burn them and you only burn us out.

in a recent interview i was asked about how i felt about burning cd's bur who ever thought that burning CD's would turn into such a moral debate? this issue is simply one of the considerations those who download CD's illegally must consider when doing so. Here is why it hurts artists when you burn CD's:

Much like any other business or financial institution the music business is simply out to make money. If a product is not making money, then that product is discontinued. If a particular product such as a children's toy has waned in popularity and young kids stop buying that toy, then the makers cease to invest in that particular model and a new and different product is introduced. But if the product is in high demand the company will pour more money into marketing and development, and future toys of that nature will be expounded upon and developed.

It is the same with the music business. If a band is selling records then the company is willing to pour money into that band; they pour that money into the bands marketing, distribution, touring dollars and a bigger budget to record their next record. BUYING A RECORD IS LIKE CASTING A VOTE!!! If you want to see your favorite bands succeed go out and buy their record. You see, if no one buys the albums of the bands that you enjoy, then that band will be dropped from their label, and there’s a good chance you would never hear from them again.

Basically here is a rough sketch to how it works: If a band sells 50,000 records then they are allotted about 50,000 dollars to record their next record. So if everyone burned a CD instead of buying it the band may sell only 25,000 records, which sounds like a lot, but $25,000 isn't that much money when your talking about trying to make a well produced, mixed and packaged record. To put it in perspective, Korn spent over one million on just the producer alone on their last record, and pop musicians can easily spend double that on their records.

This also plays into touring. Do you want to see your favorite band live? Then buy their record so their label will give them money to tour (which is where the majority of musician’s money comes from). Contrary to popular belief, indie bands do not make as much money as one would think. The average musician on the basic indie label (Drive Thru, The Nail, Jade Tree) could make more money a year working part time at McDonald's then being in a full time touring band. Don't believe me? Ask your favorite indie band next time you see them on the road. The average indie band member makes less then half the poverty rate in America. This is not a tangent to make you feel sorry for us (after all we are living out our dreams), it is simply a request to please buy our t-shirts, come to our shows and buy our record! Because without your support we cannot survive.

I heard one individual tell me recently that he burns CD's because he heard that artists see very little of the CD sale if any. While this may be true to some point, follow me on this cycle: If we don't sell albums we won't be given money to make another one; if we don't sell records we cant go out on tour (again, which is where we make our money to live); if we don't sell records we don't get marketing money which tells you when our album is coming out and when/where our next show is in your area.

If you are seriously against giving record labels your money then please come to the band’s shows and buy our CD from us at the shows. Not only do we receive more money than if you would buy them at retail stores, but they also count towards our final sales numbers.

In conclusion: cast a vote for your favorite bands, and then go out and buy their CD. However, if you burn their album then you eventually burn them out of existence.


alonsa said…
After working in the music scene and knowing indie bands I know it is true. I started buying pretty much all of my cds at shows and have more t-shirts than anyone should. I have friends that burn cds and it drives me crazy. It hit me when a band I was working merch for got excited that they sold enough to buy gas to make to their next destination. It is a tough business.
Moe said…
So let's say I wanted to buy your older cd (I already bought the new one from you at your show in Chicago)...but I'd rather buy it directly from you...how would I go about doing that?
Tracy said…
Good points! I don't burn CDs, but I know people who do. It's much better to just buy it for the reasons you stated (not to mention, the quality is so much better)! I am wondering though, how much of the sales do you guys actually see if the CDs and merchandise are bought from your label's website versus at the shows? Also, if someone can't make it to a show and still wishes to buy your music/merchandise, what would be the best way to do that so that you guys would get the most out of it?
Anonymous said…
interesting...I guess I never realized the logistics of everything. I suppose I shall have to stop burning cds. Thank you for the insight, esteban.
Orrin said…
I agree that there are moral issues built into this discussion but overwhelmingly the world is treating file sharing and cd-burning as just a disruptive technology. I bet sony hates it that they can't sell discmans anymore too. When a new technology comes along and totally changes the marketplace and makes it harder for original technologies to sell, everyone has to shift and adapt to how the world works. Apple came along and changed the marketplace too (iPod is a disruptive tech as well). I beleive the music industry has to find a new way to generate revenue while still supporting artists and making it possible for them to create what we want them to create.

