14.3.07

Thoughts on being a Musician


Armando Alves wrote yesterday about the fact that Amon Tobin is pissed off with Piracy, because his album leaked to the Internet before its release, and he's claiming because that happened his disk won't sell. I beg your pardon? Reality check: even if the album had not leaked before its release, it would certainly be a zero-day leak. He's enough well-known for that. Heck, even my musical project, Merankorii, had it's first album (a 33 only copies release) leaked before it sold out, and the second one (a 50 only copies release) also leaked before it sold out. Not that it matters to me - it sold anyway! Crash (the second album) is actually still selling - you can buy it in mp3 format on Amie St.! So don't let you be fooled, someone's turning the menace of the pre-release leak into an opportunity, and creating a publicity campaign in order to sell more!

But Rui Seabra posted on that blog some comments that I also disagree - claiming that the album should be released in a mp3 store like eMusic instead of CD. I'm sorry, but it's just that there is a lot of added value in a CD in comparison with its tracks in a digital format, and there's also lot's of fetishism regarding the package itself. I still purchase some music digitally, but still I'm just not able of giving complete attention to an artist until I can have one physical album of that artist in my collection (may it be CD, Vinyl or even Cassete). Let me use once again my experience as a musician to give you an example: not only I force myself into releasing my music in CD (actually the forthcoming album will also have a Cassete release, but it wasn't really my call but my labels', which I heartedly embraced), but I have some problems in releasing in a digital format. This is something that I wanted to talk a long time ago (or here or on Merankorii's blog), and I felt the urge to write as a comment to a blog post Melo did last month, so here's the time and place for it. Releasing an album is expensive. Really. I'm not whining, just stating. I spent some money releasing Mordor (my previous band), I spent some money releasing "O Monólogo do Mudo" (Merankorii's first album), I spent a big load of money releasing "Crash" (Merankorii's second album), and with "Melencolia III", the latest Merankorii album, I got signed with an underground label, meaning that I had a better release and spent almost no money (still, the balance is negative). With Sanguine (the forthcoming album), I have no intentions of spending money anymore, even if I also don't make any money (it was never my intention in the first place). But how do you manage to cover the costs? Easy - selling CD's. CD's give you a better ROI than digital music, if you're a small artist. Two points here: 1 - selling CD's when you have the digital stuff out there, specially if it will be cheaper that the actual CD, is harder; 2 - selling digital music turns the revenue to the artist, selling CD's turns the revenue to the label. If you don't give revenue to the label (even more - if you don't make it have profit instead of loss), you're not going to do another release with them. So, I'm selling Crash in mp3 format, but Melencolia III is sold in CD format until it sells out. This decision I took already granted me an extention of the deal with the label for the forthcoming album, so, in a certain way, the decision is providing me better ways of keep being a musician. Cool, heh? Oh, and Miguel, I undestand that some people really believe that bands make the big money in gigs. Sorry, that's false for a big portion of the artists out there. Anyway, if you give me the means to do a concert, I'm available! ;-)

Finaly, on digital music stores. Rui (yes, once again! ;-)), I know that you like eMusic, but I think you really should take a look on Amie St.: it's also music in mp3 format, no DRM, you can buy per track or per album (an album costs the sum of it's tracks), and no track costs more than $.98 USD, ever. What's the really sweetness? Well, Amie Street works as a "music market": the songs arrive at Amie Street costing $.00 (yes, it means FREE), and if people think that one specific track is worth more than that (basicly if the track sells), it's cost starts rising. Meaning - lot's of free music, and lot's of really cheap music. To give you an example, Crash costs there $.40. Now that's way cheaper than the 1.50€ it costed in CD.

Now to comment final pieces I caught from the comments in the blog post that lead me to this one:

Armando: Tobin had no "very expensive production costs". His label did. Also, having stats of more than 90% of Flash plugin penetration in the browser market means that potentialy almost 10 in every 100 visits that website gets are from people who can't see nothing. It actually was my case - I read your blog post with Opera Mini, and there's no Flash for it (blame Adobe and their stupid license). I really don't see a big of a problem with Flash websites, if I have an alternative way to go to the info. That happens in lot's of websites, but in Tobin's he's just telling me "I don't want you to know what I have here". Which sucks, because I want. Oh, and my comment asking a "link to those statements" was misunderstood: I was just asking a link to Tobin's logbook (which I still didn't find, and I am curious to read).

