Music Business

8 Experts Make A Case For Why “Physical” Recorded Music Still Matters

GRAPHICWith all the news about streaming music services and the state of the “new” music business, many independents artists are wondering whether there’sstill a need for physical recorded product (i.e., CDs, download cards, vinyl, and USB flash drives). 8 experts weigh in.


Guest Post by Bobby Borg  

1. Sydney Alston, Product Specialist at Disc Makers

According to Sydney Alston, a representative at Disc Makers, physical products make for a nice memento to fans at your band’s concert. Furthermore, they are still useful for certain promotional avenues, like submitting to college radio (a format that often prefers submissions by CD).  

2. Michael Eames, CEO of Pen Music Group

Michael Eames of Pen Music, a song-plugging company, says that there is still a need for both physical and digital copies when it comes to submitting music to music supervisors and advertising agencies. It depends on the preference of each company, so you must be prepared.

3. Philip Al-Hajj, Drummer of Clepto

The independent band Clepto, a group known for living out of their van for years on the road, says that if it they didn’t have physical product on hand to sell after their performances, they might not have enough money for gas or food. In their words, “Physical product is a face-to-face immediate cash transaction.” 

4. Brian Perrera, CEO of Cleopatra Records 

Brian Perrera of Cleopatra Records says that physical product allows for companies to create some really cool box sets, which could include a vinyl record, CD, button, and sticker. The sets can even be numbered and manufactured in limited quantities to make fans feel they are getting something extra special and exclusive. On that note, Perrera even knew one band who sold raw cassette recordings of its rehearsals. Okay, so cassettes might be going a little too far, but you get the point.  

5. Bill Berends, Guitarist of Mastermind

Daft-Punk-Random-Access-Memories-Deluxe-Box-Set-0Bill Berrends of the Progressive rock band Mastermind believes that CD's are still important, especially for bands of his genre that attract a more mature demographic. Says Berends, “I’ve found that older listeners over 40 that come to our shows still prefer to purchase CD's over downloads or streaming. There are also the fringe collector types that like vinyl, so it doesn’t hurt to have some of that product on hand too—the more stuff to sell the better.”

6. Rick Torres, Composer, Guitarist

Rick Torres, composer and former guitarist of the English Beat firmly believes that physical product is a critical component of a touring band's income, and should not be overlooked. A thumb drive is a nice value-added purchase that can be used by the fans long after they’ve downloaded your music to their devices. If you have your brand logo on the drive, that’s continual promotion.

7. Justin Paul, Electronic Musician/Producer

Justin Paul admits that most electronic fans look for digital music on sites like Beatport, iTunes, and Spotify. However, being that there’s still DJs and fringe fans who prefer vinyl recordings, it doesn’t hurt to have a short order of product printed up to meet the demand. Additionally, Paul states that fans approach him occasionally during his live sets to purchase his music, so having branded USB Flash drives on hand is a good idea too. Says Paul, “It’s all about satisfying fans. As long as they keep on asking for physical product—I’ll keep on getting it made and selling it.”       

8. Randall Kennedy, Creative Director at Mack Avenue Records

At a UCLA panel discussion, here’s what Randall Kennedy had to say: “If you’ve got a roomful of people at your show who are having a great time, then why not have a few copies of your music available that they can take home as a “souvenir” of the night? Don’t forget, people at shows drink, and drunk people buy stuff.”

To be absolutely sure, this article is not about the fate of physical product in relation to streaming music and new streaming services, the devalued perception of physical product by consumers, or whether music should or should not be free. This article is about whether physical product is still useful (even if just a little) to the independent musician today. So what do you think?

DIY CoverBOBBY BORG is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician: Creating and Executing a Plan of Attack On A Low Budget (September 2014). The book is available on Hal Leonard website under “Trade Books” (ISBN: 9781480369528), AMAZON, or Bobby Borg ( 

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