Also you talk about t-shirts sales vs. record sales, I wonder what an artist's profit margin on t-shirts are vs. records. I would bet that we could help and artist out more if we bought a $10 t-shirt then a $10 cd (because more of that $10 would go into their pocket if we bought the shirt) But you do make an interesting and valid point about record sales equal money from the label to record the next cd.

I believe in supporting the artists, right now that means we have to buy records not burn them if we we want to support them. But the world is changing and if the music industry doesn't change they will still be selling horse carriages when we all want to buy a Model T.

The Innovator's Dilemma
me said…
i've never had it explained to me this way... i don't burn cd's as it is, but that's a really really good explanation. i'll be referring friends to it when they ask for my opinion on cd burning!
Mark said…
I have a foot on both sides. I download albums off the internet all the time, and if I like the album lots I will buy it. This is exectly what happened for me with Never Take Friendship Personal. I heard some songs on purevolume, downloaded the album, loved it, bought the cd, went to your show and bought a tshirt as well.

I am aware that burning or downloading cd's is hurting some artists, but if it wasnt for downloading I would never have gotten into Anberlin and hence this blog.

I guess its not clear cut.
I hope you dont hate me :P

Robin de Wever said…
You are so right. But it just seems people don't want to hear this.

On the other side, you tend to forget the most important reason to not copy: it's illegal. But thanks for mentioning why it has been made illegal anyway. Thanks.
Anonymous said…
What people don't understand is that without money industries tend to, well, die. The bands need to earn money too. I mean, if the 'wave of the future' is everyone freely swapping music, then I guess music is doomed?
sj. said…
i've got lots of friends in indie bands and its true (selling enough records to buy gas etc) and sometimes its a pretty risky thing to do but it's the music that drives them hey.

but perhaps the music industry should (as orrin has pointed out) try to work around this swapping thing. i think iTunes is a pretty cool inovation.
Scooby said…
Esteban, you put it so succinctly, I posted a link to your entry on my blog. I have friends who are musicians, prodcuers, sound engineers. This is their livelihood, and I can't in good conscience destroy their lives.
Anonymous said…
I have to admit, I don't buy CDs. I am a downloader. Guilty as charged. Downloading music is way too tempting and easy to do.
Peter Antonius said…
I'm a downloader, but I use iTunes Store, so you still get money from me. Then if the album still is good after some weeks of listning I buy the album because I want the real thing and the album cover.

And the whole thing that record labels take all the money, the high price and so on...fuck that, why aren't they alloved to make money like every other company? If you don't like it, start your own record label and show us that the price on a CD kan be $2 or whatev your willing to pay...
Anonymous said…
"I'm a downloader, but I use iTunes Store, so you still get money from me. Then if the album still is good after some weeks of listning I buy the album because I want the real thing and the album cover."

Holy crap, there is no way I'd ever pay $10 for a CD twice, no matter how good it is. You are just wasting money, imo.

