Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
Seanan McGuire

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Why my music is only available in CD form.

This question has been coming up a lot recently, so I thought I'd take a moment to address it in a central place that people could be pointed to. Specifically:

"Why can't I buy your music on iTunes/Band Camp/Amazon MP3/whatever?"

Sometimes the question takes the form of "I have gone all-digital, why do I have to buy a physical CD?", but those are basically the same thing, since "Why can't I buy..." is the flip side of "Why do I have to buy...". And here is my answer:

I will never, barring the closure of all the CD manufacturing companies, be selling my music digitally. If you want to own my music, you will need to either buy and rip a physical CD, or pirate it. I would obviously prefer the former, but since some of my CDs are out of print, I'll understand if you go for the latter.


Two big reasons. These are...

It's a hobby.

I am not a professional musician. Even if I sell every single copy of every single CD at full "retail price," never selling through filk dealers or sites like CD Baby, I won't turn a profit. Breaking even is the most that I can hope for. Because all CDs are nothing but red ink, they don't further complicate my already incredibly complicated taxes. If I started doing digital sales, which many people view as "money for nothing," I might pass that magical line where I make a profit, and then I would have to figure out how to deal with things.

I don't take enough of a loss for my music to be a tax write-off (yet), but I also don't make any money, and that keeps things simple. If I started needing to religiously track receipts and who paid what where to who, I don't know that the carrot would remain worth the stick for me.

The digital divide exists.

I feel as strongly about physical CDs as I do about physical books. The ability to release things digitally is amazing for people who can't afford a print run, or are doing something incredibly focused, or just want to get themselves out there. I can afford a print run; I have an audience; I am as out there as I need to be. And people like my mother, who doesn't own an MP3 player, and who listens to all music via her CD player, still exist.

Because of the costs of production, I can only afford to produce physical CDs when I'm sure that I'll be able to sell them. If 50% of my audience went to digital downloads, I'd wind up with a lot of unsold CDs, and again, would not be able to justify producing more. And for me, that would be the end of it. I'm not going to pay for recording and mixing and mastering and not have something in my hands when I'm done. I can't afford to produce CDs in units of less than 1,000—and with full "to get this, you must buy physical" buy-in, it still took four years for Stars Fall Home to sell out.

Cover songs.

None of my cover song licenses include digital rights. All my albums would be missing pieces if I put them up for digital download.

And so...

I know that this can create bottlenecks. I know that physical disks come with shipping costs, and that sometimes vendors run out. I know that I'm losing business. These are choices that I made, for the reasons listed above, and while they may be wrong choices, they are mine, and I'm sticking with them.

Thank you.
Tags: common questions, filk, i make music, recording
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