Reprinting Titles
by on March 26, 2008 in Recent Activity

I’m making some difficult decisions about various titles that have sold out of their last pressing (or they’ll sell out soon.) These include Sunyata, Somnium, Calling Down the Sky and Echo of Small Things. I decided to print 500 more copies of Calling and Echo. You won’t notice any discontinuity with Calling, because I’ll pick up the new disks tomorrow, and they’ll remain available. I’m waiting for revised artwork for the Echo CD package, and then that should be back in print soon after. The Somnium DVD has been sold out for about a month now, and Mike Griffin and I decided to manufacture another 1000 copies, which should be ready in mid-April. That was a tougher decision, because the DVD still feels like a copromise to me – but so does everything when discussing a 7 hour piece of music. I want people to be able to obtain the physical object, still, especially with the effort we made to create an interesting booklet and Brad Cole’s beautiful photography.

Sunyata has been a bit more slippery when trying to figure out the best plan. When I started making music, I made a promise to myself that I would try to keep in print everything I release. The shifting landscape of music distribution is changing the way I interpret “in print”. More people are downloading my music than buying CDs, so if I keep Sunyata available as a download, I think I can consider it still “in print”. I recorded that music about 27 years ago, and I don’t think people are clamoring for fresh CD copies at this point. So, I’ll probably let it move to download-only. I decided to do the same with Trances/Drones just last year. I encourage you to send some feedback about these decisions. I want to know what people are thinking out there.

In the meantime, as I work on new titles, I will probably continue to manufacture 1000 of each, just so you can order widgets with my scribble on them if you wish, or to sell at concerts, or perhaps just to legitimize the release as “real” in my old world mentality. If there comes a time that we don’t have to put more plastic in the world just to listen to sonic vibrations in the atmosphere, then I’ll embrace that time. Perhaps, I’ll feel nostalgic for the evanescence of the “album” – the physical object that carries music. For that matter, I’ll probably keep reading books made of dead trees for a while longer. I think reading is more productive than staring at a computer screen (I always end up doing email instead of reading, anyway – don’t you?)

Just a pause for thought beneath an announcement of reprints. Please share your own thoughts, and I’ll listen.

All the best – Robert

24 Responses to Reprinting Titles

  1. Brad says:

    test. working? Im not ready to download much music still but i’m slow anyway. Better to have a download than have it not available. Do many artists make their CD artwork available to download- in the CD format/size?
    For those who still use jewel cases, they could then make a CD of their own, or others could just have some artwork and the song lists. I have notes scribbled on all my favorite CD’s, stars on favorite tracks, some CD’s might end up with 3 post-it’s worth inside the jewel case if there’s not enough space to get clear notes to remember parts and interesting passages. It’s interesting to see years later which songs resonated more when I first got a certain CD, especially when I might be newly drawn to different tracks I’d previously ignored. Maybe it’s just me but I dont’ think I would bother with making electronic notes for downloaded music.

  2. Frederick Smith says:

    Robert,
    While I agree that there is nothing quite like a physical recording complete with artwork – with the tactile experience only enhancing the listening experience – I think your compromise is a good one. A limited number of copies of new releases will allow long-time fans to get the physical object shortly after its release, while keeping all your music “in print” via download will allow others to come to it later. I know that I have been very happy over the past few years to find otherwise “out of print” albums by artists whom I have just discovered available for download (usually at a lower price than the physical album).

    Thanks for the music,
    Fred

  3. Tyler says:

    Some of us out here do still like to buy physical CD’s. The ones you listed above like Sunyata and Trances/Drones are actually my favorites, but indeed they are not nearly as accessible or as popular as some of your more recent work.

    I am kind of disappointed to hear that you pressed another 1000 copies of Somnium on standard DVD. I was hoping this would get a re-release as a DVD-Audio, or (drool) a Blu-Ray 24/96 release. Although I’m not sure how expensive that would be for you. I know I’d be willing to pay any price for it!

  4. John Pemble says:

    While I appreciate the CD format, the printed stuff, and of course the nice resolution 44k / 16bit I made an unexpected transition two years ago to AAC purchase music of artists I didn’t know, then to artists I have admired for years such as your catalog. While there is a difference in quality the recent launch of the iTunes plus with higher resolution has made me feel better about AAC and my purchase of download music. Recently I bought the new Nine Inch Nails “Ghosts” album as an MP3 download from Amazon. Hell it was only five bucks. While I felt the value of the product was grossly underpriced, I did like this option. It is quite fulfilling to order music and within a few minutes actually have it to play on what ever you want. Ironically, I tend to burn an audio CD of most things and play them in the car… although an iPod is coming my way perhaps that year and from there, well we all know where this goes.

