Physical Media

I have a lot of nostalgia for physical copies of albums. I will always remember buying cassettes and pulling out the cover insert and loving it when they included lyrics and details about the band. These were precious glimpses into another world. I would put on headphones and read it all. The best thing about cassettes was that I didn't have to wait for the DJ to play my favorite song, I was in control! The first time a cassette was ruined I cried all day. It was pretty easy to ruin cassettes, but most of mine lasted a long time. I made sure to keep them in their cases and away from sun, hot cars and magnets.

One day my sister came home with a CD. It was fascinating to me, like a mini record but read by a laser instead of a needle…it was like Star Wars and music (my two loves) united! I was skeptical though, “what's the big deal anyway?” I asked. Skipping tracks. That was a BIG deal. You didn't have to rewind and fast forward a bunch of times to find the beginning of your favorite song? A push of a button and you could jump all around the album. Fantastic! Then I realized the other advantage, the cover insert. It was much bigger than the cassette inserts and those lyrics were much easier to read and the pictures were much easier to see. I LOVED it. 

My only problem with CDs was that even used ones were close to $10 and I didn't have a lot of extra money. For that reason I drifted to vinyl records. I could buy three used records for the same cost as one used CD. And the artwork was HUGE! Generally if there were inserts they were gone by the time I bought the album, but there was still lots of cool artwork and info on the fold out records. After years of doing this I realized a box of vinyl could hurt your back. I moved my collection about six times before getting sick of it. I donated most of it to friends and kept only my favorite 100 or so. I was back to CDs.

Then, the MP3 happened. It was so cool to carry my whole library in my pocket. I even bought a USB record player to convert some of my favorite vinyl. It was a bit of a pain though so that didn't last long. Fast forward ten years or so and now my car doesn't have a CD player - arg! I use the radio and my phone for everything. For this reason I finally stopped buying CDs in 2020. I now am back to vinyl as long as I get an digital version included with it, because I listen to digital music WAY more often than I listen to vinyl. 

As an artist, I hated buying CDs in bulk because you often ended up with a box full of the things in your garage. So much plastic. I made a few albums that I didn't promote, just made them to make them and gave copies to friends. At first the smallest package you could buy was 100 copies, which was way to much for me. I eventually made them at home, it was a fair bit of work, but the end product was pretty close to the quality of the professionals and much cheaper since I could just make 20. Now you can find more short run duplication options, which is great, however I discovered another option that works for me even better - duplication on demand. I only know one company that does it, Kunaki. They apparently are a Brooklyn, NY company, but the manufacturing is in Nevada, at least for my orders in California. The way it works is they keep your album in their system and as soon as an order comes in, they start manufacturing. It can be just a single copy. It's pretty cool to see the status as the order processes, if I put in an order this minute, the cover will be printed about five minutes later and the disc usually within 24 hours. I love that I don't have to buy a bunch of copies and have them sitting around while I try to sell. Instead, I can just have link on my website and customers can buy directly from them, with the proceeds going into my PayPal. I still buy copies directly because you will sell more at gigs etc. if you have them on hand. I usually just buy about 10 at a time when my inventory at home is almost gone and they arrive within a week. The quality is good, my only complaint is the spine spacing is a little off and that bugs me - not enough to drop them though, it's such a cool service! 

So to recap, physical media is dead. Long live physical media!