Priority of Music Purchasing

Last year I started buying music again. Mainly I just didn’t want to be tied to any specific streaming service and their willingness/ability to support whatever operating system or hardware I want to use. Also I want to support artists, but that’s a topic for another day.[1]

The conundrum is always whether or not to buy something digitally or buy a physical CD. Digital music is (probably?) better for the environment: no material production, no shipping. But it’s nice having the CD which I can rip to whatever format I prefer. Plus it’s cool to be able to peruse someone’s CD collection.[2] I worry a little about losing digital music, but I am backing up my collection to Backblaze, so… 🤞🏻 Anyway, I think I’ve worked my way around to a priority of constituencies of sorts for music purchases.

Prefer shows over band’s shops over Bandcamp over indie stores over major retailers.

My own priority of constituencies for where to buy music

If I’m at a show, I’ll purchase a CD there. This seems great because I get a little memento of the show, and my understanding is artists see more money from merch purchased at a show than elsewhere.

Next preference would be if the band has a shop where they sell their own music. Hopefully they see a good chunk of these sales as well.

Bandcamp is my third choice because they have a reputation for taking a small cut and giving most of the money to the artists.[3]

Next I’ll go to an indie music store, if there is one. This often takes the form of buying used CDs on Alibris. If I had a good local music store, this would probably be higher on the list.

If all else fails, I might go to a larger retailer like Amazon or 7Digital. So far, though, it hasn’t really come to this.

Mostly this “priority of constituencies” answers the digital vs physical question for me. At a show, or in a shop, I’m buying a CD. On Bandcamp I’m buying digital music. It sometimes gets a little tricky on band’s stores because they might offer both.[4]

Anyway, the moral of the story is: buy more music, if you can. It’s great having a collection of music that isn’t going anywhere and that I can be reasonably certain is not being monitored by some company as part of an advertising profile.


  1. If I ever get the guts to write up my thoughts on the economics of streaming music. ↩︎

  2. See also: books. ↩︎

  3. Some artists, like Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit record their live shows and put them up on Bandcamp. Which I think is pretty cool. ↩︎

  4. Or if they’re weird like Trent Reznor, they only sell vinyl. ↩︎