Robb Flynn Expands on Anti-CD Comments
A couple of weeks ago Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn — whose band is now between record labels — sparked an intense debate when he proclaimed “I’ll never buy another physical CD again” in a lengthy personal journal in which he also extolled the virtues of streaming services such as Spotify. Now he’s posted a follow-up journal entry [via The PRP] in which he responds to some of the reactions to the original post. Flynn also talks about Gojira (he loves them), the NAMM Show (he hates it), his recent acoustic performances (he had a blast) and more, so you should definitely read his whole post. But here’s the portion that’s relative to the topic at hand:
Well you guys have spoken, and actually continue to speak as I still get emails pouring into my inbox. Quite a passionate response about this subject and deservedly so. Apparently my comments caused quite a stir.
Just to expand on my thoughts a bit:
Look, I’m in a band, I’ve lived on a bus/van/plane for well over 25 years of my life now. I live out of a suitcase, that resides on a tour bus, with 10 people (imagine a studio apartment on wheels, with 9 roommates) for 10 months out of a year at times. My life needs to be efficient, it needs to be compact, it needs to be portable. Sure, I used to carry a big-ass CD wallet everywhere with beer-soaked, scratched up CD’s and it was a pain, so yeah, the Spotify / iTunes world fits me perfect.
But, I also realize this isn’t most people’s life.
Most people don’t need the portability I do. Lot’s of people said they love iTunes and streaming. Lot’s of people said they would like a CD, and of course, for the time being we will continue to sell CD’s. That’s never been a question, as long as there are stores to stock CD’s, we will sell CD’s. And with Bandcamp.com and HDfiles.com offering CD quality and higher files, that’s a cool thing the future is bringing to files. But also, as I’m sure as most of you know, stores to purchase CD’s are getting harder and harder to find. HMV (the last UK based CD chain) just closed shop, FNAC and Virgin France just closed. Here in the US Best Buy has cut CD rack space down from 24 racks to 4 racks!
I have a ritual I’ve done for every release since Burn My Eyes in 1994, where first day I go in and buy our album. Call it good luck or whatever, I love my rituals. But believe you me, I was stunned, STUNNED, when I went into Ameoba Records in Hollywood (I was in LA on the Jason Ellis show day of release) and saw our regular album NOT on sale, but full price for $16.99. I spent $40 bucks buying the 2 editions. It was wrong, it’s supposed to be on sale the first week / first month. You reward the die-hards, reward the Head Cases for going out there and supporting you first day/week/month. It’s a thank you. We were pissed and fans weren’t stoked. Shit like this has to change, it has to, and we as a band (with your help) have to figure out a way around it.
I would argue that a helluva lot of people do need the same portability of music that Robb does, or at least expect it. Namely anyone under the age of 20 who came of age at a time when downloading was the norm; they just don’t see any value in having a physical disc with music on it. This is neither a good or a bad thing; it is just a fact. Pit portability against “holdability”/artwork and the younger generation (as well as some of us olds like me and Robb) will choose portability every time. This trend will only become more pronounced as anyone left who still buy physical CDs grows older and buys less music overall while a new generation comes in to replace them.
After I ran the last article on Flynn’s journal, a metal record label executive emailed me to start a friendly debate on the topic (he is, obviously, pro-CD) and accused me of coming off as anti-CD in tone, almost rooting for the CD to disappear faster than it already is. I thought about that and I realized he was right — oftentimes these articles do read that way — so I reflected on why that may be. Here’s the response I sent to him pretty much verbatim, edited slightly for context: essentially, it doesn’t feel good to root for a loser. Not that I’m jumping ship just because my team is losing, far from it, I’m no fair-weather fan; but there’s no sense in holding on to the past simply because it’s comfortable when the future has its own plusses too, and those plusses often trump the negatives. I see that digital music offers an advantage (to me, portability and convenience), and I’m not holding onto the past just because it’s comfortable and it’s what I know. No one except those invested in the horse-and-buggy industry were rooting for it to carry on once automobiles were invented. No one except oil tycoons and those with investments in oil companies roots for us to drill the shit out of our planet for the black stuff when we know there are cleaner, better energy solutions available. No one wants to root for this quaint old CD format when it’s a burden to carry them all around and when digital files can ultimately give us the same music. No one wants to trump up any old technology, and that’s what the music industry has been doing for the better part of 15 years now, burying its head in the sand and refusing to move on.