the end of… the album (as we know it)? three articles on the demise of the download…

Cosmo, on a lazy Sunday afternoon… awakened by… opera!

This is a trend I’ve posted and commented on here on the blog a few times in the past but now it appears we are rapidly approaching the end of the download on some of the largest online music outlets, specifically, Apple iTunes. The music download, which had appeared to be so strong even only just a few short years ago, is going the way of the CD… and vinyl before it. Downloads are now becoming a niche market, just like CD and vinyl, and will soon be found only on music outlets such as CD Baby and Bandcamp. First quarter of 2019, as Apple outlined, is looking like the timeframe for this to occur. In part, this is due to the success of their streaming service Apple Music, which now is generating more revenue than Spotify.

Check out the three articles below, first from Digital Music News on the impending demise of the music download: 

The second, from Forbes, taken from the RIAA’s (Recording Industry Association of America) annual year-end report:

And the third, from Billboard on CD sales: 

Granted, a couple of these articles appeared much earlier in the year but one can assume that for CDs and downloads, and specifically album downloads, the trends haven’t reversed themselves since then.

I’ll throw in an additional article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette which asks the musical question “should you hang on to your CDs”:

  • The takeaways from all these developments would appear to be obvious:
    Streaming has now become the de facto medium for recorded music and appears to be the endgame… for now. I had mentioned this in a post from 6 years ago, although it didn’t really occur to me at the time that the download would go away (and it won’t, completely).
    As far as streaming being the endgame, it has been the self-perpetuating nature of the music industry to come up with new delivery formats along the way as technology evolved, so I suppose eventually, something may come along to replace streaming. Except that the streaming platform really didn’t come from the music industry, did it? That came from the tech industry. What new medium could replace streaming? Right now, I think most people don’t know.
  • Albums sell more on the physical format – CD – than on downloads and are most effective sales-wise, but only when the CD is released on the album’s street date. If artists don’t release a CD on the street date, they’re leaving money on the table… And then retail outlets like Best Buy pull their CD stock off the shelves.
    There is this, however, from the Forbes article: “People have been saying for a long time that the physical album is done, but the category is responsible for more money coming into the music industry than digital album and song sales combined.”
    And this from Billboard: ““If we had CDs on those albums, the [format’s] sales numbers would tell a different story,” Newbury Comics head of purchasing Carl Mello tells Billboard. “When 90 percent of the most popular music [hip-hop] in America doesn’t show up on CD, of course sales will be down. Duh.”
  • There is no music industry “recovery”. The tech industry has effectively hijacked the music industry. Or, maybe as one label executive has said, “[the labels] are reacting to what’s happening in the marketplace, not causing it.”
    I tend to think that’s the case.
    Until some new/revamped format replaces streaming, any recovery has been put on hold. Indefinitely.
  • If there’s any music or any albums you need to download, you should probably do it by the end of the year, and also back up downloads you have purchased in the past (blank CDs are good for this… you can still get them at Office Depot/Office Max and online). Just sayin’…
    After that it appears that CD Baby, Bandcamp, and eMusic will be the last refuge for digital downloads (and most of their inventory is independent or emerging artists… hey, like me!).
  • And to answer the question of whether you should hang on to those CDs (or vinyl, cassettes, or anything else other than 8-tracks)… well, do you listen to CDs? Keep ’em. Did you have vinyl, sell or get rid of it in favor of CDs, only to regret it later? Do you have downloads? Back ’em up. Streaming is hot now… but for how long?… ‘Til the next “hot” format comes along?
    Remember that the music industry has historically made and continues to make a significant chunk of their money from selling the music consumer the same music over and over again, just in different formats.
    And please, continue to purchase music… rather than or in addition to streaming. Thanks!
    I’ll leave you with this from musician Danny Michel to illustrate what streaming has actually done within the music biz:

Nights on Venus news:
Currently, I am continuing work in the new studio, recording and mixing songs for Nights on Venus’ next full-length album which will be my 6th full-length album… entitled “Late Night Meditations in/on Suburbia” (yeah, it keeps morphing a bit), set for release in 2019. It has taken a while to get back in a groove after the move, almost 5 months ago, much longer than expected, but I think I’m there now… only to be interrupted by the holidays of course, but I’m taking everything right now as a work in progress in this, a transitional year, year-and-a-half, or for however long our interim residence in the suburban hinterlands will be and it’s all coming together. There is new music posted on SoundCloud – excerpts from the forthcoming album and you can find it here:

Includes the already-released single “The Wheels Are Coming Off” from this past June, 2018. I will be adding to the playlist over the coming months.

Cover artwork for the 3-song single/EP “Snow Day”, which was released on December 23rd, 2017. Available on all digital media outlets…
Cover artwork for the “The Wheels Are Coming Off” single, released on June 12, 2018. Click for the larger image…

The most recent releases from Nights on Venus are the 2-song single, “The Wheels Are Coming Off“, released this past summer, and the 3-song single/EP, “Snow Day“, from December, 2017.

The most recent full-length release “We Are All Haunted by Something” was released in the summer of 2017 and includes the 2-song single “Speed of Life” and “Confirm Humanity (I’m Not a Robot)”. All albums/singles/EPs from Nights on Venus are available on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD Baby, Amazon MP3. and the NoV website.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.




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…

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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




state of the union, 2018… of vinyl…

In which I revisit a post of mine from 2 years ago (January, 2016) and also offer up the latest from the Discogs blog: The Future of Vinyl

In the very first paragraph from the latter comes this little tidbit: “The format has become a cultural identifier — a badge of honor amongst the millennials…”

And that’s all you really need to know. The tide has turned: millennials are on board. Perhaps even more telling was when I was shopping in Target this past Christmas season for the DVD of “Wild Hogs” (which I didn’t find) and came upon a section – a small section – of vinyl records of which David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars immediately caught my attention. On vinyl. In Target… in Arvada, Colorado. Unrepentant suburbia! My next thought: is Aladdin Sane here too? It was!

I didn’t even know Target (Tar-zhay) sold vinyl records… ever. Even back in the 1970s. They’ve been around that long and it wasn’t where I shopped for records back then. So something’s going on here…

Vinyl is enjoying a resurgence in the 20-teens.
Who would’ve thought?

But a vinyl record, as a format, is enduring. It has proven itself. Like Miles says of Cabernet wine in the movie “Sideways“… it’s a survivor. The same can be said of the CD format as well.

Listening to vinyl downstairs in the studio on a Sunday afternoon… the first albums of an all-80s blitz.

From the Discogs article, completely agree with Henry Rollins when he says: “Every house and apartment should have records and record players in them. Things would be better.” Yes, they would be. I may be against most aspects of mind-numbing American culture, but I am decidedly pro-vinyl.

Elsewhere in this excellent article, comes this from Michael Kurtz: “I work with indie record stores and they need to be profitable on what they buy and sell to succeed. Right now, they are stocking more vinyl and are selling more vinyl than before. They are also buying and selling more turntables than ever before.”

And this from Bob Peet of Audio-Technica, manufacturer of turntables: “We are also seeing new customers enter the category as our demographics shift slightly to a younger audience. Many of our new customers are looking for “experiences” in their daily lifestyles – experiencing analog sound, album art and liner notes – and a stronger sense of community by gathering friends to see and listen to their curated selections.”

And finally, from Jason Hicks of Aperion Audio: “We can debate why vinyl keeps surviving these onslaughts, is it actual vs perceived sound quality, the collectible nature, the intangible cool factor, but the fact remains, records simply will not go away.”

All of this is good news. It is especially good that younger generations are becoming familiar with the vinyl format, playing records on a turntable, and listening to quality sound recordings through a component system with high-quality audio speakers. This is the way music is supposed to be listened to… not over the tiny, tinny little speaker in your cell phone or through ear buds from a subscription service, a platform, whose existence is to only sell you… their platform.

