here's your free music download

by Alex Cosper

Be sure to listen to the theme song of this exciting musical revolution. It's called "The Internet Only Band" by Tangent Sunset.

Welcome to the age of the self-empowered budget-conscious, environmental-friendly independent internet musician. It no longer makes sense to pay thousands of dollars to press thousands of CDs in hopes that sales may at least break even. The problem with the twentieth century game of trying to be an independent artist (instead of waiting for a major label record deal) was the same as trying to start a new unproven business. In order to be successful, you have to risk spending a lot of money even though any amount of expense doesn't guarantee anything but debt.

Part of the reason most independent artists fail to earn a living at their craft is simple economics. They will only risk so much time and money before giving up if they don't see some kind of return on their investment. The entire music making process was very taxing on the artist in the old world. The costs of recording in a professional studio, manufacturing CDs and then mailing them out to radio stations and distributing them to record stores definitely required a high budget for success in the old world.

In 2003 Apple Computer debuted its iTunes Music Store, changing the face of musical distribution forever. For the collector of records and CDs this might sound like sad news that music has merged with computers and that one need not go to a record store anymore to purchase music. But for the adventurous open-minded music fan, it's the doorway to a completely new universe. Think of all the practical advantages of digital music distribution and how they outweigh old world practices. The market validated iTunes with the exploding success of the iPod and the rise of online music sales, as iTunes blasted into the top ten music retailers of 2005, edging ahead of Tower Records, and entered the top five in 2006.

Downloading songs for 99 cents returns power back into the hands of the consumer. It used to be if you liked a song, you could buy the single (if available) for about a buck or buy the whole album for six or seven dollars. Then by the end of the eighties, the big six record labels at that time successfully phased out the 45 rpm record as the world shifted to compact discs. At first they issued CD singles for most major titles, but the idea never really got off the ground. Full length albums on CD became the new standard, except for club DJs and a few diehard vinyl fans. But eventually much of the public realized the average hit album only has a few solid tracks. People began to understand that most albums were stretched with effortless, generic filler material.

Now you can actually buy the exact song you want without buying the whole album, which is a great savings for consumers. It's not like the album or CD is about to go the way of the dinosaur, because if an artist puts out truly great music their fans will want the full album. But let's face it, life is too short to be investing ten or fifteen bucks per album with just a few good songs.

Not only are digital downloads saving money for consumers, they are slashing costs for artists. Everyone knows that most artists never make any money at selling their music. Only a lucky handful of artists, usually on major labels that get radio airplay, make any money (but only after everyone else in the process gets paid first). Then there are the constantly touring artists who are able to forge significant sales by playing live to potential customers.

The Internet-only artist, however, does not have to pay thousands of dollars to a CD manufacturer just to be considered a released artist. While it is a good idea for the artist to invest in professional mastering, the step of pressing hundreds of CDs is no longer necessary. There's also no need to worry anymore about shipping costs or keeping product in stock. Why fight a hassle-free 24 hour business to defend a business hours-only business that involves extra steps?

Even more profound about the Internet-only artist is how selling downloads instead of pressing CDs is beneficial to the environment. Now materials such as paper and plastic that go into making the discs and jackets do not have to be wasted. Of course, the corporate world will continue to cut down trees to make paper and drill for oil to make plastic, but digital delivery can greatly reduce the effects of depleting resources. Consumers buy their own blank CDs and burn their own compilations. It doesn't mean the death of the album cover, either, because the Internet-Only artist can offer the same exact artwork and liner notes as part of the download.

In 2006 musical digital downloads are still in their infancy. They haven't outdated the CD yet, but don't be surprised if someday digital downloads take over. Maybe it infringes on the old world of driving around to record stores and spending time searching for music at the physical location. But who needs to do that when it doesn't guarantee you'll find the music you're looking for when the internet actually gives you much better odds? Keep your eyes and ears open. The revolution is going on right now with Apple and companies following its model. For independent musicians CDBaby.com is becoming a serious avenue. New technology for music delivery continues to accelerate and it should not take long for the majority of artists and fans to realize that digital downloads are the way to go. No more skipping CDs. Finally, it's about the music and not the package it comes in.

David Crosby said in a 2004 interview with Alternate Music Press about iTunes, "No packaging cost, no promotion, no layers of distributors, each taking 20 percent off as it goes by. No returns, no free goods, no costs! That's a good business model that works, and it's working for them. They're a brilliant company, and that's a brilliant idea."