Say goodbye to CDs

WINNIPEG (CUP)–Record labels, especially indie record labels, are going digital, producing digital albums that would not be available in CD format in an attempt to avoid the high costs of manufacturing. It’s a positive step for struggling indie bands eager to find greater audiences for their music — regardless of the fact that it could be dangerous economically given the popularity of file-sharing programs such as Limewire.

WINNIPEG (CUP)–Record labels, especially indie record labels, are going digital, producing digital albums that would not be available in CD format in an attempt to avoid the high costs of manufacturing.
It’s a positive step for struggling indie bands eager to find greater audiences for their music — regardless of the fact that it could be dangerous economically given the popularity of file-sharing programs such as Limewire.
“No CDs means less ending up in a landfill, which is where the majority of CDs ever made will go. No CDs means no ridiculously large investment in stock that sits on a shelf for years, hurting one’s eyes and feelings,” says Chris Hannah, co-founder of Winnipeg’s G7 Welcoming Committee indie record label.
Hannah hopes the decision will attract more bands to their label and give them an advantage over other indie labels that have resisted the change to digital in fear that it would only make it easier for fans to share files online without paying for it. Hannah knows the risk, but is undeterred.
“For independent artists it’s great,” says Grant Paley of local indie group Moses Mayes, which has just made its latest album, Second Ring, available online. “The savings after you eliminate manufacturing, shipping and middle men make it cheaper to release a record, especially for independent acts.”
Online albums cost the buyer slightly less, as there are no manufacturing fees to consider, possibly provoking more fans to open their wallets.
Though Paley sounds confident, the popularity of the iTunes store among musicians shows that many still want to control access to their music with digital rights management (DRM) protection, the cost of which is prohibitive for indie bands.
“It’s all about getting the music out there to as many ears as possible,” Paley says. “I understand that for major artists [access control] is a concern because of what’s at stake. Overall, we’d like to think that people would contribute [money] if they like us.”
His band downloads music on a regular basis and would consider releasing digital-only albums in the near future.
The music is one thing, but managing artwork and album information is another hurdle for the digital store. The recording industry hasn’t quite figured that one out yet. Paley believes having merchandise tables at live events is the best way to go.
“Live shows and record launches are the best way to combine these two [artwork and downloading]. I think The Arcade Fire have done an awesome job with their new record, but they have a lot of money and people working for them.”
The Arcade Fire announced that fans who purchase the vinyl edition of their latest album, Neon Bible, will receive a free download of the entire album online.
The thing is, once bands are making serious money they’re more likely to care about where it goes and why they aren’t making more of it. Before that point, bands are making their music simply because it’s what they love to do. Nevertheless, digital online albums seem to be the way of the future for the industry, especially with indie bands looking for new listeners.
“DRM-free, subscription-based and levy-charged music stores are the next transition,” Paley said.
CDs aren’t going to die out anytime soon, he imagines, but neither would he consider them the most viable format anymore. Recent events support that opinion: In February, Canadian-owned Sam the Record Man closed its original Halifax location, leaving just three stores open across the country, down from over 100 just a few years ago.
In January, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry issued a report stating that digital sales made up roughly 10 per cent of the global total in 2006. It also stated that CD sales continued to decline, and music sales as a whole fell three per cent last year.

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