THE AUSTERITY PROGRAM’S JUSTIN FOLEY ON THE FORMAT WARS (PART DEUX), TAP’S NEW EP, AND PAT ROBERTSON
I wanted to jot down a few quick thoughts based on the responses that people took the time to post on the last piece that I wrote.
Responses: I tallied up people’s responses and have charted them out below. While no one’s expecting something statistically robust (and this is [i]not[/i] statistically robust), I should note that this tally is what I could gather from what people who decided to respond said that they did (and that the responses are current as of Wednesday at about 5:30 my time). You will see that the percentages add up to more than 100% – this is because a bunch of folks reported that they get their music in more than one way. The “Purchase Other” category includes folks who said they purchase a digital download and at least one person said they buy cassettes.
Given all these technical caveats, I wouldn’t recommend any record executives base their next release schedule on this – a bunch of people didn’t respond and their behavior may be very different from those that did. And if someone reported that they Soulseek a hundred records, buy ten CDs and buy 1 vinyl record, they’re counted equally for each category. Still, I’m surprised to see that as many of those who did respond still say they value getting a CD; I assumed that it was dying a lot quicker than this suggests.
Anyway, big thanks to folks for sharing their perspectives on this.
Vinyl Sucks: There are a few different pieces to this and I’m going to say that I disagree pretty strongly overall. Vinyl does three things very well. First, it gives the artist a chance to put together the visual artwork on a larger scale and CD or digital download; we’re currently paying a lot of attention to that for our next release. Included with this is the ability to put cool free shit into the record sleeve. I once got a Chick Tract, which was great.
Second, the sound quality of vinyl is unsurpassed. This is not to say that every person who has a record player and some digital reproduction device can show this for every record they’ve got. There are shitty pressings of records, records that have not been kept well, lousy record players, etc. But I sat down last night to listen to the test pressings of the EP we’re putting out. I will tell you that the vinyl was a closer representation of what I have heard on the ½” analog master tape than the 16-bit CD .aiff version that the same mastering engineer sent to me two weeks ago. It’s not warmer, it’s not punchier – it’s a more accurate reproduction (taking into account the gentle compression the mastering engineer put on both the vinyl and CD versions).
At the same time, I’ll concede that I don’t hear that difference as clearly as some say they do and I have a bunch of CDs that sound very, very good. Our last record was not available on vinyl and I didn’t feel like we were ripping people off by giving them the music on CD.
Third, pretend that I’ve got a time machine, a Magnum .44 and a strong hatred for you. I approach you and say “I’ve got four versions of the song ‘Push It’ by Salt ‘n Pepa: the 7” single, the CD single, a USB memory stick with a .wav and a coupon to download it from iTunes. I’m going to step into my time machine and go 50 years into the future and find you. Pick a format – you need to play back that version in 10 minutes of my finding you or I will shoot you in your left kneecap. Then I will move up and shoot you in your right hip. Then I will spin you to the side and shoot the tip – just the tip – of your chin off …”
Like I said – pretend that I really hate you. Anyway, which version would you bet will definitely be in good enough shape to reliably play back in a half century?
I’ll be brief (for once) and say I believe it would be the simple and robust analog technology of the record. The claims that people made around vinyl being eaten by record needles need more evidence and run entirely counter to my 25+ year history of owning and listening to records. If you’ve really got a bee in your bonnet about this subject, I’d encourage you to check out this thread on the TapeOp message board where I go back and forth with a fella for a while. Those who really want to get schooled can read Steve Albini’s excellent points on the Electrical Audio forum. In both cases, we’re talking about the advantages of analog sound recording but the basic lesson is the same here.
Our EP: We are releasing it as a CD, an incredibly beautiful sounding 45 RPM 12” record, a digital download and a Data DVD. The Data DVD will have 24-bit versions of each song, as well as .wav files of each of the tracks for each song so that you can remix it to your heart’s content. (“Let’s bring the drums up and bring Justin’s singing way, way down…”) The winner did correctly “guess” the formats after reading our label’s Tweets to the world about the release formats. Sheesh.
Pat Robertson: This guy simply has to be the biggest asshole in all of recorded history, right? There are people trapped under rubble struggling to live at the same time he’s blaming them for it. Astonishing.
Participate in the format wars by visiting The Austerity Program on MySpace.