Mar. 23 Reviews / Do you download?

6 new reviews this week. I was feeling a bit ambitious or something. New feature still being worked out. Sometime fairly soon, I promise...

I thought the discussion this week would somewhat change gears. Instead of talking about a specific artist or album, I thought I'd ask the question of whether you download music or not. If so, how much? What determines if you'll buy an album or not (or do you even buy music anymore)?

Don't worry, I'm not working for the feds or anything, it was suggested as a topic (thanks Brett) and I thought it would inspire some good discussion.

Commenting has been closed on this article.

Noname
I understand downloading is like a steal, at least potentially. I also understand that it's easy to get lost into downloading and lost time in listen quickly but not really tons of album. Also I am half septical that it's the best way to discover music. But there's a very good point, it average musical culture of people this depending less to their money. Another good point is to help young get a base musical culture faster... well if they want. :-)

Noname
I mostly never download because I can't find what I search and/or it's too slow, too much garbage. I buy quite a lot mp3 but not at a price higher than 20c. The 3 month rule seems fair but I can't practice it because there are tons of albums that I want keep for reference even if I don't like them a lot. That said I easily buy more than 300CD per years and that's already too much. I mostly always buy the CD of an album that I enjoy a lot even if I already paid mp3. But my CD collection is a total garbage and CD very quickly get lost into a box or in a stack. Also my true music collection is my mp3 collection so I bet sooner or later buying a CD won't be so important for me.

Alex
Answer to Moka re: online-only releases: yes, it is less exciting to have a release without the artwork and packaging. That is why I end up buying everything I download. Would I buy an net-only release after I've already downloaded? I don't know, maybe not. Probably depends on the band.

meek
In my case is different,here in Argentina you can`t get the records if you don`t download them.As simply as that.So,if you want to hear good music,then the bird and the mule will be there to make your life happier...

Moka
There's just one thing that tickles me: in this case, what happens to netlabels and net releases only? would you automatically quit them points for not being as "exciting" as a cd?

sidenote: paavoharju has released this month a net release ep on archive. Not as good as their debut but worth the listen (it's not like it will cost you anything):
http://www.archive.org/details/mia061

Ryan
Like Alex and Chris, I'm a frequent downloader of anything that piques my interest. Without downloading, I wouldn't have purchased half the music in my CD collection. I'm a firm believer that file-sharing has promoted and financially bettered many bands who would have otherwise gone (mostly) unheard, and has financially hurt (a relative term here) a small number of over-privileged major label artists and corporate suits who have none of my pity. Rather than adapt to new technology, they've demonized and criminalized some of their biggest customers. Consequently, I find myself avoiding purchases, or purchasing used, from labels affiliated with RIAA.

I'm, like many of you, the type of person who really enjoys the artwork and packaging. I keep telling myself I should limit my collection to a certain amount (and have thus far done a pretty good job of doing so), but as soon as I tell myself that, I go out and purchase another handful of CDs. Unlike Alex, my vinyl collection is pretty meager, but it is growing.

Alex
Looks like most agree that there is nothing comparable to having the whole tangible package with the artwork etc. When you buy an album from Constellation or Lex, it really does pay off.

some guy
i download most everything that interests me/ soulseek is brilliant to this end and is an awesome of exploration and promotion/ there is simply WAY too much out there to dog others for dl'ing alot, imo/ having the actual cds isnt a big deal as the music is the focus for me/ yeahp

Michael
I purchase albums and download. I prefer having something tangible though. Having said that through downloading I have heard some great bands which has resulted in me buying their records and also going to see them live. The downloading is for personal use only on my ipod, im not condoning it but i have over 1500 cds, and lps so have also spent a lot of cash on records too.

Moka
There's something special of having the complete album that gets lost when you download it. this is true.

In fact I've never downloaded a full album so I wouldnt know :p
Normally I just download 1 or 2 songs from the album and depending on how much I like them I buy it.
My problem is that in mexico we don't have record stores that sell from indie labels so I have to buy most of the interesting stuff online and I hate waiting so much for the albums to arrive. at the end it's worth it, though. I just have to choose wisely.

: k
I am in prison for stealing Creed's music online. "18 years / 18 years".

Sam, Tokyo

Yes - I do download...but only for my mp3 player. I rarely burn stuff to disc. A crappy cd rom with black marker scrawled over it is hardly a desirable object.

What i do buy is generally bought from 2nd handshops / thrift stores so i guess i'm not making the record company any money that way either.

But in terms of new stuff - if i really like it i will buy the original cd which, more often than not, i first heard from an illegal download anyway. That must be a win / win situation for listener and artist surely!

collin
Didn't used to except the singles from Kazaa which I quickly realized of course could represent music totally different, better or poppier than the rest of an album. The college ourtunes network, however is too much to resist. If I'm reading about some hyped band or album that I haven't heard I check the network periodically, because after all I only end up being impressed with about 1/3rd of hyped stuff anyway. Brand new stuff isn't on there so much, esp. if it's indie, so I tend to buy new releases pretty soon after they come out. The way I see it, if one of my favorite albums of a year was one I got off the network, I'll shell out the money for it (I bought Broken Social Scene recently, and when I get a chance I'll buy Wolf Parade). And if I'm hearing a lot about something older and its not on the network (ex. Jesus Lizard soon) I'll definitely consider buying it, cause even though I'm at a small school it still means they're pretty indie if they're not up.
I want indie labels to get more popular, for sure, and I also like just owning a record. If I make a "mistake" I can always sell back to a used record store. The whole thing is bogus because art by nature shouldn't have a price tag, but that's obviously unavoidable at this point.

David
1. Yes I download music
2. Not a lot, mostly when I want to try something and do not want to shell out 15 Euros just for trying. If I like the record, I'll buy it.

The delay between my listening and my buying greatly varies, and depends on the price of the record (sometimes it takes time to find the record at a reasonable price) and on how big the band is : the more indie, the lesser known, the higher priority.

The other problem is sound quality : the vast majority of the mp3s you will find on P2P networks is of horrendous quality, and even if you make your own encodings, you will have a hard time reaching CD-quality.
And you don't get the box + notes , i.e. nothing physical. I definitely prefer CDs.

mr.pantuflas
I follow the simple rule of listening before buying, and here in mexico its easier go access a lot of great bands and artists only through downloads (altough the situation is improving), but every album I download and like, I end up buying (deleting the ones I dont), specially independents. Theres is something special about owning an album, booklet, art, design and the object itself has certain appeal that i cannot simply let go.

herzog 77
101% proud to be... non guilty att all... web music rat.

it use to be very hard to get albums and demos here (brasil).

so after years of just waiting in vain, paying real fortunes for kennedys, clash etc albums... (people used to charge even to record "gbh" on a tape when i was a kid);

today i only buy independents.

the rest . . . burn (not even that any more).


it feels good to see the labels loosing control of the gold mine.
here in brasil many artists sell there music as a magazine with the cd. its honest, "original".


the power back to the artist.


Marshall
I don't download music at all. I like owning the acutal records and cds as opposed to ipods and mp3 players. I've gotten pretty good at being able to tell whether or not I'd like an album by what I've read about it, and it seems like the more albums I get, the longer my list of albums I need gets.

I have two (or five depending) burned albums. I have the explosions in the sky travels in constants ep burned from a friend because I always get outbid on ebay as $45 is my limit on what I'd pay for the ep. I also have the disintigration loops burned from a friend. I've been putting a few dollars away at a time to save up for it. If I dropped th3 $80 to buy them all at once, I couldn't buy any other records for 3 or 4 weeks. As a rule, if someone gives me a burned cd and I like it, I'll buy it immediately to cleanse my house of the burned cd. If I don't like it, I either pass it along or toss it.

Chris
I basically download everything I want to give a listen to. Then I buy the ones I like if they are on independent labels. Especially supporting people like Arts & Crafts, Constellation, Kranky, City Centre Offices, Highpoint Lowlife...etc etc.

If I have a downloaded album that I like, but haven't bought yet...and that artist is coming somwhere near me I always make a point to see them and buy a t-shirt. It seems the profit on a t-shirt is probably better than buying a CD and by buying at the show you know the band is getting the highest percentage of profit possible.

peter
A timely topic, as the Canadian Recording Industry just released a study finding that downloading does not hurt the music industry.

http://www.cbc.ca/consumers/market/murmurs/archives/2006/20060320_downloading.html

Fred
eh! I've got a suggestion for a next topic. Does hidden tracks get on your nerve! lol

Brett
I used to be a Napster junkie... we would regulary grab the top 10 off of the Billboard charts - I DJ'd our high school dances and that's what everyone wanted to hear.

Now I realize how much crap that was and have since culled my digital collection - my own music taste is a lot more selective.

I don't download anymore if I can find the song within the iTunes music store. I'll pay for the song if I can get it easily. The big annoyance with the retail stores is that the CD costs ~$2-$5 more if you don't buy it the week it is released... so frustrating.

I've got no problem supporting the artists I like, and for the few I do pay attention to - I'm all for buying the entire CD for those select artists. I appreciate the higher quality audio the CD gives, instead of a 128kbps from my iPod (even worse broadcasted over FM from an iPod in my car).

But I do believe 'downloading' will become more commonplace - here I'm referring to music purchased and downloaded legally. ala the iTunes Music store.

It's just easier to download the file you want quickly, rather than sift through the varying quantity of poor quality files out there on p2p networks.

mike
naw, I'm knee deep in a vinyl fetish and there's no intention of turning to the dark side of digital downloads (too shitty quality). Bad enough that I have to buy cds.

