Download Discrimination

Not too long ago* I said that I still prefer physical music releases over digital download. This has changed a bit in the meantime, as some artists simply stopped physical releases altogether, and other who don’t have the resources to do a physical release in the first place produce music that is just as good as those from “big names” in the scene.

There’s another nice thing about digital downloads: they are undoubtedly better for the environment. No plastic is needed for a CD case, no glue for a digipak, no dye and no ink to print a booklet, no paper either, no packaging material whatsoever, no airplanes and semis and postal delivery trucks burning fossil fuels are involved. It’s just some bits and bytes and electricity (which maybe is from wind or water or solar power, even). I think that’s a pretty big deal.

And then there’s this weird, weird thing to discriminate against digital downloads by putting more/different music on a physical release – on crippled media like vinyl or cassettes! Case in point: the lovely “Havfet” album by Thet Liturgiske Owäsendet, released on Low Point – either as a digital download, or as a physical release on a friggin’ C60 cassette. And the cassette, according to the Bandcamp page, “contains additional material and a longer running time than the digital download.”

Whiskey – Tango – Foxtrot!

Interestingly, Low Point charges the same for the digital download and the cassette. Shipping fees will be due of course, so there’s a difference for the buyer, but of course, someone has to handle everything that is involved in shipping a physical release, as well.

When I asked, Mr Hardwick from Low Point replied that this “distinction” was done at the request of the artists. So essentially, they’re producing music (undoubtedly in a digital-only home studio), create a mix, a digital master, and then putting an “analog restriction” on it. That’s just nonsensical. But they’re artists of course, it’s a way of communication.

I don’t think that in the age of the internet, this communication should only be allowed in one direction, so I told Mr Hardwick to send my regards to them: I’m buying neither the cassette nor the digital download because of that. And he seemed a little pissed off then, accusing me of being pissed off actually, suggesting that I don’t want to miss out on 90 seconds of extra music** (he even went as low as offering me a 20p [pence] discount on the download – bravo, that’s probably the… Low Point?!). Which is fine with me. Good luck selling cassettes.

Oh and one more thing: cassettes age, of course. My guess is that that’s really the thing the artists are after, somehow – to create something that doesn’t last. My suggestion: delete all of your work in progress and your masters then, please, so that buyers can be sure that there will never be a re-release if they really decide to give in to this BS.

And what happens when the stupid cassette is all worn out after a couple of years? It’ll end up in the trash, and in a landfill. Devil-may-care. Cassette culture? My ass.

It is such a wonderful thing that music is not restricted to any particular medium or method of “transportation” anymore, I wish artists wouldn’t use this false sense of conserving a “culture” when it is clearly just a marketing instrument.


*) not in internet time spans, in normal time spans 😉

**) if that’s the whole difference, then why advertise the cassette with “contains additional material [what additional material?!] and a longer running time than the digital download.”

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