the more things change…

A couple of articles this past week from the Digital Music News that everyone should know about, if you didn’t already. For both listener/consumers of music and music creators, this is a heads up.

The first article:
Fair Warning: Amazon Music Will Delete All of Your MP3s on April 30th

Right there in the very first sentence… “Underscoring the death of MP3 downloads…” Well that sounds ominous. If you download regularly – and I do, though not necessarily from Amazon MP3 – you may be wondering: when did this happen?

Apparently, this has been an ongoing thing the last couple of years and as the article points out, “It’s a dying product, and Amazon is just managing the wind-down.” Not unlike, say… the 8-track tape in the early 1980s. Not profitable for them, I get it. But, as a music producer and record label owner, I do know that a fair amount of my sales have come from Amazon MP3. And the implications for you, if you are an independent recording artist producing music, are obvious: after this month, Amazon MP3 downloads will no longer be a source of revenue, a stream of income for you, and you will have to make that up somewhere else.

As an Amazon MP3 listener/consumer, pay special attention to this: “Users can choose to keep their tracks on the cloud simply by clicking “Keep my songs” under Music Settings“. That means their cloud is also going away.

On a personal note: This is the main reason I don’t trust “clouds” wherever they exist in cyberspace… just too nebulous for me.

OK, haha, pun intended… At least Amazon is giving you “Fair Warning”… Cue Todd; Edgar Winter on saxophone.

Second verse, same as the first:
An Apple Executive Says iTunes Music Downloads Will Be Shut Down

This news is significantly more alarming, again for you and me – the independent recording artist. The timetable seems to be set for the 1st Quarter of 2019. From Jimmy Iovine, now an Apple executive but as rock music fans know, a record producer going all the way back to the early 1970s: “There is no concrete timescale, but he said: “If I’m honest, it’s when people stop buying. It’s very simple.”

The takeaway from both of these articles: the big boys – Apple and Amazon, and others – are driving music listeners and consumers to their subscription services. Streaming.

Well, as I’ve said before, listening to music through your smart phone through ear buds really is not the way to listen to music (see my post from 2/4/2018). I don’t care how good the quality of the phone is or if you have Bose ear buds, I will repeat: this is NOT the way to listen to music. Music you care about anyway…

Sure, I get that a subscription service is convenient for the consumer, but really, subscription streaming is to music what Keurig pods are to real (i.e., good) coffee. And that ain’t good. Lazy is what it is.

(Of course, music > coffee. I only make this analogy to reference the current popularity and convenience of the “product”).

In case you hadn’t noticed (or I didn’t make it clear previously), I am very passionate about music – very passionate about the way music is written, performed, and recorded, very passionate about the way it should be heard and listened to, and very passionate about the way music should be put out into the world. I really don’t care if it’s more expedient for music distribution companies to go all-in on streaming or what their bottom line is because in the long game of musical chairs these companies play on how to deliver music, it’s just another format for them. And just another format means that it can be easily replaced with some other format at any time.

In fact, this is the whole history of the music industry: selling the same music to us, the music consumer, over and over again in a never-ending smorgasbord of new and different formats. It keeps the money rolling in…

And it has done so, right up until the digital age…
I know, I’ve done it. I would have an album I loved on vinyl. When I didn’t have a good quality tape cassette recorder back in high school, I’d go buy the cassette tape of the same album because it was convenient and I wanted to listen to it in my car on the tape deck. A high-school classmate of mine, who has been a music lawyer in the industry for many years now, said at the time (and obviously, I have not forgotten it), “Boy, the record companies must love you.”

I’m sure they did. When CDs came out in the late 1980s, I kept my vinyl albums and bought many of the same albums on CD as well (look ma, no pops! And these’ll last for 75 years… or so we were told).

The Art of Listening
…is a lost art in the 21st century.
As Duke Ellington once said: “The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen.”

Truth… and I would say that applies equally to music listeners/consumers. Listen to music the best way possible – when you have time, on a good stereo system, not as background music on your smart phone to go with your “active lifestyle” or whatever. At those times, you’re not really listening. Sure, you hear some music. Hearing isn’t listening.

And it’s not just music. In the larger picture, not listening has become endemic to this culture (I’m speaking American culture since that’s where I’m situated). Very few people take the time to actually listen – to what’s being said, to others – without trying to get their own two cents in, talk over someone else, refute someone else’s argument, or interrupt, distract or deflect (watch any network news program). The act of real listening is something that is no longer really valued on a societal level, and it shows up here, in the appreciation and valuation of listening to music as well.

True listening to an artist’s music implies ownership of that music through an available format – that is, you have a copy of that artist’s music that you can listen to anytime you want, in-depth, at your leisure, and is not dependent on anything else, such as a platform to serve it up to you via the Internet. It is always there available to you because you paid for it.

You love a particular artist/band’s music? Then buy it. Own it. Listen to it all you want. Most of all, enjoy it. Their music has enhanced your life. Forever. It has made your life richer. I would say this even if I were not a musician/recording artist since I am and always will be a music listener/consumer as well.

Spend your money on the artists you love, not on a subscription service that does not pay artists nearly enough or a fair rate for their work, or in the case of Spotify, is only there to sell you… Spotify, the platform. What’s next? Spotify, the Movie?

The implicit message of subscribing to a music streaming service is that you really don’t care about the music you claim to love because you’re supporting the service and not the artist, by not investing in that artist’s work.

The music is the most important thing, first and foremost. Spend your money on the artists, not the techies. I say this both as an artist, but also as one of those ‘techies’, having been in the I.T. world as a web developer for 14 years.

As I said earlier this year regarding any particular streaming platform, you cannot put the cart before the horse. Because eventually you have no horse (i.e., the artists making the music). Spend your money on the artists and on those formats which have endured – i.e., CDs, vinyl LPs, MP3 downloads where you can find them in the near future (CD Baby, Bandcamp, eMusic for sure… Rhapsody?), and even tape cassettes. There’s a reason those formats have endured and continue to: they’re the best… for listening. Ownership of the music you love is the way to go. Always.

What am I listening to right now? My favorite ZZ Top album, “Degüello“… on vinyl. Yes, I did grow up in Texas… Tejas. Yes, I did grow up on vinyl records, reel-to-reel tape (very sexy in the early 1970s), tape cassettes, 8-track tapes, digital audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, digital downloads (MP3, MP4, FLAC, .WAV), and… occasionally streaming (but I don’t subscribe). Did I leave anything out?

What this means for me as a music producer whose revenue stream from downloads comes primarily from Apple iTunes at this point is that I will be releasing the next album and subsequent albums on CD with an eye toward vinyl LPs as the budget (me again, as record company) can accommodate. It also means I will be going through my previous albums, probably re-mastering a few songs, possibly re-sequencing a few things to put the entire catalog on CDs, again with an eye toward vinyl. Is there a demand for this? Most likely… not. So full speed ahead.

Nights on Venus News:
Just finished up the mastered demo for “The Wheels Are Coming Off” which will be featured in the forthcoming Bond movie, “Bond 25“… No, just kidding (but it should be). You can preview it right here via Soundcloud.

The Wheels Are Coming Off” will be released as a 2-song single at the end of May/early June with the B-side, “Our Alternate Lives“, and both will appear on the new album, scheduled now for late November, 2018. More details to follow… As always, thank you for tuning in and, most importantly, listening… – Craig

Album cover for “We Are All Haunted by Something”, released on July 23, 2017. This is the old abandoned Apache Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico – shot taken in 2009. The image of the night sky is from Justin Marsh, added with his permission.
Cover artwork for the most recent 3-song single/EP “Snow Day”, released on December 23rd, 2017. Available now on all digital media outlets…

The most recent releases from NoV are the 3-song single/EP “Snow Day” and the full-length album, “We Are All Haunted by Something“, both from 2017. “We Are All Haunted…” includes the 2-song single “Speed of Life” and “Confirm Humanity (I’m Not a Robot)”. All are available on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD Baby, and Amazon MP3.

Speed of Life“,Unearthly, Santos and all previous Nights on Venus albums are available as MP3 digital downloads on Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon MP3, and also the NoV Website.

Sunday afternoon in the The ‘Cave Studio, Golden,CO… one corner of it anyway. Fender Strat “Buddy”, red Reverend Charger 290LE “Prince”…Reverend Rocco “Goldenboy” in the background…

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Words to live by…
“Everything popular is wrong.” – Oscar Wilde