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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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I Will Not Listen to Your MP3s
Thursday, April 02, 2009

There is really no nice way to say this, so I’m just going to be blunt about it – I will not listen to your MP3s. There are a myriad of reasons for this; some stem from the way things work in the Hip-Hop world, some stem from personal preference, and some stem from my respect for artistry. I’ve been asked hundreds of times about my non-acceptance of MP3s and every time I respond - “I’ll write a blog about it eventually.” Welcome to eventually. These are the reasons why I delete almost every MP3 sent to me.

The first, and possibly biggest, issue I have with MP3s stems from the fact that rap artists don’t need a studio to record a song. Whereas a band needs to get into a real studio, all a rap artist needs is a computer with Pro Tools, a beat making program and a microphone. With everyone and their grandmother now thinking they’re either a rapper or a producer, and computer technology making it super simple to create songs, suddenly everyone who ever thought they could rap or produce has a flaming buttload (actual unit of measurement) of tracks ready to email out to unsuspecting people who have no interest in hearing them. Incidentally, when you crash my Outlook Express with MP3s I didn’t ask for it doesn’t leave a good impression. If you insist on sending music out digitally you should do it by utilizing a content upload site and then passing along the link. This leads to my next issue; MP3 mass mailings are usually pretty useless.

In 2009 emailing an MP3 is like handing out a flyer. When you hand out a flyer, yes lots of people will end up with it in their possession, but how many will actually read it, and of that percentage how many will actually go to the show you're promoting? The same percentages apply to your MP3s. You can throw it in everyone’s inbox, but how many people will actually download it, and of those people how many do you think will then take the time to give it a spin? As an aside, how much do you think the whole MP3 game would change if it cost 50 cents every time you mailed one out? Just a thought. Moving on…

My next issue with MP3s comes from the fact that I’m on a laptop. This creates two problems and both of them affect the artist who wants their work heard. First, my laptop speakers are not optimal for listening to music. If you’re a real artist and you’ve created something you want people to hear, you want them to hear it correctly. A great example of this is a song a buddy of mine gave me to put in my podcast. After putting it on my computer I then put it on a mix-CD to play in my car. The bassline is audibly stronger, more lush, and more intimidating coming out of my car stereo speakers. In other words, when hearing the song correctly it’s far more impressive. Shocking, I know. So if artists were to really think about it they wouldn’t want writers listening to their work on their computers.

Another laptop issue is the fact that as a writer I spend enough time on this thing, now you expect me to listen to music on it, as well? Nope, sorry. I listen to music in an environment that is best suited for listening to music, either in the car, or in a room that has a real stereo with nice speakers. This is both a comfort issue for me and, again, a quality issue for the artists since I’m guessing they didn’t create their music to be listened to at a low volume in an office.

My final issue with MP3s deals with professionalism. I know a download only EP can be a great promotional tool for an artist, heck, I’ve written about how well they can work a number of times, but it should be remembered that it’s a promotional tool, not an album to send to press. There is still a level of seriousness that is created when an artist presses up an album, writes up liner notes, and has everything shrink wrapped in a nice jewel case. It says “I put my heart and soul into this and really care about the finished product.” That, in turn, makes me care about it more.

I know some folks out there might see this as a lot of complaining, but if you read between the lines you’ll see most of my gripes come from wanting what’s best for the artist; whether it’s the best audio, or the best presentation. Yes, I have a few issues that are selfish ones, as well, but there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have our preferences, right?

* Lone exception to these rules – When I go out of my way to ask an artist for something, i.e. “do you have something new I can play in my podcast? Send the radio edit.” Key words here - when I ask.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:45 AM  
  • At 8:24 AM, Blogger Tony said…

    Mp3s are dead....bring on vinyl! Haha. Insightful stuff as usual Adam.

  • At 8:35 AM, Blogger Chilly S said…

    Interesting Adam. However it would also be interesting to see how the music industry evolves. It is possible that in the future no one will manufacture anything physically. All music will be distributed digitally... for "free". Stranger things have happened.

    I guess the assumption with MP3's is that you will have a superior sonic device that you will use to play the files. So what artists should really be doing is giving you an ipod or something already preloaded with their MP3s. ;-)

  • At 8:41 AM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Chilly, interesting idea, but iPods (and MP3 players in general) are actually pretty awful when it comes to the quality of their sound (plus earbuds are bad for your hearing and I'm not about to go deaf just to hear The Game's new album).

