More and more I’ve been seeing “think pieces” popping up about physical media -vinyl in particular- and how people are proclaiming how they’re getting rid of them in place of streaming digital media. Hey, whatever makes more room for your heirloom tomato plants and unread books by Bataille. But let’s look at your logic for doing so. Perched atop my own soap box, let me tell you what’s wrong about your generalization and how your attitude is fucking toxic for the musicians you claim to love.
Most recently was the Metalsucks piece on getting rid of vinyl (which focused a lot on CDs for a vinyl piece) and how records are more of a fetishized collector’s item. I will tend to agree with oversaturation being a big issue for the music industry, vinyl in particular, because the major labels have figured out this shit is back in vogue and are shoving out everything that they still own the rights to in massive quantities. But I cannot agree when they basically mock someone for their chosen format and their own personal reasons for their preference. Opinions are like assholes, not everyone’s is worth jerking off to on the internet.
The author talks about still wanting to support the artists and thus uses streaming services like Spotify with the exaggeration that everything ever recorded is somewhere online. That statement is based in truth, but it’s such a small bit of truth even politicians would feel guilty for using it. Everyone remembers Pharrell Williams earwig nuisance “Happy”, right? That song fucking dominated everything that it got it’s moist and obnoxious notes into, and through the streaming service Pandora this bullshit managed 43 million plays. You know how much revenue he made from this? $3k. Now considering that virtually every other song you can think of has a much smaller fanbase, how much money do you think your favorite band made from your six plays on Spotify? Sure, streaming services make life for fans convenient and there’s less guilt than if you hopped onto some Russian site and downloaded their leaked album with a side of weird home invasion porn, but you’re not doing a fucking thing to actually help the bands. As for everything everything being available somewhere, you’re banking on the one person who uploaded it not to fuck it up and upload it to high quality. Or that it doesn’t get taken down by the copyright owner. Or that your internet connection doesn’t shit out during the second chorus. Any of these and the rest of the cornucopia of potential problems, while not world ending, serve to be a fucking annoyance. You’re counting on someone uploading it at all. You’ve taken personal responsibility entirely out of the game.
Bandcamp has a good model for those of you who are entirely into the digital game and want to actually directly support the bands you’re into. But that doesn’t get mentioned much in these pieces because there is the subtle text in between the lines that discourages paying for anything. It’s called righteous self-entitlement.
Bands have it hard enough in the more independent scenes. In order to continually deliver music to the world, there has to be a near endless cycle of touring, merchandising, and working soul-rushing jobs in order to finance activity. I will never say every band out there deserves your money because they’re killing themselves for their art, mostly because hard work doesn’t mean good music or even music you’ll connect with. But I do urge that the next time you want to publicly proclaim you support a band or label but stream or pirate their music, please just consider shutting the fuck up. Methane is killing the ozone enough already without your horseshit ripping another hole through it.
We all purchase music in different formats for different reasons. I won’t sit here and tell you one thing is superior to another because fortunately, I don’t have to live your life. But to put a statement out there that vinyl itself is a useless waste of space is insulting and irresponsible. Does everyone who says they prefer vinyl because of the warmer sound actually believe it? Does everyone who buys vinyl actually listen to it? Of course not, but it’s not your fucking place to chastise people because you feel self-important for getting rid of your collection. Same goes with being flabbergasted that people still release and purchase CDs. Having a smug sense of superiority because people still use formats you’ve discarded is asinine. Getting rid of something in your life is not an accomplishment unless it’s cancer or you moved a 400 pound corpse out of your basement. No one is going to pat you on the back for it.
Sure vinyl is a pain in the ass. You have to stand up and get your face out of your laptop to flip the side and I understand how that could really impact your day. But what about the labels that press vinyl and the stores that make their living and create a culture through selling it? The average wait these days to have something pressed has gone from around six weeks to a few months ever since the majors and Record Store Day hopped in. That’s a long time to have that amount of money tied up for a small label, especially if they’re doing it out of the love of music and not because someone on CNBC said “vinyl is back!”
And what about indie record stores? You understand that, on the most basic level, they contribute to the local economy through offering jobs and paying on resources, right? What about on a deeper level? As a place where people gather and find out, through actual verbal communication, about new bands and find out about shows? The indie store is a wealth for that because it’s physical. There’s a reason 100 people RSVP’d to your Facebook event invite but only 35 showed. It’s a culture that you won’t find on some forum or chat group. It might even work better than OkCupid for some of you less introverted types.
I’m glad you’re simplifying your life. Whatever makes you happy. High fucking five. But don’t sit there and smugly spout half-truths to try to make your conscience a calmer place. This goes for everyone who’s sitting down with a nice cup of cruelty free fair trade herbal tea to write something similar. I’m not discouraging you from it, I’m discouraging you from acting as though you’re still helping support artists and labels through the most minimal involvement you could engage in.
Also, stop saying “vinyls.” You look like an asshole.