Also, I don't think it is reasonable to charge $10 a CD online either.
Janelle said…
Those are really good points. For the most part, I don't burn very many CDs, but usually if I do & I really like what I hear, I go out & actually buy the album & shirts & things. I do have a lot of friends that download & burn CDs, though.
megumi said…
did any one not know why we should not burn CDs? i think you even would not have to explain it, because its obvious! paying money means voting, it is even more obvious in music industry than other industry, because we can 'see' and 'hear' what we want and have, and people who are actually producing it. im proud of wearing anberlin-teeshirts because it means that i invest to a good (very, very good)band, and i have get connected to something wonderful going on.
very simple.
its a shame that you had to post on this issue. -meg
James said…
Meggios said…
As one of the comments mentions above, it is also a moral issue. Not only are burning CD's illegal, but it's also like you are stealing it. You get a free CD without paying anything. So, it's like you are walking into a store and shoplifting a CD. It's the same principle.
deb said…
that's very true (about the stealing). i'm actually pretty pov at the moment so cds are a luxury for me but is still buy them when i can. thanks for the insight about buying cds from the shows. i'll do that next time.
Prich said…
Nicely said, now if only the rest of the world could read this. I think I might just have to go out tomorrow and cast my vote again.
Anonymous said…
Have any of you heard of Harvey Danger? Well, this past summer the finished their third album, and eariler this fall they put the whole CD including the booklet on line for free download. I am sure they spent thousands of dollards producing the record. For some bands, they just want their music heard regardless how listeners get it.
Moe said…
Now did Harvey Danger put it up online AFTER everyone had gone and bought the CD the summer before??? They probably made what they needed to off of the CD. Dave Matthews puts his stuff online too, but then again he already made his bucks. Unfortunately it's always about the money.

And while I don't want to support any labels because they are headed by macho-CEOs that I don't like, I think that's something I can do for Anberlin anyway.
MH said…
No, don't burn CDs! You take money from my Small Group leader!

Support the bands all the way!

jec said…
One exception... I am from Guatemala. Today, I live in Dallas, TX, where I go to school. If I hadn't received a mix tape of some random punk bands 7 years ago, I probably would not have downloaded the thousands of songs that I illegally downloaded. I wouldn't have copied songs and spread them everywhere I went. I would not have gone to the dozens of shows that I've gone and bought the dozens of shirts and cds at so many awesome shows. Although I don't download music anymore, I do think that there is a good in spreading music. Had I not downloaded two Anberlin demo songs some years ago, a bunch of people would not have bought cds, especially outside the US. In the end, stealing music might sometimes help the bands. It is similar to when a customer at a restaurant asks for a different plate because he didn't like it. Sure, he stole it because he didn't pay for it, but he will probably come back again and again for more. He'll bring his friends along and they'll all share the food, share the memories, and the word would spread.
jec said…
Another thing, what language is "Estaban"?

My name is Esteban, Spanish for Steven or Stephen. I'm wondering where you got the name "Estaban".

Anyways, awesome, awesome music. Remember that in the end, the one providing for you and allowing you to make music and tour is not people, its not illegal downloaders, its not mini labels or large conglomerates. It's God. He is our provider. Let him convict the music thiefs haha.

God bless. www.outofthelost.com
John said…
That worked so well, I'm going to go out and buy NTFP now...I never did, even though I consider it (at least) in my top 3 best CD's ever.
Cori said…
My film-maker cousin had an interesting take on this. When products are offered at a reasonable price (ie: mp3s via the iTunes store) people are more than willing to pay for them. I guess his justification is more towards downloading over-priced software items. "Piracy" is our way of telling the market "You're overpricing your shit. Make it accessable to the average joes who need it." So in a way I guess the "illegal downloaders" are just trying to level the playing field. As I said though, this doesn't apply to music as much with new innovations such as the iTunes store. I'll buy a couple mp3's, download a couple, but the truth is, if the album is something I like, I'm going to buy the album. Most likely at a show.

I honestly spend a lot of time in the same boat as a lot of you, where I felt like I could justify downloading the pirated music. Perfect example of one of the many ways we like to tell ourselves that something that is so blatently stealing is really not that bad. Once you look burning music for what it is, it's hard to continue doing it.