    CD's may be less convenient for artists, but CD sound quality still reigns supreme.

  • At 9:47 AM, Blogger Kirk Coburn said…

    When you are working on your laptop, where are you? If you are in an environment where you can listen to music loud, then you should have a good setup for yourself. I can understand your frustration with emailed mp3s. That's more email etiquette in my opinion. But the fact that you only need a computer program to create music does not make the end product less valuable in my opinion. When the drum was in vented probably one of your ancestors was saying, "This is bullshit. They have to make these drums, when all along I can clap my hands and stomp my feet." But things evolve. Your reluctance to embrace technology may allow you to be passed up by your peers in your respective field. I have seen it time and time-again, regardless of industry.

  • At 9:56 AM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Kirk, thanks for your thoughts. I highly doubt I'll be passed over by my peers, though. I think it's interesting that whenever someone (in this case it's me) says they don't like ONE technology there's a broad assumption that said person has a reluctance to embrace ALL technology. Last time I looked this blog has been in existence way longer than almost any other music blog (since 2003) and I've been writing for the net in addition to all my print outlets since 2000. I was also among the first wave of music writers to embrace social networking sites and harness the power of them. So I'm certainly not anti-technology, I'm just anti-bad technology.

  • At 10:14 AM, Blogger Kirk Coburn said…

    Thank you for responding. Agreed: you have been an early adopter of technology in your respective field. But I believe that the invention of the mp3 is a great technological achievement. If you are saying the mp3 format is inherently bad technology, I disagree. If you are saying that for aspiring rappers, to email bad quality mp3s to you for self promotion is a bad strategy, that I can agree to.

  • At 10:18 AM, Blogger Kirk Coburn said…

    Also, by refusing to listen to any DVD that crosses your path, you may miss an opportunity. Do you think Ice Cube got sick of hearing aspiring rappers spit raps on the streets? Probably. But if he didn't listen to a Mr. Short Khop back in the day in front of a 7-11, there would not have been a Dollaz, Drank & Dank.

    Mr. Short Khop, or simply Short Khop is an American rapper. He encountered Ice Cube in front of a 7 Eleven convenience store in South Central, California. Ice Cube eventually struck a deal with the newcomer, and soon Short Khop made guest appearances in Ice Cube's 1998 War & Peace - Volume 1 (The War Disc).


  • At 10:26 AM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Kirk, I think you're now comparing apples to oranges here. MP3 vs. a live performance.

    The number of people who have the cajones to come up to me, or Cube, or anyone else, and spit a rhyme is minuscule compared to the number of people will email out an MP3. This is because actually seeing people in person requires making an effort.

    Cube might have encountered, on any given day, a dozen rappers tryin to holler at him, give him a demo, or spit a verse. Compare that to the upwards of 100 MP3s that find their way to my inbox on any given day and you'll see where part of the aggravation comes from.

    BTW - I meet most of the artists I feature at shows because how an artist performs live is much more important than anything done on record. I usually go to at least one event a week. But my gripe about the fact that writers don't attend shows anymore is another blog post for another time.

  • At 11:19 AM, Blogger Lee said…

    As an "artist" I have to say that I agree with aspects of what Adam is saying. I don't think it's an issue of resisting technology.

    I work with a 13-piece band complete with strings and horns. I also work solo on occasion with software. The problem maybe stems from the REAL IDEA that not everyone with Reason or Protools should be making music. That's just fact. Maybe a fact that some don't want to accept, but it's a fact still in my book. I don't think everyone should be a writer. I don't think everyone should be a photographer. I don't think that most folks in the music industry should be making decisions on something they know dick about. But these are values and ideas that folks aren't willing to embrace.

    There's a lot to be said for the fact that some kid makes a song every 20 minutes and sends the mp3 around. And there is as much to be said if Prince sent mp3s as well. The idea is that one of those folks took some time to master what they did. Simple.

    I may have sent Adam an mp3 to listen to something I had been working on. But that is based on a relationship that we have established. I'm certainly not expecting dude to review it or give it anymore time than he has.

    What it sounds like AB is saying is that there is a question of etiquette and his personal feeling on the issues mixed in with his opinions about the disposable nature of the things if "everyone can do it." Moreover, I recall an aside where we discussed sending an ALBUM. Send it when it's complete. Send it when a cohesive creation has been formulate. Don't just spout off a song a day expecting a write-up in Rolling Stone. This iPod generation is killing music with the idea of just making 3 minute throwaways. Make an ALBUM and give the listener something to sit with from front to back.