TCC
I'm sure there's a generational slant to one's philosophy regarding downloading... and I'm a bit older. I was an avid vinyl collector (and still buy quite a lot in this format)and still am very attached to the intended 'physical' product that is created. I feel like I need to see the whole 'package' to feel connected to what I'm listening to. I also like to support the artist - I agree that their first priority is having their music heard, but I am also fairly certain that they would appreciate the monetary support of an actual purchase. If the artist was completely in control of this, then I think I would support it more. If people are using downloading to discover new music to buy, then I think that's the best possible outcome.

Fred
I prefer to buy CDs. Most of the time I just buy by curiosity, even if I didn't hear a single note of the album.

Sometimes, I do download a couple of tracks from an album to hear if it's worth the money. Generaly, it's when a band I already know receive mixed reviews. If I like it, I buy the CD. If not, I just erase the MP3.

Where I'm from, it's pretty hard to get singles. So I don't feel guilty to download b-sides and rarities from bands that I like and on wich I've already spend some money by buying the official albums.

Alex
Yes, I dl music. For various reasons:
1) The primary reason is to discover new music. I have countless albums that I would never have bought or maybe even heard of if I hadn't downloaded the album, or another album from that artist, or even an associated artist.
2) To get hard-to-find albums, at least until they pop up on ebay or somewhere else. An example is Grails - Interpretations, which I had difficulty finding, but wanted to listen to it. I have since bought it.

3) To get albums before they are released. Hell, why wait?

4) I buy vinyl, probably 10 LPs to every CD. So I download the album as a backup to the record, and so I can transfer it to my car mp3 player.

I would consider myself an example of why downloading music is beneficial to artists and the music industry in general. I recognize that there are tons of people who abuse it though.

peter
I used to download as well. Back in the early days of Napster and Soul Seek. However, once I switched over to a mac, that was kind of over. That, and I lost interest in downloading. Now a days, I can't even get into the idea of legal downloading, just because as a graphic designer, I feel like I would be selling my trade short by not purchasing a real disc. As strange as that sounds, it is how I look at things.

I discovered too many new artists through downloading, and I bought what I liked, even if it took two years to do so. If I didn't like it, I deleted it. But some of my favourite albums of all times have come via downloading, so, uhm, yes...

CityFringe
Yes, I download 99% of the music in my collection. I am not sure there is much stigma anymore nowadays, even by respectable and reasonable music listeners. One of the reasons is that the music I listen to is simply not available for purchase where I live. And some of it is deliberately released free of charge by the artists(e.g www.kahvi.org)

I find it hard to draw a line between a musical thief and someone who listens to artists' music because they love it and just want to hear it. I think the truest musicians just WANT TO BE HEARD. MANY of the artists I listen to do not care about the profit, or even relying on purchases for a living. (Artists: Blamstrain, 4T Thieves, Bauri, Galaktlan, Lackluster, etc.) I do not feel guilty doing it, and I try not to be hypocritical about it: if I released music, I would want it available for free to everyone, kahvi style.

anonymous coward
i download and i buy. i just follow my basic rule: if i like it i go out and buy it. if i don't like it, i delete it and that's it. i could make a *really* long list of albums i bought only because of being able to hear them completely before. for example i just bought all three slowdive-albums and i'm going to buy both MBV albums.
and sometimes, i just need an album so badly and can't wait until it's released - i still buy it then, though.

Neil
No.
I hark back to the times when you couldn't hear a record until the day it was released.
I want those days back.
Now, you hear the songs everywhere, and see the videos on MTV, sometimes months before the physical product is out there.
It's too much.

richie
I download music very rarely. If I do, they tend to be individual songs off of something I don't really see myself buying. I buy most of my CDs without hearing them first, and I just go off of reviews or word of mouth or sometimes just plain curiosity. I don't have very many burned CDs at all.

(One I can think of recently for your website was Mountains. I liked your description so I bought it. Glad I did.)

Gwen
I really like the 3 month rule. Its along the lines of what I try to do. Lately it seems a lot of my friends are just uploading all their cds onto their computers and then trading them in. Maybe I am being sentimental, but there is something much more meaningful about actually owning the album.

almostcool
I have to admit that I used to download a lot of music. I downloaded albums upon albums of stuff that I wanted to hear, but after a time I got a weird feeling in my stomach when I did it. It wasn't guilt, but it was more of a malaise. I didn't get the same excitement I had when I would first plop a CD into the player and hear it and could look at the artwork. I'm sure that sounds completely luddite and old-school, but it's the main reason I stopped downloading full albums.

Now, I still sometimes download a couple tracks from an album if it's something I think I'd be interested in. If I enjoy the songs, I usually try to add the CD to my collection either quickly or sooner or later, depending on my enjoyment level of the music.

Back when I was downloading full albums, I had something called the 3 Month Rule. Basically, I could keep the MP3s for 3 months and listen to them. At the end of that time period, I had to throw away the files no matter what. If I couldn't get the music out of my head, I'd buy the CD, if I forgot about it, I figured that it wasn't something I needed anyway. Possibly a bad rule, but it seemed to work fairly well...