I hate downloading music.  It’s a burden.  It takes up space on my (already overcapacity) iPhone and laptop.

Before Spotify, it took me hours to go through albums, playlists and songs to choose the ones I wanted to include on my 16GB iPhone for my various tours.  On a whim, when I wanted to listen to an album that I owned, but hadn’t chosen it for the “iphone playlist,” I was shit out of luck.  Oh my iPOD?  Yeah, I lost it.  Twice.  Please don’t make me carry multiple devices.  I’m not good at that.

Enter Spotify.

I haven’t downloaded a single song since I signed up for Spotify Premium.

Don’t tell me I’m hurting the music industry.  I AM PART OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.

I am a musician.  I’ve toured the country many many times and have released multiple albums.  I’ve sold thousands of CDs and downloads.  I’ve made a full-time living as a musician for over 5 years (even before I got paid to write or act or do anything other than music).

As a fan, I love Spotify.  Virtually all the music ever released at my fingertips.  I’m salivating just writing that.

As a musician, sure, I’d love for people to download my music or buy a CD at the show because I get that money up front.

Well 45 days later if it’s iTunes.  Close enough.

But Spotify has leveled the playing field a bit.  The albums that suck will die fast (even if they have millions in marketing behind them) and the albums that are brilliant, will last forever (and continue to earn revenue).

Spotify gives musicians a financial incentive to create great music.

Remember in the pre-Napster, pre-iTunes era when labels shat out 10 song CDs with 1 or 2 good songs and 8 filler songs for… wait for it… $18.99?  Labels had no incentive to encourage their artists to create great albums.  Just one great hit to package into something that could not be broken.  Now?  Labels (and musicians) have a FINANCIAL incentive to create lasting music.

We all have our favorite albums that we’ve played a hundred times on our own.  And we all have the albums we bought, listened to only once and they remain at the bottom of our play count iTunes ranking.

Wouldn’t it be great if the albums that you’ve played a hundred times actually got those artists paid?  Every time you listened?

I illustrated how streaming will be more profitable than sales very soon, but similarly as to how musicians never relied solely on album sales (especially those signed to labels), musicians cannot rely solely on streaming revenue – even when it becomes super profitable and 50 million people are signed up to Spotify (and other streaming services).  Because it will.

Downloading music will not exist in 10 years.

It will all be streaming.  But we’re not quite there now.  Now we’re in a purgatory where no one knows what to do.  The fans want to support their favorite indie artists the best they can.  Hell, artists don’t even know the best way for their fans to support them.  Uh, come to our show.  Oh you live in Australia?  Uh buy our CD.  Oh, you don’t have a disc drive in your new Mac Book Pro and it’s going to cost us HOW MUCH to ship?  I guess download our album from BandCamp.  You don’t use BandCamp? Ok I guess get it from iTunes, even though we only get 61% of that sale.  Fuck it.  Here’s a PayPal Donate button.  Thanks!

Physical merchandise is the way of the future (and the past).

Moving to such a digital, phone absorbed world, we humans still crave tactile objects.

Even Spotify gets it.  They now allow artists (at any level) to offer physical merchandise on their Spotify profiles (via Topspin).

I’m releasing Vinyl with my new release (out March 29th!! – yes it deserves two exclamation points).  I’ve spent the past two and a half years on this baby.  And proud of it.  I’m going to offer pre-orders beginning March 1st.  I predict many people will order the Vinyl.  Many more people than actually own record players.  Why?  The same reason I stocked up on vinyl records long before I had a turntable; they’re fun to hold and display!  A TRUE sense of ownership – none of this digital bullcrap.

When on tour, the majority of your income will come from merch sales.

How best to sell the merch at your show is another topic.

When a fan asks how best to support you, be ready to sell them a T-shirt, vinyl record, CD, thong, coffee mug, trucker hat, hoodie, whatever.  Invest in physical merch!  It’s the way of the future.

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based DIY musician and the creator of Ari’s Take. His record release show is March 29th at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. Get tickets here. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake