Blitzkrieg #11: Just buy the damn thing!


The YouTube video above is of Suffocation guitarist Guy Marchais buying his band’s recently released seventh album, Pinnacle of Bedlam, at his local FYE. I myself attempted to do the same thing last night, except FYE didn’t have it and even though Best Buy‘s website said they had it in stock, it was nowhere to be found when I got there, and none of the employees wanted to help me (I saw the clerk I approached for assistance say “fuck” under his breath as I walked towards him; your customer service technique leaves a lot to be desired there, Poindexter); I probably won’t be going back there for anything, ever (sadly these are the only two options for buying metal in Des Moines, the one independent record store we have doesn’t know what the fuck heavy metal is). On top of this, Nuclear Blast for whatever reason isn’t down to supply THKD with promos in spite of my best efforts to work with them (the Fleshgod Apocalypse interview HERE and a Lock Up interview that was never returned). So, in spite of this being what I consider to be a pretty major new metal release that should be available everywhere, it looks like I’ll be Amazon-ing it up to get my Suffo-fix.

Personal bitching about the sad state of my local CD shops aside, that’s not the point of Mr. Marchais’ video. The point is that the artist in question would appreciate it if you bought his record, rather than stealing it, and I completely agree with his point of view. Hey, I know firsthand how easy and tempting it is to go download an album for free from some janky-ass Russian blogspot, and I also know that more and more bands are giving their music away for free via outlets such as Bandcamp, but that doesn’t make it ok to rip off the bands that are trying to make a living off of their music. In the industry I work in, if someone doesn’t pay, we deny them the products and services we provide, simple as that. Why should the music industry be any different?

I guess I’ll never understand the mentality of not wanting to support the bands you love. Suffocation is one of my all-time favorite death metal bands, and I’d buy a copy of their new album whether I got a promo of it or not. Same goes for Darkthrone’s new album, which actually leaked before I even got the promo. Ripping off the bands you love is like stealing from your best friends. Now, I will admit that I have downloaded albums from my favorite bands when I didn’t get a promo and the anticipation of hearing their new album was too much to take, but then I went right out and bought the damn thing as soon as it was available for purchase. I’ve come to realize however that this is still an incredibly shitty thing to do, because the more people download no matter what the intention, the more these sheisty bootleggers are going to keep leaking albums, and even though I’m going out and buying the album, there are still probably hundreds or even thousands of others who aren’t.

All that said, there have also been plenty of times where I waited until release day, because as silly or quaint or even naive as it may sound, I still cherish that feeling of going out and buying an album from one of my favorite bands without having heard a single note; the anticipation as you struggle with the fucking shrink-wrap, the euphoria that washes over you as it blares out of your speakers and you start headbanging and going apeshit. Isn’t that what the band really intended after all? We might not realize it in the age of teaser tracks and exclusive album streams prior to release day, but I think deep down every band wants us to experience their art in this fashion. It’s something that has become all but lost, and unauthorized downloads + the culture that has sprung up around the practice are likely going to destroy it forever.

392138_10152024091414298_910031045_nOf course there’s the now age-old argument of “the music industry is dying because they won’t adapt to the advancing technology, evolve or die, blah blah blah.” I used to go along with this argument too, but at this point I think we can all agree that it’s total bullshit. Bigger metal labels like Season of Mist, Relapse and Earache have begun to embrace cutting edge digital platforms such as Bandcamp and Spotify, as well as a host of smaller labels such as Debemur Morti and Hammerheart. A lot of metal fans in my circle have really come to love Bandcamp, and I highly recommend checking out the excellent Metal Bandcamp blog, which is the only site I know of that’s fully dedicated to covering the genre and the platform in tandem.

I still prefer buying music in physical formats and luckily there are about a million online distros out there offering every metal album under the sun on CD, vinyl and sometimes even cassette if you’re so inclined. Not only that, but new CDs from the bigger metal labels are cheap, usually between $7.99 and $9.99 for the regular editions; surely even your sorry ass can afford to cough up the dough. If all else fails, there’s always the dreaded Amazon and eBay which host a variety of new and used options. Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Hit up the awesome Metal Detektor search engine; it’s just about guaranteed to be able to locate a copy of any album you wish and allows you to compare prices between multiple distros. It also looks for shirts, patches and the whole shebang.

At this point, there’s no reason whatsoever for you to not be able to legally listen to/purchase music online in whatever format you choose, and anything less is being either a cheap bastard or a fucking scumbag thief or both. I worked in retail for around 15 years; I once chased a crackhead that had packages of ribeye steaks stuffed down his pants for a block (before he kicked it into crackhead hyperspeed and left me in the dust; he still didn’t get away with the steaks, but that’s a whole other story). Call me biased, but there are few things I despise more than thieves. This isn’t some moral high horse I’m riding, this is the cold hard truth about supporting and giving something back to the artists that have provided all of us with so much enjoyment over the years, and in some cases even enriched our lives beyond mere entertainment.