  • At 2:05 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Lee, as always, you hit the nail on the head.

  • At 3:17 PM, Blogger Whitemist said…

    I have large boxes of promo records, tapes, etc... I completely understand your point, it isn't technology that is the problem, it is the easy of shoving something in your face that you may not ever want to hear. A relationship is the point period. For me it is like doing research without peer review, anyone can stick it on the web and say it is their truth, but for some reason I would rather get a full picture than one persons snapshot.
    Great article!

  • At 4:03 PM, Blogger Sum and The Good Look said…

    if anyone with a pen is compelled to write, they should,..and they have for thousands of years...it didn't destroy the art/craft of writing, rather it just forced real writers to step their game up and stand out. same for music...i think if anyone is compelled to make it, they should go ahead and get it out of their system, or possibly awaken the sleeping giant inside. on the dark side, it makes it tough for writers, veteran-musicians and culture critics like ourselves to comb through the rubbish and find a jewel, but on the light side, it's forcing everyone to evolve and step it up a notch.

    you should've written this long ago. it would make alot more amateurs think about being more considerate, cordial and professional...and above all, push them to think about building relationships with the people they want to listen to their music.

    but on the real, you should probably get some decent speakers or headphones for your laptop homie lol.


  • At 10:33 AM, Blogger Chris said…

    I feel you Adam. Here's the only snag: ever since I broke down and began ripping some (and I stress some) of the MP3s sent to me, I've heard some seriously dope joints that I would have ignored otherwise. I won't say names - because it will look like I'm shamelessly shilling for those MCs - but I'm definitely tapping into some good new music via MP3s (as well as at shows, like always).

  • At 10:35 AM, Blogger Roc Doogie said…

    A writer with a digital blog and an MP3 podcast who doesn't accept MP3s... Maybe its just me but thats sounds like a flaming buttload (actual unit of measurement) of bs!lol Especially when you say its in the artist best interest. Its just a matter of personal preference and nothing more.
    If someone came from across the country to hand me a CD I would be impressed but he could have easily shot me an email as a heads up. I think that as an advocate of music and up and coming artist, it shouldn't matter what format it comes in. And the way things areloking, MP3s might be the only format available in the future. Thanks for the insight and much respect to you fine sir but I think you can use a good set of speakers for your laptop especially if most of your writing is done at home. P.E.A.C.E.

  • At 10:43 AM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Roc, I also have quite a few "analog" blogs, as well as I'm an editor of a magazine and a columnist for a newspaper.

    I can tell you right now MP3s aren't the future. They can't be because an MP3 is far worse in sound quality and can't hold all the music a CD can. This is why some companies are already moving to MP3HD files, which are significantly larger. Here's some info on them:

    The new format allows for the creation and playback of a new type of audio file using lossless compression. MP3HD files are approximately four times the size of corresponding MP3 files, but remain compatible with existing MP3 players.

    Hence my reasoning that it's far better for the artist to NOT send out MP3s, but press things up on CD.

    Sorry to debunk you're theory that I'm full of BS, but a true artist wants their full vision to be heard, not some condensed version that drops parts of it out to make it more convenient to sent via email.

    Also, for all those hailing the MP3, remember, there is no business plan or business model for the format, it's why the industry is in the process of going belly up, they embraced a technology they knew nothing about. 70% of the money record labels make still comes from CD sales. That will not change for a long long time.

  • At 12:08 PM, Blogger Roc Doogie said…

    I know your work both "digital" and "analog", I'm a fan and a follower that doesn't need a reminder. The case here is personal preference not artist interest. Its cool you feel that way homie, I think you should just say that rather than discrediting an artist or his seriousness for his craft of choice.

  • At 12:10 PM, Blogger Roc Doogie said…

    oh and thanks for the MP3HD info, I did not know that

  • At 1:54 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    I'm not trying to discredit any artist and I think that artists know that (in fact I know they do judging by the comments posted by Lee and Sum).

    The problem is there's a glut of crappy wanna-be rappers out there who send out their work on an hourly basis, 90% of which wouldn't spend the buck twenty five to actually mail out a CD. Maybe you'd see things from another perspective if your inbox crashed every three hours because of these unrequested MP3s.

