Commentary: Listening to CDs on YouTube


Quite a few commercial recordings are now showing up on YouTube. Not long before Christmas I discovered in fact that the full content of my solo CD Les Adieux and also my trio CD Table for Three are on YouTube. Both are on the Summit label, but curiously my other Summit solo CD, Canto, is not up. [UPDATE: It is also online. All three may be accessed from this YouTube channel.]

In any case, my first honest reaction was shock, not only because I had no idea they were there but also the sound quality is terrible on YouTube. I had only previously heard the CDs played on good speakers. The below is the title track of Lex Adieux, give it a quick listen. If you have no perspective I suppose it sounds OK but really, the actual audio quality is considerably better than this. (Direct link here)

Besides that it also seemed on first blush like a clear theft of my artistic product (my series on copyright starts here), I did not put these tracks up there, and it was clear that Summit did not directly post them either. Somebody other than me must be trying to make money off of my product on YouTube, from the ad revenue and such.

Turns out that it actually is legal. At best I will see maybe pennies on this new use, and Summit is not doing much better on this deal either. This use certainly is not helping me much financially as the artist who funded the CD entirely.

Besides the money issue, I keep going back to the bad audio quality. It may sound OK to readers out there in horn land, but this was my baby, my first solo CD, it is very well produced and mastered. I heard it in the mastering lab and have studio monitors for speakers at home; trust me in saying that the YouTube version is really but a shadow of the genuine product.

Then again, maybe the bad audio is a feature and not a bug? To really experience the audio you do have to buy a different version.

In an ideal world the YouTube versions of tracks from Les Adieux would inspire you the horn public to go ahead and buy real versions of the tracks or the complete CD! I hope I am wrong, but my impression is that these YouTube versions will do the opposite — depress future sales. My final reminder being this: the CD may seem dead, and you can find free versions of CDs that sound OK to you on YouTube, but if you care about audio quality and if you care if the artists actually make any money on their products please buy the CDs, or at least the tracks.

To learn more about what is on my Les Adieux CD in full (music of Franz Strauss and others), this is my older article on the CD, which I will likely update soon with links to the new YouTube tracks, and add a version of the program notes. Resistance is futile.

One final note is that there are two theme and variation works on the CD and for both of them the sections of the work come up as individual tracks! Thus, if you are looking for them on YouTube you could go to any part of the work as the tracks online are not marked in any way. When I update my Les Adieux CD page I will put links up to all the tracks in these works in order to hear the work as you would experience it if you listened to the actual physical CD.

University of Horn Matters