5 comments:

  1. Hi Marcos.

    Just a quick update on my final words:

    While i honestly support the efforts of crowdsourcing, mashups, CC et al i also find it disappointing that those who push the boundaries in art/music/science eventually loose that bold attitude just because some unscrupulous people released the work way before the publication date.
    I’m not “that” sorry for Tobin, that got his big share of bucks on the previous release for Ninja Tunes.

    It’s just that i imagine i would pissed off if someone did that to a innovative work of mine.


    As for the Flash problem, you really have no choice (for example, I don't like soap operas either, but that's just the way tv works.) Don't expect that just beacause some people are tech-purists, the rest of the world has to revolve around them.
    Welcome to capitalism.

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  2. Anonymous4:50 PM

    tá-se mesmo a ver que a scene anda a funcionar mal. ainda nao consegui apanhar o ultimo album dos meranokkori. oh my god.

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  3. "i also find it disappointing that those who push the boundaries in art/music/science eventually loose that bold attitude just because some unscrupulous people released the work way before the publication date."

    What I meant to say is that every artist has to deal with the piracy issue - as a matter of fact piracy is a part of the actual music industry. Using it to whine an try to get more copies sold is, IMHO, dishonest to fans.

    "As for the Flash problem, you really have no choice (for example, I don't like soap operas either, but that's just the way tv works.)"

    Of course I have. In the case of Flash, when I'm using a browser that doesn't support Flash I don't see Flash websites. If the author of one site cares about its readers he has to avoid Flash or create a failover. If it doesn't, it just means that he doesn't give a damn to one part of their potential visitors. Oh, and I don't watch TV.

    "ainda nao consegui apanhar o ultimo album dos meranokkori."

    Try spelling it right. Anyway, you can buy it for just 5€, so why bother spending the time needed to get it for free?

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  4. , and Miguel, I undestand that some people really believe that bands make the big money in gigs. Sorry, that's false for a big portion of the artists out there. Anyway, if you give me the means to do a concert, I'm available! ;-)

    Sorry for the late answer, but thanks by the way for your remark because it made me see more clearly what is the role of a netlabel. I mean, I hadn't thought about it earlier but if you look at the case of some of the Portuguese netlabels such as Test Tube and Merzbau are always booking new shows for the bands that they release. So I guess it's an advantage in relation to signing with a traditional record label, because the bands can get gigs more easily. All in all, I just don't see the benefit of using Amie Street or Magnatune. Releasing the full album for download on the Web is the way to go, if you want to promote your work - you can receive some extra bucks by placing a PayPal donation button in your site. If you haven't done it already, I advise you to explore some of the links featured in Remixtures.

    As for Amon Tobin I think he could had taken the much wiser decision of bypassing his label and asking directly to his fans for donations. Those who contributed more could, for instance, get early access to the record, receive additional content, etc. You get the idea.

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  5. Hi there Miguel, and thanks for your input. You said:

    I mean, I hadn't thought about it earlier but if you look at the case of some of the Portuguese netlabels such as Test Tube and Merzbau are always booking new shows for the bands that they release. So I guess it's an advantage in relation to signing with a traditional record label, because the bands can get gigs more easily.

    Let me quote my original post to justify myself on this:

    Let me use once again my experience as a musician to give you an example: not only I force myself into releasing my music in CD (actually the forthcoming album will also have a Cassete release, but it wasn't really my call but my labels', which I heartedly embraced), but I have some problems in releasing in a digital format.

    What I meant with that is that - YES! - I like netlabels like Test Tube and Merzbau, and I really like the mindset behind them. What makes them not suitable for Merankorii is the fact that they only release the album online - which is fine for me, it's not a question of getting money, so a paypal link isn't really needed - but it implies that there is no physical release in CD (or CD-R) which is something I want for Merankorii because not only me but also some Merankorii fans have a fetishist issue related with the physical format. If I did an only-digital release of a Merankorii album, it wouldn't feel - for me - as an actual release. Participating in digital compilations, for instance, already happened, but for an album release, I want also a physical release. If they were to provide me that chance and I would wholeheartedly embrace them and release under such a netlabel.

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