Every now and then we get an enquiry asking this question. The quick answer is: some of our albums are in print on CD, but many are not. Here’s why, and what the options are.
The decline of CDs
A decade or more ago, CD was how we all purchased music, and the only way we could publish our nature recordings. In Australia we had over a thousand retail outlets selling our CDs. But we could see change happening as the internet grew, and digital delivery of music became the norm.
The change happened quite suddenly; our retailers emptied out their CD stock, sold it off cheap, and our national distributor went bankrupt. All within a year. From those thousand retailers, we now have less than half a dozen, and they are all boutique nature shops that each sell only a handful of our titles.
…and the transition to digital
Fortunately, we had established our online shop offering not just CDs but digital downloads. We have chosen to offer two formats of digital audio files:
1. mp3 files, which are compressed making them quicker to download, are universally playable on iPods and media players, but sacrifice some audio quality, and
2. flac files; larger files to download, and requiring transcoding for some applications (eg; burning your own CD at home), but containing full CD-quality audio resolution.
We have priced these two digital formats the same. For each album, you will see the option of choosing either flac or mp3, but the CD option will only appear for those titles that remain in print. If the CD option doesn’t appear for that album, it means that we no longer have it available on CD, or quite likely, it is a more recent title that we have never published on CD.
Why digital downloads?
Overwhelmingly, we’ve seen our customers embrace digital downloads in preference to CDs. In the past, we used to receive several CD orders a day through our shop, but that has declined now to only one or two packages being sent out a fortnight.
The advantages of downloadable audio for customers are obvious: it is cheaper, can be accessed almost immediately and without postal delays or hassles. Home audio is also changing, and many of our listeners no longer have CD players.
For us, CDs have always been a big investment in stock manufacture, warehousing, and dispatching. So it’s a liberation not to have all that. But the big advantage of publishing digitally is that we are free of the constraints of the CD medium. We no longer need to restrict ourselves to ‘best seller’ titles, and can expand into offering more specialised or fascinating material. We’ve been able to develop our catalogue from two dozen or so albums, to currently near eighty. And we’ve been able to publish recordings with program lengths beyond the 80 minutes capacity of an audio CD.
Downloading our albums is not that difficult – really!
This all presents a challenge for some listeners who feel left behind and possibly bewildered by the technological changes. Downloading digital audio represents a new way of listening, not just accessing the product itself, but then how to play it.
One of the simplest solutions is to download the audio to your computer, and then burn it to a CDR, and play as you would a regular CD. We even provide a simple cover artwork graphic that can be printed out for this. Either mp3 or flac files can be used (flac is CD quality audio of course), but both will need transcoding to either ‘wav’ or ‘aiff’ files suitable for CDR burning. This is a straightforward process, and either programs like iTunes or Nero will do it automatically (choose to burn a regular ‘audio disc’, rather than an ‘mp3 disc’), or there is software available online to convert prior to burning.
We have written up extensive notes on downloading and burning audio to disc on our FAQ and help page. Have a read of this, and of course there is always vast amounts of information and tutorials online. Google to the rescue!
Whilst we try and assist where we can, every customer has different capacities, technology, resources and inclinations. We hope you’ll be up for the challenge, or may even have younger family members or a tame tech guru who can help you out.
We’ve heard from many customers who, once they’ve got their heads around downloading, realise just how convenient it is – they are listening to their albums in minutes!
What about iTunes?
We do have some titles available on the iTunes store. However for many reasons we’ve chosen not to place our extended catalogue with them. Their sales quantities are just not viable, their prices are high, they offer us little flexibility in publishing and most importantly, no communication with customers – all you get is an album/artist/cover listing.
iTunes does offer a seamless payment and downloading environment, however they use propriatory software to do this. So whilst our independent website requires a few more clicks, it does allow us to provide you with a wealth of images, rich information and a personal context for your listening.
And for us and our customers, it is not only the listening, but learning and sharing that is important.