Unfortunately the dawn of Napster and the MP3 format ushered in an age of selfishness, thievery and entitlement that I’m not sure we as a culture can ever dig ourselves out of. Things do seem to be ever-so-slowly moving in the right direction, and I know that metal fans are and will always be far more loyal and supportive than any other music fans in existence, but I also know there’s still widespread music pilfering afoot in our beloved scene, most likely being perpetrated by shitty human beings/all-around douchebags that are in it for the wrong reasons and need to be weeded out. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to download something for free… I know I will be.

9 thoughts on “Blitzkrieg #11: Just buy the damn thing!

  1. I agree with all of this, except for the part of preferring physical formats, but you know that :) Oh, and thanks for the mention. I would buy the Suffocation album in a heartbeat if it were on Bandcamp,

    Don’t know if you saw this but A389 did something about one of the pirate blogs:

    “Open discussion time: I woke up to a few angry people overseas blowing up our twitter being upset that thelastdisaster.net was shut down. I’ve emailed this blog numerous times politely asking them not to post unreleased records. I’d leave comments and they’d delete them. What’s worse is you follow the download links and be forced to go through ad prompts that would collect them revenue with each click. Enough was enough and a bunch of us reported their website and now they are down.

    DIY labels are real people that lay a lot of our own money and time on the line to do what we do. Yet we are vilified for standing up for ourselves when people outright and blatantly steal from us and screw us over, as if it’s something to be proud of. These are people who proclaim to love and support underground music. But in reality they are shaking your hand with one hand, and stabbing you with the other. I’ve been reminded about this firsthand recently, about a few of our ‘supporters’.

    I for one am tired of being pushed around and treated like a faceless entity. We’re real people who spend real money and real time (which is super hard to find/precious these days) so these records can exist. If you’re clever enough to rip our releases for your personal use, more power to you. BUT I will never support anyone who posts downloads to our releases without our permission in order to generate traffic and/or ad revenue. If I have the chance to stop you, I will.

    ALL our releases are available listen to for FREE below. If the album isn’t there it’s because it’s not out yet and we’re not ready to post it.

    http://a389recordings.bandcamp.com/

    Use it, share it and most of all, make sure the traffic and revenue comes back to where it started, so that we can keep releasing awesome records. Thanks for caring.

    DR/A389″

    More labels and bands should do this.

  2. “I once chased a crackhead that had packages of ribeye steaks stuffed down his pants for a block…”

    Ahahahaha…christ.

  3. I’m all for buying music, and especially physical, but I don’t know where you’re getting your 9.99$ albums. I went and checked the prices for the latest Suffocation on pretty much every online store (the French ones, cuz that’s where I live) and it’s was around $20 for the CD, and I’m not including shipping. Vinyl was way worse. I went to the Nuclear Blast store, same thing. So yeah, I guess you can say it’s not a lot of money, but that’s only true if you’re interested in a handful of bands. For those whose taste is not focused on a few bands or a single genre, you have no choice but to listen before buying.

    It’s a bit easy for reviewers (professional or not) who probably get a ton of promo music directly from the labels to tell people to buy without listening. Can you imagine someone buying every album in your 2012 top 100 at 15$ or 20$ each without hearing a single note beforehand? Yeah I don’t either. Taking chances sounds cool but wasting money on too many bands because you trusted reviews is a bit less cool and you start trusting your own ears more than journalists. I totally get that bands want us to buy their music but if they don’t give people a way to hear it they can’t complain if they don’t. Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for “if you like it you buy it” but I’m not gonna blindly purchase everything based on reviews or reputation, so let me hear your shit and then if it’s great enough I’ll buy it.

  4. I don’t know why this subject still gets people so riled up. The genie’s out of the bottle, we’re never going back to the old business model. People simply have to adapt and find new ways of making money…if that’s what’s important to them.

  5. @MaxR – I had not seen that note about A389, thank you very much for sharing. I do think that part of the problem is that these metal/hardcore/whatever labels complain about piracy, but they don’t seem to be taking any real action against it. I’m guessing most of them lack the resources? Anyway, I’m glad to see at least one taking a real stand, but the problem with shutting down only one of these blogs is that there are like a million of them out there.

    @garnles – you made a couple points I want to address…

    RE: CD/vinyl prices, I’m going strictly by US prices, so I can’t speak for anything outside of that. Both Best Buy and Amazon were offering the new Suffocation for $9.99/regular edition and $11.99/special edition… FYE is typically a few dollars more. Best Buy was also selling the new Voivod for $7.99, the new Enslaved for $9.99. Those are just a few examples.