I do wonder, does the band make different amounts of money on the iTunes downloads and such, than they do from an actual CD? I can easily take a CD and import to iTunes, but is that helpful or not to the bands?
Anonymous said…
i rarely download albums. i may download the occasional single if i know i don't really like the band other than that song, but in most cases i MUST buy cds. forget morality and supporting the bands, to me there's just something about owning the cd that makes everything better.
i'm mostly kidding there. i think you have made one of the stronest arguments for buying versus downloading that i have ever heard. i kinda already knew that and that really is part of the reason i always try to buy albums, but it's good that you were here to present such a well put argument.
my only complaint, and i'd like to hear your thoughts on this, is that the people i hear most loudly screaming out against downloading music are bands like metallica who are so over the top successful that they don't really break my heart when they complain about selling 8 million albums instead of 10. of course it's completely different with indie artists and i definetely encourage everyone supporting bands off great labels like tooth and nail (my personal favorite), victory, the militia group and all those great labels. and heck, i even say that we should buy from the big hot shot rich rock stars that sell an ungodly number of cds every year. it just irks me that those with that great success are the quickest to speak out against the injustice of downloading music.
even in the christian industry, the people i hear speaking out against downloading music is steven curtis chapman, micheal w. smith, mercyme and names like that. again, my heart is not exactly breaking for those guys.
final point: you are genuine and sincere. you don't just promote downloading music to seem cool, but you don't say that we should support bands with no reasons o back up your argument. thanks for your sincerity and your thoughts on the matter.
in fact, to be honest, me and my brother split the cost of the blueprints for the black market cd a few years ago at the first cornerstone fl. i just burned a copy and let him keep the original. and even tho i bought never take friendship personal, i love blueprints so much that i really think you deserve me taking the time and money to go pick up a legit copy.
Anonymous said…
I know downloading/burning cds is technically stealing, but you also have to see the good that comes along with it. I personally bought both of your band’s cds, but I have sent copies of it to many people over the Internet. If I had not sent the copies, most likely they would not have heard the music. My friends ended up going to your shows and buying shirts and such. This stemmed from the cd that I bought but illegally reproduced for them. If I had not sent them the cd they probably would never have thought to buy it, not that they were boycotting the music industry. I know that I originally heard of your band because my roommate got a burned copy from her friend back home. When she heard you were coming to town she thought it would be fun to go to the show. If she never got the copy we would not have gone to your show and I would not have bought the cds.
I understand that money is needed for a band to work. All together I have spent about $100 in the past year on concert tickets, shirts, and cds for just your band, and that is two utility bills for me. I am also a firm believer that online music piracy acts as a catalyst for the natural selection in the music industry. Only the strong survive. Sorry if this burned you. I’ll buy you some Neosporin to put on it.
Meggios said…
There is another way to tell people about a band, without having to burn CD's. If you go to myspace.com, you can get alot of band's websites & listen to a couple of their songs for free, without burning cd's. Plus, you can tell your friends about your favorite bands website & they can usually listen to a sample of their music. Most bands have websites now days.
Anonymous said…
do most people have good/fast internet connections nowadays? or even a computer? like jec said: spreadin music even in places outside the US; where in lots of occassions internet isn't a standard in life's luxuries. i wonder if they even got enough money to buy a nice cd-player.

but anyways: the prices are outrageous (especially in the netherlands, i feel). actually it's so expensive i'd say music (on cd) has become luxury in stead of basic part of everyday's life.

some people can afford that luxury. i say: those who can pay for it, should pay for it. those who can't pay for it, should consider taking a heavy diet on the better pieces of life, or violate the law.

if an artist wants to spread his music, shouldn't he think of this as well? to what height would you let the price of your album go?

do you want to live off of it, or do you want people to hear it no matter what?
Anonymous said…
myspace.com does not transfer to a car like a cd can.

Honestly if I had to spend money on all of my music I would be listening to a far fewer number of artists.

My iPod alone currently has over $3000 worth of music on it. Almost all of the songs are copied from original cds that my friends or I have bought, and I would not listen to anywhere near the amount of artist that I do if paying for it was on me alone.
Anonymous said…
I utterly, totally, fully, and completely agree with this blog entry, Stephen!

I have never and will never obtain any music illegally. I *always* buy CD's-- and if I happen to only like one or two songs from a band, I will buy those tracks legally from a reputable source (iTunes or Musicmatch, for example).

Illegally getting music for free is stealing. It's wrong. And it hurts the bands.

Thank you for a great blog entry, Stephen!
Anonymous said…
i've never liked burned cd's in the first place. i love getting the cd and being able to see what the cd looks like as well as the booklet. i've always been intrested in the two.

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