  • At 3:09 PM, Blogger deto-22 said…

    when i spend a year or more working on an album, or an ep, putting my all into it...or helping capture the all of the artists i'm working with...
    you. adam b, discredit its authenticity, or artistic value because it doesn't come on a fucking piece of plastic?
    that is some appauling shit to me.
    have we, phenetiks, or anyone else in the afa sent you email after email of mp3's begging for your critique? no.
    i have nothing else nice to say.
    peace adam.
    thanks for all your previous suppport, to which are much greatful for.

  • At 3:20 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Last time I looked the Phenetiks album was on CD... which helped you greatly in being named to the Rawkus 50. Do you think Rawkus would have looked at you the same way if you had been like the thousands of people who only had MP3s? No, you separated yourself from the pack of aspiring artists by being the most professional you could possibly be and by giving your work the best possible presentation. Not surprisingly, IT WORKED.

  • At 4:01 PM, Blogger deto-22 said…

    sadly, you're wrong.
    us being chosen for the rawkus 50 was based upon our internet "hustle" and myspace "effectiveness".
    they had us email them the mp3's of that album. the album you speak of, which 70% (if not more) of it's sales come from iTunes, leading into the rawkus 50 album (which was available only by digital download) has sold more than our first album...that we pressed.
    so, you decide to not accept mp3's from artits you have a working relationship with... out of personal preference, and by no means the artists benefit.

    take me off your email list for your adamsworld blog. i require you to mail me a handwritten copy.

  • At 4:18 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    they had us email them the mp3's of that album

    And if you hadn't had the album...

    The album PROVED your hustle. Anyone can make MP3s, you made an ALBUM, which is part of the reason they respected your HUSTLE. MP3s alone would not have illustrated this.

  • At 4:28 PM, Blogger deto-22 said…

    nah man.
    you're selectively missing the point.
    they did not know, or care if we had an album pressed.
    and i'm crafty, i can organize an albums worth of mp3's without ever "pressing" a physical copy.
    gotta love computers.

  • At 5:11 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    The vast majority of the Rawkus 50 had albums, which leads me to believe they cared about it (whether they advertised that fact or not).

    But what do I know, I've only been dealing with them since 2001.

  • At 6:58 PM, Blogger deto-22 said…

    you can deal with them since 2001.
    as a writer.
    i dealt with them as an artist.
    which, i've been for 20 years...
    so what would i know.

    i'm done with this convo.

  • At 12:41 AM, Blogger Roc Doogie said…

    All in all, I think this thread raises awareness on both sides. Again, thanks for the insight homie, I'll be reading

  • At 7:59 AM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Thanks Roc. I've always felt conversation is key, so I'm glad something I wrote could spark a little bit of it.

  • At 7:32 PM, Blogger Swiff said…

    "Also, for all those hailing the MP3, remember, there is no business plan or business model for the format, it's why the industry is in the process of going belly up, they embraced a technology they knew nothing about."

    The recording industry embraced MP3s? HA! Now THAT's B.S. Music listeners embraced MP3s, the recording industry sued little kids and grandmothers for using them.

    "They can't be because an MP3 is far worse in sound quality"

    Not with higher quality bitrates or VBR encoding. A 192 kbps mp3 is considered by most to be "CD quality" and my JBL studio monitors really can't tell the difference at that point. MP3HD? No thanks - the last thing I need is my massive music collection quadrupling in file size. Real audiophlies use FLAC anyway.

    But hey, if you think CDs have another decade or two of widespread use ahead of them - GREAT! It'll make me feel less dumb about that 11 bay CD duplicator I spent all this money on.

  • At 9:32 PM, Blogger Roc Doogie said…


  • At 7:55 AM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    Yeah, both Sketch and Dutch told me about the record.

    Definitely shoulda pressed it up on CD.

    No one has ever been asked to autograph an MP3.

  • At 6:55 PM, Blogger The Dutchman said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 7:08 PM, Blogger Adam Bernard said…

    192 kbps is NOT CD quality or better.

    Audio (MP3)

    * 32 kbit/s – MW (AM) quality

    * 96 kbit/s – FM quality

    * 128–160 kbit/s – Standard Bitrate quality; difference can sometimes be obvious (e.g. bass quality)

    * 192 kbit/s – DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) quality.

    * 224–320 kbit/s – Near CD quality.

    Incidentally, if you actually receive "twice as many" mp3 submissions as I do you don't listen to them all, or even half of them, because you can't... there aren't enough hours in the day.

  • At 7:51 PM, Blogger The Dutchman said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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