    Of my top 20 of 2012, I paid money for half of them, and of the honorable mentions I paid money for half of them as well, the other half were promos. As a reviewer, I do get many digital promos, but I also shell out plenty of money for CDs and it also costs me money to keep this blog afloat, so it’s not all happy freebies. My buying history with distros such as Relapse, The End, Hells Headbangers and Nuclear War Now! is extensive, and when I make pilgrimages to cities with real record stores (Minneapolis, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, etc), I’ve been known to drop well into the hundreds of dollars. I’ve put a ton of my own $$$ into the metal scene… just ask my wife.

    I’m not suggesting that everyone should buy every album without hearing any of it and just relying on reviews to make their buying decisions. What I’m saying is that I’m nostalgic for the time when that was a regular occurrence. When I was first getting into metal, you didn’t have the option to online and hear the full album; if you were lucky you might hear a song or two on Headbanger’s Ball, otherwise you had to rely on reviews and word of mouth to guide your purchases. When your favorite band put out a new album, you often had no choice but to just buy it if you wanted to hear it at all. Part of loving a band was to put your trust in them when they came out with something new.

    @UA – Oh man, the shoplifter stories I could tell you… And RE: the genie being out of the bottle, you’re absolutely right, and I do think the business model has started to change, although it is moving at a glacial pace. Whether it will change rapidly enough to keep record labels from dying out, I’m not so sure.

  6. I know that many of the bands that I like probably make next to nothing from their music and probably have day jobs just like me to make ends meet so I make it a point to buy all of my music. I also like collecting things so I NEED to have the physical product. It’s the OCD in me, I suppose.

  7. One of my favorite arguments is the whole “victimless crime” thing.

    In your grocery store, there are maybe twenty packages of steaks. If someone takes one without paying, then you can only have nineteen to sell instead of twenty.

    If you have an album of MP3s transferred digitally, theoretically there are infinite downloads available, and if someone takes one without paying, there are still an infinite amount available.

    These people want me to turn into an economics professor. That pack of ribeyes may be $5.99/lb (on sale), but that doesn’t represent just the price of one pound of beef. Someone somewhere had to raise that cow, someone had to slaughter it, someone had to transport it to your store, the butcher had to cut it into steaks, the store manager needs to pay all the cashiers and shelf-stockers, and the electric bill for keeping the lights on and the refrigerators cold.

    The same thing can be said about a CD store — someone wrote the music, played it, someone recorded it, mixed and mastered it. Pressed it onto a disc, shipped it to your store, where they also have cashiers and electric bills (and rent for the space at the mall, etc.), all of which get factored into the 9.99 or 14.99 or whatever purchase price.

    Take away the store, and you reduce the retail overhead costs, but by mail order (by which I mean online shopping), you still have people packing and shipping your order; they had to transport the product to the distributor, and there are equipment costs (computers, internet hosting and maintenence, etc.), on top of the base costs for recording and manufacturing the CDs.

    Take away the CDs and you eliminate all transportation costs and all physical material costs. But those were both a small part of the CD price. You still have the artist, producer, engineer (and studio owner), mixer, masterer, the record label (or not, sometimes), the PR folks and advertising costs [when you download something for free, it never occurs to you that it was someone’s job to make you aware of that thing you downloaded, does it??], plus equipment (computer, internet) costs.

    Most of the costs are still there with a download vs physical media. So you can’t compare the fact that you are not physically reducing an inventory by stealing one unit of this particular product. Think about those zeros and ones as a service instead of comparing with tangible goods. For example, a teacher or a lawyer or a tax accountant.

    Or a DJ maybe. A DJ needs to pay for equipment and music and advertising and transportation to events and dry cleaning, not to mention just general living expenses. If he goes to a wedding and plays music for four hours, then they refuse to pay him, is THAT a victimless crime? He still has all his equipment and his music, he didn’t lose any “inventory”, he still has a relatively unlimited ability to sell his DJing services. No one has really LOST anything tangible in this scenerio. Someone tell me how theft of recorded music is OK but theft of someone’s labor/services is not OK.

  8. @THKD : I’m really jealous of the prices you guys are getting.

    As for the rest of your answer, I have to be honest and say I am not at all nostalgic of the pre-internet model. Maybe it was great for some people living in cities with a good record store or decent radio stations but as far as I’m concerned I remember what it was like when MTV was the only way to discover music and my musical horizon being limited to a few bands and genres, with no access to all the fantastic stuff I got to find out thanks to internet, and yeah I’ll say it, thanks to filesharing. I sure as hell do not want to go back to that time. At the end of the day I spend WAY more money on music now that I did back then and this is mainly due to all this music being available on the internet.

  9. I can totally understand the nostalgia for pre-internet days. Underground metal had a sense of danger and mystery to it back then. The internet killed all of that. There was also less garbage to wade through to find good music. You had to take more chances, but they were often rewarding. Plus, you could trust the labels a lot more. In the early ’90s, you could blindly purchase just about anything from Century Media, Nuclear Blast, or Earache and it was guaranteed to be great.

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