other people's art.

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29 Jan 2010 09:21
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Also, itunes files are often awful quality, and there's all that DRM nonsense.

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29 Jan 2010 12:01
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Storm and Static wrote:
Also, itunes files are often awful quality, and there's all that DRM nonsense.


ITunes doesn't use DRM on music anymore.

Quality is an odd issue, since so many people mistakenly assume iTunes sells MP3s. They don't. Instead, they sell MP4 files. My own testing, as well as extensive testing by a producer friend, suggest that MP4s are better quality: i.e. a 128k MP4 file is superior in quality to a 256k MP3 file. At this point, any new iTunes sale is 256k MP4, so it's better quality than anything from Amazon's MP3 store. Unfortunately, I don't have any test data comparing 256k MP4s to 320k or higher MP3s.

Still, no download format is going to beat an actual CD, but I imagine the majority of music listeners aren't that concerned about quality. Even on the MP3 vs. MP4 testing, high quality headphones or speakers were required to differentiate many of them.


29 Jan 2010 13:51
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RobDev wrote:
Storm and Static wrote:
Also, itunes files are often awful quality, and there's all that DRM nonsense.


ITunes doesn't use DRM on music anymore.

Quality is an odd issue, since so many people mistakenly assume iTunes sells MP3s. They don't. Instead, they sell MP4 files. My own testing, as well as extensive testing by a producer friend, suggest that MP4s are better quality: i.e. a 128k MP4 file is superior in quality to a 256k MP3 file. At this point, any new iTunes sale is 256k MP4, so it's better quality than anything from Amazon's MP3 store. Unfortunately, I don't have any test data comparing 256k MP4s to 320k or higher MP3s.

Still, no download format is going to beat an actual CD, but I imagine the majority of music listeners aren't that concerned about quality. Even on the MP3 vs. MP4 testing, high quality headphones or speakers were required to differentiate many of them.


I don't have any science behind me, but I would like to chime in to say that I personally can't hear a difference usually unless its an mp3 under 200k. (plus I can fit more onto my ipod if they're not too big :mrgreen: )


29 Jan 2010 22:49
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Cedric wrote:
Yeah, it's not stealing in the sense that it's physically taking something that cost money to produce.


Hang on... music doesn't cost anything to produce these days? I'm not involved in the music industry in any way (other than as a listener), but doesn't studio time, production, mixing, etc. cost something? Or maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about (which is entirely possible).

The idea of using illegal downloads as a way to preview music is something that never occurred to me until I started reading this thread. I personally don't feel a need to listen to a whole album before committing money to buy it, I can usually decide from one or two songs if I'm going to like something. I've even bought whole albums purely on the recommendation of friends, without ever having heard any of the tracks. But that's just me, and I completely understand someone else wanting to preview the whole thing before they buy. I'm lucky enough to be able to afford to buy like that, but again I understand if someone has a limited budget to spend on music needing to be much more careful in what they buy.

It would be great if there were a legal way to listen (but not download) whole albums (after the release date, of course - I still don't want to peek at the presents early). I'm not saying that would solve the problem of illegal downloads, but it would certainly be a nice option to have.

I've discovered most of my favorite music (including, of course, Shearwater) on KEXP, which is a really great independent commercial-free radio station. What I love about them is that they will play more than just one or two songs from a new album - if I'm unsure about buying something, all I have to do is keep listening and I'll inevitably hear more. I'm lucky enough to be able to listen to them on my radio, but if you're not in the Seattle you can still listen to them online - http://www.kexp.org/. Their podcasts are really excellent as well, especially the song of the day podcast - one free song every weekday, often new, unreleased material. The live in-studio sessions they podcast are also really wonderful.

I have to agree that I personally don't find the quality of digital downloads to be any less than cds, to my ear anyway. Besides, my cds sometimes get scratched, melted and (in more than one instance) sat on and broken. I keep several backups of my downloaded music, so I'm not too worried about losing any of it to a computer meltdown. There's another big plus to digitally downloaded music - it causes far less environmental impact. I just organized all of my cd collection into one binder, and I ended up with a huge pile of plastic cases to recycle. I'm really glad I don't have to deal with those any more.


30 Jan 2010 09:56
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GibsonGrrl wrote:
Hang on... music doesn't cost anything to produce these days? I'm not involved in the music industry in any way (other than as a listener), but doesn't studio time, production, mixing, etc. cost something? Or maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about (which is entirely possible).


It does cost money to produce music. Of course, it's easier nowadays than it used to be to produce something rather nice in your own bedroom with just a guitar and some software and recording equipment but if you want to produce an album with a bit more than that, you need to pay for studio time, mixing, mastering and loads of other things that I don't know anything about. The little I know is just what I have heard from discussing with my cousin a few times about the album that his band is recording right now.

dog chow wrote:
maybe it's time that people stopped thinking of making a living from playing rock music? it's a swell idea, and great work if you can get it, but there's really no reason people who live 'square' and regular lives can't make great records without relying on being an "artist" for their bread and perrier.


That is rather naive, in my opinion. I want the bands I like to be able to finance their record making (which is not free of charge or even cheap, as stated above) and I also want them to be able to write new music rather regularly and go on tours. I don't think that it's very easy to combine a regular daytime job with that. It is of course possible, but in the long run I think that one or another (or probably both) will suffer.

Having said that - yes, I do "try before buy" quite a lot, although a lot less now than I used to. My taste in music would not be as varied if I hadn't had the possibility to check out bands that were recommended to me without buying first. I do spend a lot of money on music, both on albums, concerts, merchandise and on supporting some of my favourite artists. I took part in the Einstürzende Neubauten supporter project, I have put in money for the Golden Dossier and I’m supporting the upcoming Swans album, to mention just a few. I most definitely spend a lot more money on music now than before I started downloading before buying.


30 Jan 2010 12:54
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Regarding the particular aspect of illegal downloading that is leaks before release date... I've heard a few too many poor quality rips which don't do justice to the final product, so I'm very cautious and not very fond of leaks. Although I do find them hard to resist sometimes.

I buy most of my music online as mp3 or mp4 files, and I have very rarely had quality problems with those, so it's not that I'm oversensitive to the mp3 format in itself. It's just that quite a lot of leaks are really crappy. I don't know why. On the other hand, the mastering on some CDs leave something to desire as well. One of my favourite albums from the past years, The Gutter Twins "Saturnalia" just sounds awful. Great music, horrible sound quality. And that's the CD, not a download.


30 Jan 2010 13:08
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It's been so much fun to follow this discussion.

Quote:
Hang on... music doesn't cost anything to produce these days? I'm not involved in the music industry in any way (other than as a listener), but doesn't studio time, production, mixing, etc. cost something?


Absolutely yes, at least in our case - but of course it depends on what kind of record you're trying to make. It's a bit like hiring four musicians to play a string quartet versus hiring an orchestra to a play symphony; some sounds are more expensive than others. Some records I love were made on the cheap, others cost a zillion dollars. And, listening, you can usually understand why.

I think most people have a better sense of this as it relates to films, probably because of the idea that anything that costs millions of dollars is intrinsically interesting. The budgets of movies tend to be common knowledge. The budgets of records, however, are far more mysterious. Sometimes I wish sites like PF would post recording (and promotional) budgets next to their number ratings - the correlation wouldn't be exact, but I suspect that you'd find that higher-rated releases tend to cost a lot more (once you turn down the squelch knob to exclude major-label cash-bonanzas produced by Brian Eno, etc). But there would also be (as with 'Paranormal Activity') occasional surprises.

If you wanted to make a record largely composed of direct or re-amped computer-generated sounds, with a few quieter acoustic elements, for example, you could probably make that record at home, or mostly at home, for very little dough. And it could be completely awesome. I just interviewed Jamie from Xiu Xiu for Tape Op, and he said that their target budget for their records is $0 - he does most of the engineering himself at home, and he does an incredible job of summoning up a singular world that's rich and complex. The Grizzly Bear record, however, or Joanna Newsom's new one, for example, probably cost a fortune. They sound like it.

If you want to make an album with the sound of a large, musically interesting room, where the musicians can all play at the same time, where you can place some microphones far away from the players for a feeling of authentic depth (like they used to do at the old 30th St Columbia Studios in NYC) and not have to worry too much about weird reflections, well, it's nearly impossible to make that happen on the cheap. And say your record also calls for a grand piano, string players, wind players, a Hammond organ, a Leslie cabinet...you get the idea.

(Not that I, ahem, have any experience with a record like this.)

This is all bearing in mind that the reason you do this isn't to please your ego, but because those are the sounds you need to use to get the emotional effect you want. You do it because there isn't another way.

And then there's the cost of hiring an experienced engineer/producer to help you through the process (as, for TGA, John Congleton). They're not essential; you can make a record without them, but it's like the difference between a play in a theater with a director and a play in a field where the actors direct it themselves. A person like that, provided you can trust them, brings an outside perspective that's invaluable, in addition to their technical expertise (which mic is best for this application?). Especially when you're trying to work on a pretty big sonic canvas. I think all the SWers would agree that John's contribution to the new album was huge.

None of this kind of stuff (personnel, expertise, real instruments, musically interesting tracking rooms) comes for free, now matter how cheap recording equipment becomes. The idea that studios only existed because of the requirements of expensive, outdated gear isn't entirely correct, I don't think. Nor is the idea - propagated everywhere in the press - that everybody ought to make records only in their bedrooms and garages from now on.


30 Jan 2010 13:25
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RobDev wrote:
Storm and Static wrote:
Also, itunes files are often awful quality, and there's all that DRM nonsense.


ITunes doesn't use DRM on music anymore.

Quality is an odd issue, since so many people mistakenly assume iTunes sells MP3s. They don't. Instead, they sell MP4 files. My own testing, as well as extensive testing by a producer friend, suggest that MP4s are better quality: i.e. a 128k MP4 file is superior in quality to a 256k MP3 file. At this point, any new iTunes sale is 256k MP4, so it's better quality than anything from Amazon's MP3 store. Unfortunately, I don't have any test data comparing 256k MP4s to 320k or higher MP3s.

