With the threat of the government stepping in and talking away more freedoms in the name of our protection with this SOPA bullshit the topic of illegal downloads comes up...again. What are illegal downloads? Is it just updated tape trading? I think it's more complex than that but in order to understand the issue lets identify the problem.
The problem is too many bands have been putting out shit. With ProTools came piles and piles of albums that may not have seen the day otherwise. It became too easy to record and too many bands flooded the market. Anyone could release a decent sounding album use some goofy fonts they found online and there you go, another shitty CD not worth it's weight in...shit. The pop groups have been releasing crap for years, I guess people finally got tired of shelling out for the full length and either bought the single off of I-Tunes or ripped it off online.
With as fast as trends are turned out in music anymore and how easy it is for all these bands to spit out CDs there were/are tidal waves of less than awesome music flooding the listener/buyer. Kids can't afford all this shit and they steal it. Go figure...
It even got to the point where the big name bands filled an 80 minute CD up with 79 minutes of material, about 30 which were of any quality. And there was no packaging. People are not going to pay for what they don't think they should have to. It's really that simple. But, I do think it's more the label's fault in most cases. "Wuddya' mean you only have 35 minutes worth of music? We're paying for it and we want to fill that thing up! Do a shitty cover and use those two tracks from the demo. We want 80 minutes!" And so CD came jam packed full of filler, light on the killer. Shell out $15 for the CD or go download the 3-4 decent tracks the band had hidden in the cesspool they were trying to pass off as their bitchen' new record? Tough call...NOT!
Look at how we got to CDs in the first place. By the late 80's the vinyl was flimsy, prone to skipping and the packaging went to shit. Remember when they even stopped using paper sleeves and went to those shitty plastic ones that you could never get to back in the album cover once you took it out? Fucking bullshit! . No more posters, or gatefold sleeves, stickers, whatever. The product declined in overall coolness setting the stage for other formats to move in.
Grunge didn't kill Metal in the early 90's. Metal killed metal. It had become a parody of itself, too many weak industry bands trying to cash in. It wasn't really a death; I see it as more of cleansing. It was needed. In much the same way the industry brought illegal downloads on to themselves. The industry killed the industry and the bands are the ones who really took the brunt of it.
Vinyl has been making a steady comeback...And it's for the same reasons it was the most popular form of recorded music for decades. The packaging is cool and the music just sounds better. Look at some of the albums I have picked up in recent months and the packaging they have. This is what makes vinyl superior and the answer to digital:
AMEBIX / Sonic Mass – Killer artwork that looks great blown up, can't even imagine looking at it all cramped on a CD cover or download. A gatefold sleeve and red vinyl. Badass!
GHOST / Opus Eponymous - This is a picture disc with the Salem's Lot inspired cover on one side and a creepy as fuck photo of the band on the other. Way fucking cool!
ICED EARTH / Dystopia – The cover art is really cool with the IE monster breaking people out the FEMA camp. That's what it looks like to me anyway! Another gatefold sleeve, this one has the lyrics printed in it and artwork as a header for every song! Really nicely done.
SOCIAL DISTORTION / Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes – With the digital versions you would probably never pick up on that they made it to look like a Little Golden Book (those books you had when you were a kid!). This piece of badassery is also a gatefold, comes with a poster, a CD version of the album and is on gold vinyl. That's how you do it!
TOXIC HOLOCAUST / Conjure and Command – Nothing special inside but the cover art on this one is so fucking sick! You have to have the full size album to truly appreciate it.
MISERY / From Where the Sun Never Shines – Really cool artwork and a gatefold with the lyrics in it. Perfect for setting it in your lap while you play the record and sing along to the blasting crust anthems screaming at you from the stereo.
With some of the albums the artists and even the labels realize that downloads are going to happen so why not just offer the digital versions for free on Bandcamp or whatever and put together a nice package for the real music connoisseur and reward them with colored vinyl, gatefold sleeves, maybe a poster, and of course really fucking cool artwork that you can stare at for days while cranking the album. Like I said, some albums come with the CD or even a card with a code to download it. Look, I get that people want to put it on their Ipod, I'm one of them. But I buy the vinyl.
When I was talking to Jon from MISERY he sent me the links to download the songs from Bandcamp so I get going on the review before the vinyl came out. My reply was that I wanted to wait until the LP came out, I had seen the cover art and knew I wanted to hold it in my hand while I absorbed the music. It was/is an integral part of the experience and should always be so. OPPOSITION RISING just released their album in digital format for free. But, if you buy the vinyl you are rewarded with very cool packaging, colored vinyl etc.
A lot of the bands that send us stuff for review send files or links. Often times that stuff gets over looked if I have a hard copy of something else from another band queued up. That's just the way it is. We want hard copies because digital music sux. A band should be proud of the thought and packaging that goes into their art. It is a complete package from the artwork to the liner notes to the order the songs are delivered in, ever step should reflect the bands level of commitment. Digital downloads can be done by anyone with a computer, they are temporary and not entirely reflective of who a band is or what a band may represent. They are simply for the convenience of the label and/or band. Convenience rarely reflects quality. I say that as I get ready to send out the new CLUSTERFUX LP. I will be sending a blast of digital offerings, but I have the hard copy LPs at the ready for those that prefer them.
Legalize illegal downloads by offering it for free. Sell real packages of the same material with thought and care put into them for the real fans. If people don't want to pay for music they will always find a way. Hell, even in the 80's people were just dubbing cassette's off each other. This buddy of mine, when I was a kid, always wanted to record all of my records. Problem was he never bought anything new so he had nothing for me to record, but every time I had something he was over my house with his blank K-Mart cassettes in hand ready to cheat the record labels. That numb-nuts aside...Give me something worth buying and I (and many others like me) will shell out our hard earned scratch for your bitchen' tunes. So...Note to new bands and start-up labels...People will buy if they see something worth their money. If it's not worth their dough they will steal it. Pretty simple...