I’m talking about Spotify of course… Here are a couple of recent articles that highlight the inherent problem with Spotify…
From Track Record:

And from the Trichordist: 

The basic problem with Spotify and other streaming services: the platform CANNOT be more important than the music.  That’s putting the proverbial cart before the horse. The main driver is always the musicdon’t let them fool ya. Without that, Spotify et al. wouldn’t have any reason for being.

Yes, it’s Sunday… Super Bowl Sunday. The annual exercise in overblown hype and spectacle here in the U.S. where, strangely enough, people look forward to and tune in to the commercials they usually put on mute the rest of the viewing year. The advertising industry has succeeded in conditioning (brainwashing) people into accepting this as “normal” for the “big game”. Well, they do employ subliminals y’know. Not watching and couldn’t care less. Still amazes me what people get used to and accept as normal.

Larimer St. street scene this morning… sort of reminiscent of an Edward Hopper painting…

I’m listening to the Dream Syndicate‘s album The Days of Wine and Roses from 1983 (which is a great album btw, and you should have it)… on vinyl, fairly loud, but not your-neighbor-can-hear-it-loud-and-calls-the-cops loud. Go find your favorite album, put it on, whether it’s on vinyl or CD, cassette, whatever, and just listen to it – hopefully you have a good stereo system – nothing else, no multi-tasking. Give that album the time and the true listening and full attention it deserves. We are all too distracted now.

Every house and apartment should have records and record players in them. Things would be better.

In LoDo, Denver, earlier this morning, near the ballpark…
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.

Cover artwork for “Unearthly”… photo/design by CCT
My two Reverends… “Goldenboy” on the left (a Rocco from 2002), and “Prince” (a Charger LE with the P-90 pickups from 2014) – not purple, but it came to me from Minnesota.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

“Everything popular is wrong.” – Oscar Wilde




Thank You For Appointing Me CEO of Spotify: Now a Strategic Plan to Fix the Service.

How to fix Spotify in 4 simple steps…. from David Lowery, reblogged from The Trichordist…

The Trichordist

The music business press has repeatedly criticized artists for not providing a solution for the problems with streaming.  Once you get past the amusing fact that it’s not our job nor are we paid to fix streaming services it does become a useful exercise.  Here is my response. 

I would like to thank the shareholders for appointing me CEO of Spotify. I am honored that you placed such great trust in my ability to navigate us through this difficult time.

I would like to make a few comments on the strategy pursued by my predecessor Daniel Ek.  I do this not to criticize my predecessor but to illustrate how my leadership of this company will vary significantly from his.

1.  Under my predecessor’s leadership Spotify pursued a scorched earth policy towards artists that criticized our company. This has been going on for some time.  In the past Spotify engaged surrogates and proxies to attack…

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#SXSW REWIND : Venture Capitalist Admits Artists Can Not Make A Living On Streaming Royalties…

Well there you have it… someone actually coming out and saying that no, artists cannot make money through the streaming services, which we already knew. Better start working on that design for a killer T-shirt. If you’re a musician/recording artist, there’s really only one thing to do here: pull your entire catalog OFF the streaming services if you haven’t done so already. Imagine artists leaving the streaming services en masse. No music, no business.


The Trichordist

The grand irony here is that the panel which asked the question “”Will Artists Make Money on Big Music Platforms?” not only reported that artists could not, but also suggested that artists needed to focus on selling concert tickets and merchandise. You know, things artists did BEFORE the internet.

We do admire the honesty of Hany Nada, Managing Partner GGV Capital who admitted during the SXSW Panel “Will Artists Make Money on Big Music Platforms?” that he believed that they would not be able to do so. He also added that the point of digital streaming platforms such as Pandora, Spotify, and others was promotion to help the artists tour, sell t-shirts and offer other non-digitally distributable “experiences” to fans (why is this sounding more and more like prostitution?).

At least Mr.Nada is honest, which is refreshing given that the man has more integrity than most of the executives…

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