Still, no download format is going to beat an actual CD, but I imagine the majority of music listeners aren't that concerned about quality. Even on the MP3 vs. MP4 testing, high quality headphones or speakers were required to differentiate many of them.

But they used to, which is why I never got into itunes in the first place. I just buy and rip cds. And I have to say, I don't really like mp4s. MP3s, especially V0 ones (the quality I like to rip at), sound better, at least as I have seen.

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30 Jan 2010 15:23
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Quote:
Absolutely yes, at least in our case - but of course it depends on what kind of record you're trying to make. It's a bit like hiring four musicians to play a string quartet versus hiring an orchestra to a play symphony; some sounds are more expensive than others. Some records I love were made on the cheap, others cost a zillion dollars. And, listening, you can usually understand why.


Which is exactly what I thought. Certainly really great music can be made cheaply, and probably the opposite is true as well - a lot of money could be poured into the production of an album and it could turn out to be utter dreck. But for the most part the money put into the production of an album does show through in the final product. It would be very interesting to know the budgets of records, though.

For me, the worth of music is not in the cost of production, or the physical medium it is on, or the packaging, but in the music itself. Does it move me, does it elicit an emotional response, do I simply enjoy it? That is what I find worth paying for. It's why I would happily pay more than the standard price for albums from certain favorite artists (and have, when artists have released music on a "pay what you want" basis). It's the same reason I'll give money to a street busker, if their music has given me a moment of joy.


30 Jan 2010 15:36
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GibsonGrrl wrote:
For me, the worth of music is not in the cost of production, or the physical medium it is on, or the packaging, but in the music itself. Does it move me, does it elicit an emotional response, do I simply enjoy it? That is what I find worth paying for.


So very true.

Also, I would never pay a cent to hear the music of one of those mass-produced "American Idol" type of "artists" - and that is what I belive is one of the problems of the music industry right now. People do not feel that most of the music released today has a soul or a personality, it is just something that is ready-made and supposed to be as easy to swallow as possible. And if you don't feel any connection to the music and the people who make it, why should you feel that you should pay for it? At least, that's my interpretation of what's happening right now.

Another aspect is that although the "me and my guitar in my bedroom" approach may suit some artists very well (Boduf Songs comes to mind), other artists are quite simply dependent on working together in a studio to make music. One prime example of that is Einstürzende Neubauten. As far as I know, they don't generally have a bunch of songs ready for recording when they enter the studio, they work it all out together - albeit sometimes from some basic ideas that one or the other of the band members may have. And they have managed to involve the fans in a great way with the supporter program. The supporters really feel a connection to the band, and it is rather rare that the "supporter goodies" get shared on P2P networks (at least I haven't seen a lot of sharing of those things).


30 Jan 2010 18:28
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Very interesting discussion!
I was wondering if the leak would be evoked here when I saw it coming..


Jonathan wrote:
Maybe it's better to think of a release date as a feast day, a day on which we agree to celebrate a record's existence, or its entry into the 'real' world...


I totally agree with this.
I hate leaks for this reason. I think most of people listen to leaks quickly, almost with no passion… just to talk about it and to write its own opinion. To me, there’s no real process of discovering, it’s just a conventional listening, and also frenetic.
Where’s the desire in there ?

I prefer to wait the real and physical release date.. Actually, it’s a beautiful thought to imagine that hundred of persons (or more) are discovering the music in almost the same time as you, admiring the booklet, feeling emotions. I’d like to conceive it like a worldwide wave.
And in this "magic" conception, leaks break the rules. There’s no more chronology and when the record's really released, people discuss about a new one (which is leaked).

Maybe I’m a little bit rigid on this question. Concerning TGA, I would never listen to the leak, but I also don’t like to hear the preview streaming song and so on… To me, the first discover must be pure, whole.

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01 Feb 2010 06:47
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Yuri-G wrote:
I think most of people listen to leaks quickly, almost with no passion… just to talk about it and to write its own opinion. To me, there’s no real process of discovering, it’s just a conventional listening, and also frenetic.
Where’s the desire in there ?


I find leaks to be at least as exciting as release dates - it's the difference between getting a present on your birthday, which is totally expected, and receiving a random present out of the blue, which (for me at least) produces far more happiness. I could get into the difference between fixed and variable interval reinforcement schedules, but that's possibly a little too nerdy for this discussion.

Also you're making crass generalizations about other peoples' listening habits.

Yuri-G wrote:
I prefer to wait the real and physical release date.. Actually, it’s a beautiful thought to imagine that hundred of persons (or more) are discovering the music in almost the same time as you, admiring the booklet, feeling emotions. I’d like to conceive it like a worldwide wave.


The exact same thing happens when an album leaks, minus the booklet.


Last edited by daylight on 01 Feb 2010 08:51, edited 1 time in total.



01 Feb 2010 08:05
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