There was a time, 15 years ago, when the wealth of CDs that suddenly started coming my way, as a full-time booker at a dive bar, was exciting and fun. Opening packages mailed from across the country was exciting – who knew what fabulous undiscovered gem was lurking inside that yellow padded envelope?
Now I find myself looking at CDs – or any physical media music submissions – with a sense of weariness. The thrill of discovery is still strong, but it’s sometimes overwhelmed by the knowledge that every CD and paper package represents a use of resources that isn’t very smart or justifiable.
I know there are some bookers/DJs/industry people who still want a physical CD to hold in their hands; here are my arguments against it:
- Plastic sucks – I feel tremendous guilt about the impact of CD manufacturing on the planet. Plastic is made from fossil fuels, CDs are almost impossible to recycle, and every year there’s a huge stack of CDs that I’ve received that just aren’t my thing, and my options are to store them, throw them away, or donate them (and no library or radio station or second-hand place wants that donation, I assure you). Any booker/DJ/etc. can tell you that the number of artists you’re interested in is a very small percentage of the submissions you receive.
- Artists’ financial resources are precious – I feel tremendous guilt about the cost to artists to send promo materials to me and other bookers/DJs/etc. These are independent artists, or small labels, not major label bigwigs, not people with multi-million dollar budgets. Sending a CD to me is a bet that I’ll listen, like the music, and book the band for a paying gig. And while it does have better odds than most lottery tickets, it still seems a bit unconscionable.
I like artists; I like to help and support them. I like handing them a cheque when they get off of the stage. It’s one of the joys of the job. And I prefer to minimize anything that will take money out of their pockets. In my opinion, physical media is for money-paying fans; I can make a decision about booking your band without taking something from you that cost you money to have made. So yeah, please do give me a +1 on your guestlist; please do send me a free download link for your music. Those things are appreciated, and cost you nothing but time, and are all I need to do my job.
To the bookers, DJs, etc. who still insist on getting physical media from artists, I don’t have much to say, really. And what I do have to say is pretty mean, and probably better kept to myself. But hey, if you want to keep destroying the planet and taking money out of artists’ pockets, go to town, dudes.
Also, if you ask for vinyl for free, you are a dick. That shit’s expensive, heavy, and fragile – you pay for vinyl if you want it, okay?
If you offer me a CD, I’ll politely say yes, thank you if I’m tired or I feel like it would be super-awkward to say no. If I’ve got enough energy, I’ll explain that I’d rather you send me a link, and give you my card. ((Even though my antipathy for email is almost as strong as my antipathy towards phone calls and voice mail.))
At music conferences, I have two proposals for minimizing the number of CDs that get exchanged and making the music submissions process better for everyone:
- Artists, please provide a sign-up sheet or business card drop at your showcases that allows industry people to give you their email address with the promise that you’ll send out email with links to free downloads, live videos, and your EPK. Make it explicit that you won’t add them to any mailing lists; mailing lists are the syphilis of the music industry. Within five days of the showcase, send out an email with a link to 3 tracks, a short bio (a paragraph, you guys, not a novella), a photo, and relevant links. Then don’t email those contacts again unless you’re playing a show in their area and you’re offering them a +1 (ask for their city on the sign-up sheet), or something similar.
- THIS IT THE REALLY GOOD IDEA – Most conferences use apps for scheduling and other info; it would be phenomenal if there was a way to build in the ability for me, as an attendee, to click a box that says ‘I would like to receive an EPK from this artist.’ After the conference, the artists would automatically receive a list of everyone who ‘liked’ them, divided up by whatever categories that the conference registers delegates under (Artists, Festivals, Presenters, DJs, whatever). This would be awesome on so many fronts – it’s quick and painless for bookers, and it gives artists a post-conference boost and allows for more networking after the conference, especially with fellow artists. It then, of course, rests with artists to be organized enough to actually get those email sent, but artists who are really making a run at a professional music career can manage that. It would be amazing to see conferences like Folk Alliance International, Folk Music Ontario, NXNE, etc. find a way to reduce the amount of stuff that artists and other industry people are forced to deal with.
For me, the idea is to get music samples from bands I’m interested in without having to lug home pounds of CDs, wasting artists’ resources and the Earth’s resources in the process, and to provide a frictionless way for people in the music industry to network and exchange information. It’s 2016; it seems ridiculous that we’re still accepting CDs from artists when the planet’s ice caps are melting and we all know better.