The Curious Case of Download Cards

How does the music get from the artist to your ears?

Should we print CDs, vinyl, cassettes, or download cards?

It's a decision every musician or band must make when finalizing an album release. Even as reports show a steep decline in CD sales, most artists can't seem to let go of what many consumers end up throwing or piling away after a simple digital upload.

Musicians are aware of this. And that's why a number of them offer their fans download cards, a more disposable and cheaper-to-print option than CDs. They're something to sell to those "exclusively digital" consumers, who seem to make up most of today's population.

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Say Goodbye to CDs at Starbucks

flickr/Irfaan Photography
No more CDs here, pal.
Starbucks is getting out of the CD game. Starting in March, the Seattle coffee behemoth's 21,000 stores worldwide will begin dismantling a 20-year attack on the brick-and-mortar CD market mostly targeting the most indifferent of music buyers.

Sure, people bought the CDs at Starbucks, which typically consisted of a milquetoast blend of holiday jazz compilations, world music, and the most safe of singer-songwriters. Just like that Waylon Jennings Super Hits disc you bought at a truck stop, it's easy to see these as purchases of the "Oh, what the hell," variety.

When those register endcaps featuring Norah Jones, John Legend, and Diana Krall disappear, it'll be difficult to feel bad about it, and here's why.

See also:
Why Vinyl Subscription Services Are the Laziest Thing Ever

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Six Reasons Musicians Don't Deserve To Get Paid

Alina Sofia / Flickr
All for free and free for all.
You've seen those memes: the ones about how musicians spend thousands of dollars on gear, hours rehearsing and loading/unloading, and drive 40 minutes to just play a show for $100. How noble and brave our poor musicians are, selflessly sacrificing themselves at every turn for a chance to do what they love while constantly griping and whining about every aspect of it. So of course they deserve to get paid -- they're performing a vital service to our lives, just like an ambulance driver.

Although musicians are indeed shafted by entire industries that are built purely around their creative output, truthfully, they don't deserve to get paid anything. Now tremble with indignant rage as I explain precisely why.

See also:
Why Tipping Musicians Is Important

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The New Marilyn Manson Is Shockingly Good

The cover of Marilyn Manson's The Pale Emperor

Marilyn Manson recently marked the release his ninth studio album, The Pale Emperor. For those of us who grew up in the shock rocker's heyday, it's sort of insane that he has made it this far. Though his relevance and "shock value" are no longer what they were during the mid-'90s, he's survived and is still making music long after most of us had written him off.

The fact that The Pale Emperor is so great ranks among the most shocking tricks Manson has pulled off yet.

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Is the YouTube free-for-all over?

YouTube star Jenna Marbles in a recent vlog
YouTube is a wonderful tool for procrastination, but often aimless surfing can lead to unearthing new genres and artists you'd never knew even existed. In between these discoveries are always the lovably offbeat videos of amateur acoustic covers or rants about pesky day jobs that make perusing the site feel like peeking into a stranger's living room. Recently, more news of the site's forthcoming paid subscription service made it clear that this YouTube we once knew is slowly vanishing.More »

Guess what? Your band is boring

Is this your band? You're so boring it hurts.

I'm writing today from a couch that I didn't choose or buy, but that I agreed to host in my living room temporarily. Temporarily now being forever, it seems. It has since hosted many guests of house concerts featuring musicians from all over the country. I was supposed to be writing from a bus that was going to take me from Des Moines to Omaha for a solo performance tonight. The show is still on, but damn that bus was leaving early and I made the executive decision to find a different way to the show. It's going to be fine.

The purpose of that introduction might make sense a bit later, but for now, let's talk about the title of this piece: Your Band is Boring. Well, that's just it, isn't it? It's boring. If you are in a band and you are reading this, then I'm going to go ahead and make the assessment that the world would spin on without your band, that 99.99% of the human population has never heard of or will hear of your band (that's a very generous percentage in your favor, by the way, but I've got a length cap on this piece), and they won't know what they're missing, which is quite possibly not much. You might even be bored by your own band.

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The 10 best rock 'n' roll pinball machines

Internet Pinball Database
I am a devoted video-game fan and a constant cheerleader for them to be considered art, but honestly I would give up most of the compelling stories and high-definition graphics in the world for the simple pinball machines. They're crafted and mechanical, and when done with a loving hand can turn almost anything into a game of skill that homages your favorite pop-culture icon.

It's like themed slot machines, but with less crying...usually.

Today we look at some of the tables that have been based on our favorite musicians.

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Willie Nelson's five biggest gambles

Kelly Dearmore
Willie's Gambles Can Turn Into Collectors Items

Aside from being as genius of a musician, Willie Nelson is a survivor, an activist and practical spiritual guru. Over the past couple of decades, his non-musical exploits have calmed considerably. Fewer movie roles and, aside from a minor drug-bust on the border a few years ago, a seemingly calm family and personal life have made some folks forget that Willie was once as wild as they got from the late 1950s all the way through the '80s. His inclusion in the group of so-called "Outlaws" was warranted for decisions and actions made both in the studio and at home.

For better or worse, Willie has gone with his gut and gone where his beloved sweet smoke has taken him. There's little argument to be made that some of the moves he's made over the years have been wild head-scratchers. But other gambles have turned into massive victories as well. Here are five of the craziest examples of Willie Being Willie.

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Five country artists that liberals would actually like

Photo by Randee St. Nicholas
Miranda Lambert

Ask someone of a liberal political persuasion what they think about modern country music, and it's often a shrug you'll get in return.

Long gone are blue state-copacetic country heroes like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash, and now that the Dixie Chicks are no longer a force, most Obama fans have no patience for anything out of Nashville. Members of the supposedly open-minded party tend to believe that the genre is completely saturated with odes to guns, trucks, whiskey, and American flags.

But that's just not the case! Mainstream country has become increasingly friendly to liberals, and these five artists are prime examples.

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Grammys 2014: MN native Rahki produced for Kendrick Lamar's good kid m.A.A.d city

Photo provided by Rahki Smith

South Minneapolis-bred rap producer Columbus "Rahki" Smith is listed in two categories for the 2014 Grammy Awards this weekend. His production work is featured on Album of the Year and Rap Album of the Year nominee good kid m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar.

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