    I have found a new level of enjoyment with all of the music in my library since they are now high resolution MP3’s or AAC iTunes music purchase playing out in my living space via the iTunes music software. I always hated listening to one disc in one sequence all the time, which is why it worked out well for me to be a program producer for public radio. But now sifting through a lot of music titles I make those iTunes playlists as long or short as I want and leave things playing for a long time. A favorite practice of mine is to put a bunch of songs on loop and let em play as I come and go from my place. This says nothing of how convenient it is for a party.

    Anyway, I bought your recent previous titles from iTunes as I have for other artists I follow like Boards of Canada or our mutual friend Steve Roach. I felt a bit of loss with the physical recording but at the same time I got closer to the audio art when I removed the tangible object. I started to listen differently and I think a bit deeper. With so many pieces coming at me I sometimes forget what or who I am listening to and that rediscovery has been very cool.

    If your music is downloadable it is indeed in print.

  5. Pete says:

    Hey Robert! Great new site, looks really sexy! Anyway, I think your decision to move some things to download-only is fine, but for those of us who still LOVE the tangible plastic discs and thoroughly appreciate the artwork, artist notes, etc.: perhaps having some extra “legitimized” copies on hand for us is wise. 😉 If you do move to download-only on certain items, please consider encoding them in FLAC or APE or some other lossless format as well as the standard MP3 type lossy (but good) compression. I appreciate the intricate detail of your recordings, and absolutely loathe having to pay for a lossy download (even when it does sound pretty good). In fact, many would pay a mild premium for the additional quality.

    I’ll be staying tuned in to the updates, and keep up the fantastic work…

    Cheers!

  6. Pete says:

    Couple little site bugs here and there — using Firefox 2.0.0.13 this page still says “NO COMMENTS” right above my comments…even after a Ctrl+F5 clear-cache reload. 😉

  7. Brett in Sydney says:

    Hi Robert, count my vote for always having the option to buy real CDs. Nothing replaces having a physical object on your shelf, and it gives me real pleasure to physically browse through my collection – something that you can’t do on a computer or iPod. Also the sound quality of MP3s do not compare to uncompressed CDs on a high quality audio system. Regards, Brett.

  8. Scott says:

    Hey Robert,

    I applaud your business decision. It seems that ALL the music I buy today goes directly to digital (non-cd/dvd) format. Digital purchases are faster and VERY convenient. Shure, I am a liner note junkie, but you can include a .pdf version of these simple enough for DL purchases. (I REALLY wish iTunes would do this.)

    Ambient and other long-form recordings have become restricted (much like early jazz pressings) by the media limitations. By eliminating the “CD” thinking (time limits, audio format (limits again!)), artistic ideas start to flow in a direction where a 7 hour recording is just a warm up!

    Cheers,

    Scott

  9. Pete says:

    Hey Robert — addendum to my comment above: if you use musiczeit.com like you did for React (with FLAC files and everything), I betcha that’d pacify weenies like me! 🙂 Downloading React as I type this — can’t wait to check it out — it sounds amazing, my friend!

  10. Joe says:

    Robert,

    Love the website redesign! And the comments option is a great idea. I’m glad to hear you will still keep CDs in print, especially for those of us who live way out where there’s no high-speed internet and downloading songs takes forever! Besides, I love to actually have the physical object of the CD in my collection, complete with the liner notes and artwork. I still think the CD sound is better than downloaded music sound – not sure if my imagination or not, but I do notice a big defference! Your option of having the CDs in print, and having the downloads available, as well, seems like a good balance. Thanks for the music!

    – Joe

  11. Hana says:

    I will continue to buy the real CD instead of mp3 pack. I am bored by the soul-less digital medias and having 500 GO of music that I will finally never listen to correctly.

    But something I dont understand is why all your releases (***except a few things like the Amplexus MCD that I own and like very much***) are/were being housed in a jewel case?

