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Why I Hate Downloading Music

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

I’m sitting in on trumpet with another band at a gig tomorrow. The bassist (and head ‘chart maker’) just sent the horn section a Dropbox link to the charts and mp3s as a refresher to listen to before the gig.

I clicked the mp3 link hoping it would open a player and I could just play the song quickly and listen as a refresher. It didn’t. It gave me the option to add to my Dropbox (which is already past capacity) or download it.

Let’s discuss the effort it takes to download a song. First, I click the download button. Depending on the size (for god’s sake please don’t send me wav files) it takes about 10 seconds to download. Then I have to find this song in the folder it downloaded to. Sometimes it’s not in the Download folder – I don’t get it either. Ok. Found it. Now I have to open it in iTunes. Oh shit, iTunes isn’t open. There goes another 30 seconds. I could just hit space bar and preview it on my Mac, but I’m running out the door and want to listen to it in my car on the drive to a lunch meeting.

Ok it’s in iTunes. The song isn’t labeled. So I have to label it. Oh there are 5 songs? Ok, now I have to label all five songs. Another minute of time wasted. Now I have to transfer it to the playlist I synch with my iPhone, plug my iPhone in, wait for the fucking Backup (even though I just backed it up) and for it to go through all 27 steps of its process. I’m now late for my lunch.
+Don’t Be Late. Ever.

Downloading music will not exist in 10 years.

It will all be streaming. But we’re not quite there now. Now we’re in a purgatory where no one knows what to do. The fans want to support their favorite indie artists the best they can. Hell, artists don’t even know the best way for their fans to support them. Uh, come to our show. Oh you live in Australia? Uh buy our CD. Oh, you don’t have a disc drive in your new Mac Book Pro and it’s going to cost us HOW MUCH to ship? I guess download our album from BandCamp. You don’t use BandCamp? Ok I guess get it from iTunes, even though we only get 61% of that sale. Fuck it. Here’s a PayPal Donate button. Thanks!

I also hate downloading music because I don’t want it take up any more space on my already overcapacity iPhone and Macbook. Hard drive space is precious!

A lot of people still like downloading music from iTunes, though. It’s neat. It’s easy. Their credit card is already registered. It’s one click. It synchs to their iPhone. They can download from their iPhone. They own it (kind of. whatever ownership really means).

They preview the songs in YouTube, Spotify, Soundcloud or the artist’s Facebook BandPage and then, if they love it, they’ll buy it. Hell, my brother will buy music off of the 90 second previews in iTunes he stumbled upon from a Facebook ad. But not me. And not anyone in 10 years (probably 5).

I haven’t downloaded a song from iTunes since I got my Spotify subscription.

As a fan, I love Spotify. I love being able to listen to full albums. Many full albums. Beautifully (and simply) laid out in one location. I like the experience of hearing what the artist intended me to hear in its entirety. Not just singles. The full album. I know I’m in the minority. Oh well – there are still those who love listening to full albums like me (I hope)! I can listen to 10 albums a month if I want (for $10, not $100). If it sucks, I’m not pissed I spent $10 on it. If it’s amazing, I’ll listen 10 more times.

As an artist, yeah, I’d love fans to BUY and DOWNLOAD my music because I get that money up front.

Well 45 days later if it’s iTunes. Close enough. But downloading seems very shortsighted. Fans can’t really share mp3 downloads. Who’s going to email an attached mp3 “check out this song!” No, they’ll post a SoundCloud or YouTube link on your Facebook profile.
+CD Baby, Tunecore, Ditto, Mondotunes or Reverbnation (Digital Distribution)

Once T-Mobile wipes out the competition and is able to offer uninterrupted, lightning speed internet access from the phone, people will jump to Spotify. Today, streaming is too shoddy. How can you get into a song if it pauses to load every 10 seconds? Having a song downloaded on the phone is 100%. Rock out with your… friends.

Then again, you can make Spotify songs available offline…whatever. People are slow.

So how do artists make money off of their music? What should you encourage your fans to buy?

Honestly, physical merchandise is the way of the future (and the past).

Moving to such a digital, phone absorbed world, we humans still crave tactile objects.

I’m releasing Vinyl with my new release (out March 29th!!). I’m going to offer pre-orders beginning March 1st. I predict many people will order the Vinyl. Many more people than actually own record players. Why? The same reason I stocked up on vinyl records long before I had a turntable; they’re fun to hold and display! A TRUE sense of ownership – non of this digital bullcrap.

When a fan asks how best to support you, be ready to sell them a Tshirt, vinyl record, CD, thong, coffee mug, trucker hat, hoodie, whatever. Invest in physical merch! It’s the way of the future.

+Yes, You Need Tshirts.

About the Author

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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