    Jewel Case are cheap. I mean it doesnt cost a lot to release 500 copies in a jewel-case and I prefer when a label is putting little more money/efforts into a release.
    Then jewel cases are quite ugly and most of all it is not ecological. I love digipak much better! or digifile! Because it’s like having a beautiful book in the hands…. or some old LP sleeve…

  12. Simon Stopher says:

    As I don’t yet have Somnuim I’m glad you’ve decided on a reprint!!

    Personally speaking I am not a great fan of downloads, but that’s mostly because I like the idea of buying CD’s from a shop or directly from the artist. I also like the sense of anticipation you get in buying the item and taking it home or waiting for the post. I don’t see that you could ever get that from downloads.

    Inevitably I feel a bit of a “luddite” already!

    Still, I think your idea of having both is a good one. Just make sure you tell us in advance which CD’s are likely to go out of print to make sure we get our copies!!

    Oh, and please let me know when Somnium comes back into stock 🙂

    The new website is FANTASTIC.

    Regards.

    Simon

  13. Joe says:

    I just heard about some study on The Tech Guy podcast where they tested people’s reactions to mp3 (which are missing 90% of the original sound data) vs cd. Of course the cd’s elicited a more emotional reaction. I suppose that’s a vote for flac.

    Among your old stuff, I really like Inner Landscapes for some reason, especially the 1st 2 and last tracks. The way you trained those hump backed whales to sound on cue was amazing.

  14. Richard Gurtler from Slovakia says:

    Hi Robert,

    greetings from Bratislava in Slovakia!!!

    I really enjoy your new website!!! You and Jason of VIA Studio have done very nice job, please keep on it. The new design fits perfectly your sonic worlds!!!

    And I also agree with your policies about reprinting older titles. You know that I have all your CDs in my own collection and all of them with your personalized signatures. I always will be prefering physical CD sitting on my shelf, a full package with the artwork. And I always will
    be prefering to order CDs directly from the artist. I really respect what you do and buying your CDs is for me like saying to you “thank you for your music”. That’s my little part I can do in supporting artists like you. Each of your CDs is and always will be a real collector item to me!!! To me it’s always very exciting to order and find a new CD from you in my mailbox!!! And I have to mention also something like friendship between the artist and its fan, although many of them are from distance reasons only through the
    net or by postal mail. So please keep on this decision.

    Take care and have a nice time.

    With friendly greetings, Richard

  15. Nathan Poorman says:

    Take a look at the business model set up at AtmoWorks.com. They cover all the bases with a good number of their releases where you have the option to buy a hard-copy and have it shipped to you via mail, or a high-quality download copy at a lower price complete with PDF artwork – you can print out and make your own CD package or just enjoy the artwork and liner notes on screen.

    And best of all – they are part of the ambient continuum!

    Anyhoo, I very much like your new web site design.

    Keep up the good work and let the spice flow.

  16. Hi, Robert!

    All the winter time I have listened to Calling Down the Sky and Somnium when I was studying in the late hours. The music sounds great and promotes me the subjective cosmos atmosphere associatively connected to such else strict science as geology I study.
    I would like to ask you which tuning the flute has that you play on Vertigo.

    With greatest regards

    Jonas

  17. Chris says:

    Hi Robert
    As Sunyata and Trances/Drones are amongst my favourite
    albums,I think you should still make them available as “hard” copies.After all,most people who download music
    make hard copies of these anyway!
    By the way,I think Illumination and Music From Atlas Dei are your best releases since Somnium.

  18. admin says:

    So many interesting comments. Thank you for your thoughts on this. Part of my challenge here comes purely from the economic argument. I think most of the hardcore listeners already have these titles in CD form, and the idea of printing 500 more, only to sell perhaps 50 of them, then storing the remainder for the rest of my life doesn’t sound very appealing. Most of these really old titles are only selling a few per month anymore. If it takes 10-20 years to sell the remainder, that doesn’t seem like a good decision. I have already decided that Sunyata will go download-only, and I am really tossed up about Echo of Small Things. The prep for reprinting the booklet has not been going smoothly. I’m about ready to give up on it and go download-only on that as well, just out of frustration. (There are still 28 Echo art boxes remaining, with the last of the CDs inside of them, so that might be the only way to get the disk soon. We’ll see about that.) I truly appreciate you listeners who want to retain the CD format, but I think most of you already have these titles, right? I know I’m not the only one dealing with these questions. Every record label in the world is scanning across this ocean of quicksand right now. – Robert

  19. Andrew Park says:

    I much prefer the CD and like the jewel case complete with artwork, liner notes etc…etc…, I actually hate the whole download thingy.
    I don’t buy many CD’s though, mostly one’s I find at second hand CD dealer’s around Melbourne but I don’t download either, being an ambient music composer myself, most of the music I listen to is my own, but I do make an exception in your case and within the last year I have purchased 14 CD’s and 1 DVD, all of them I ordered directly from you, except for one Lisa Gerrard CD.
    Like the comment from Richard previously, I too will always prefering a physical CD sitting on my shelf, a full package with the artwork and I always prefer to order CDs directly from the artist. I also very much respect what you do and like Richard said before, “buying your CDs is for me like saying to you “thank you for your music”. That’s my little part I can do in supporting artists like you. Each of your CDs is and always will be a real collector item to me!!! To me it’s always very exciting to order and find a new CD from you in my mailbox” A wee bit of copying and pasting> apologies for that, but that sums it up quite succintly. One of my best friends had a few of your titles and I could have very easily, just copied them into itunes and downloaded them for free, BUT I, out of respect ordered the CD’s directly from you, because I want to help support, what it is that you do and also being a great believer in karma, it just felt like the only option. I must say though if your music is download only, I might take a different view, just being honest, but so long as you have the physical product available, I will continue to buy it directly from you. Trances and Drones is about the only CD of your’s I don’t have and will I buy it, if you choose to reprint it, though I perfectly understand whatever position you take in relation to old titles. Keep up the outstanding music that you continue to make, best wishes and warm regards, Andrew

    P.S the web site isn’t up yet, will be releasing some titles of my own later this year and they will most definitely be physical CD’s, NOT downloads.

  20. Christopher Eaves says:

    I also don’t have any interest in downloading music, and would like to buy Trances and Drones, so if it seems good to reprint that in the future, I’ll pick it up. Thanks and best wishes – Christopher

  21. Christopher Eaves says:

    BTW, I found a copy of Trances /Drones on WalMart.com.
    -Christopher

  22. Michael Ziffer says:

    I’d be amazed if no one has already thought of this, but here it is anyway — regarding the reprint/don’t reprint dilemma, would it be feasible and make economic sense to take pre-orders for each individual title? Prospective buyers could pay half the price up front (earnest money which could be held in escrow), and the overall potential market could be determined. Then either print the CDs, and bill buyers for the second half, or don’t print, and return the deposits. Am I missing something?

    Also, my only exposure so far has been streaming on Dub Beautiful Collective on iTunes. I’ve only heard “Alien Zoology,” and the two performances evocatively titled “may 12 02” and “may 4 03” — but I thoroughly enjoy all of them. Are these available on any existing CDs, or in any other format? Or should I just keep listening to DBC, and wait for the deejay to play my song?

  23. admin says:

    Michael – Thanks for your suggestion. I have been trying to find the original files for the ’02 Morrison Planetarium concert that DBC streamed. I don’t actually think I have them anywhere, still looking. I would happily include that concert among my offerings if I can find it. I do have a recording of the Mothers’ Day 2003 concert though, and I could include it. Generally I am less inclined to release concerts where I play a lot of previously released material, because I think the studio version is better. Remember, since this is electronic music, most of it starts in the studio and live versions are a bit secondary. As for the prepay idea …. hmm, I’m hesitant to request that from my listeners. I know some other artists are doing that sort of thing with CD releases, but somehow it feels – I dunno – kinda needy… Any thoughts, readers?

  24. Michael Ziffer says:

    Bear with me for one more suggestion — an e-mail straw poll would be inexpensive (probably free), convenient, and fairly reliable. You could set up an e-mail address, instructing readers to send an e-mail only if they would be willing to make some set partial payment (say, $10 each) up front for each desired CD. Have them include the title(s) they want in the subject line (and possibly the total prepayment amount), e.g., “Sunyata, Traces, $20” — and you wouldn’t even have to open each one. Establish a set amount of time (e.g., “Please respond before 9/11/08”) so readers don’t procrastinate, and you’ll know when you can stop counting. Then on the prescribed date, the message on your site would either be “We’ve reached critical mass — I’m printing 500 today” while you make arrangements for the prepayments, or “Sorry, we didn’t receive enough response, but thank you both for playing.” Sure, a few might renege later on, but I bet most people willing to send an e-mail would also follow through on the purchase.
    OK, I’ll shut up now. Thanks.

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