Guest Blogger: Cobra Starship's Gabe Saporta | EW.com

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Guest Blogger: Cobra Starship's Gabe Saporta

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Cobra Starship’s latest release, the Patrick Stump-produced ¡Viva La Cobra! (Decaydence/Fueled by Ramen Records), came out just in time for the holiday-shopping season, but singer Gabe Saporta fears this may be the last year Christmas-gift buyers will be stuffing stockings with compact discs. What does the increasing iTuning of America mean for a band on the rise? How much weight does a Fall Out Boy affiliation carry these days when it comes to selling records? Read on for Saporta’s assessment…

The Ghost of CD Past: Why This Christmas Will Be the Disc’s Last
By Gabe Saporta

Today is a day off on our tour with The Academy Is… and we are at some Best Western in East Bumblef—, Indiana. There’s absolutely nothing to do here, so I hit up the Wal-Mart and buy me some Palak Paneer from the specialty foods aisle. And what free prize do I find in my $1.99, prepackaged, microwavable crappy Indian food? A Virgin Records CD entitled Indian Classical Maestros: An Instrumental Extravaganza! And what am I gonna do with my free CD? That’s right, I’m gonna throw it in the trash along with the rest of the food packaging.

Yes ladies and gentleman, the Compact Disc is so devalued that you can’t even give it away. This Christmas will be the CD’s last hurrah. I mean seriously, doesn’t the idea of giving a kid a CD as a gift seem kind of archaic? Maybe a couple of CDs? Three or 4? But why do that when an iPod Shuffle costs just 70 bucks? And seriously, which kid wouldn’t rather have that than a couple CDs?

The amount of information and entertainment choices available to us
has grown exponentially — all of it at our fingertips. Why get dressed,
leave your house, drive to the record store and deal with snobby shop
clerks (or go to Wal-Mart and have to stand in a checkout line next to
some dude buying a new gun rack for his pick-up) in order to pay almost
twice as much as you would if you were to just go on your computer and
download it from iTunes? For the artwork? That’s a tough sell. And why
even buy the whole album, when all you want is the single?

That’s right, we’re living in a singles world. People want to cherry
pick songs, they don’t want the whole album. Just think about the kid
getting the new 160GB iPod this Christmas (or Hanukah, for all of you
keeping it kosher). That bad boy holds 40,000 songs. That’s a lot of
songs. And that kid is gonna be really psyched to play with his new
bad-ass iPod. And you wanna know how he’s gonna play with it? He’s
gonna see how quickly he can fill it up! And I can guarantee you one
thing: Nobody is spending $40k to fill up his iPod. Forty thousand songs? The
kid wont even buy 100 songs from iTunes. No, you wanna know what he’s
gonna do? He’s gonna “steal” them. Even if he doesn’t use a P2P or a
bit-torrent program to download illegally, he’ll just hit up all his
friends and do hard-drive swaps, or just IM them and search through
their music files.

The CD may in fact survive, but if it does, it will do so much like
it’s old friend the 7”. Enduring nostalgically on the sentimental
patronage of collectors; the die hard fans. The ones who need to have
every song, who need to have the artwork, who need to hold the booklet,
and who need to read the liner notes. Sadly, however, it seems that
these fans have become fewer and farther between. But who can blame
them? How can I expect anything more of my fans than I expect of
myself? I barely have the attention span to watch an entire show, much
less sit at home and listen to an entire CD. I go out, and if the DJ
doesn’t mix in the next track quickly enough, I get bored. We are
constantly being bombarded by media, and our attention is constantly
jumping onto the next thing being thrown at us.

When I first realized this, I was truly disheartened as an artist. I
had just finished my third (and what would ultimately be my final)
record with my former band. It was a conceptual record. An exploration
into the nature of identity and the self. I poured everything I had
into making it, and learned more about myself than I could imagine in
the process. Every word, every note, had been meticulously and
painstakingly contemplated. When it was completed, I felt like I had
finally accomplished what I set out to achieve when I first picked up a
guitar at 13. The realization that people were just glossing over it
and simply not “getting it” was one of the biggest disappointments of
my life. It made me want to quit making music.

But then I rationalized it a different way. Instead of judging our
new world as a cold and indifferent one where nothing is given the
chance to truly flourish, I embraced it and saw it as a challenge; to
find a way to be creative, to love what I do, to be true to myself, but
to captivate and hold peoples’ attention. Entertain the masses, while
offering something more for anyone wanting to scratch the surface. So
whereas in the past it would have bummed me out if people sang along
only to our single, today I’d be psyched that this one single has
brought them to our show!

Lately, all the shows we’ve been playing have been sold out, and
it’s pandemonium at the venues. But you would never know it from
looking at our SoundScan numbers. What am I supposed to do? Yell at the
kids for not buying CDs? No way. I am so grateful for all the support I
do get from our fans. And honestly, if they don’t buy the record, I’m
not losing sleep. I’m psyched that we have kids coming to the shows and
singing along. 

The death of the CD does not mean the death of music. Music is
arguably more pervasive in the culture than ever. The futuristic
challenge is to figure out how to make money from recorded music. Rick
Rubin’s recent New York Times interview put the word
“subscription” on the tip of everyone’s tongue.  Who can say if that’s
the answer for sure? Definitely not me. I gotta make music because I
love it, and hopefully some people listening will love the music I make
as well. In the end, only time will tell which technology conquers and
endures, and the person who figures it out will be very, very rich. But
I think we’ll be banging in that last nail on the CD’s coffin before we
know where we’re going next. After all, it was all about the adventure
anyway, wasn’t it?

The amount of information and entertainment choices available to ushas grown exponentially — all of it at our fingertips. Why get dressed,leave your house, drive to the record store and deal with snobby shopclerks (or go to Wal-Mart and have to stand in a checkout line next tosome dude buying a new gun rack for his pick-up) in order to pay almosttwice as much as you would if you were to just go on your computer anddownload it from iTunes? For the artwork? That’s a tough sell. And whyeven buy the whole album, when all you want is the single?

That’s right, we’re living in a singles world. People want to cherrypick songs, they don’t want the whole album. Just think about the kidgetting the new 160GB iPod this Christmas (or Hanukah, for all of youkeeping it kosher). That bad boy holds 40,000 songs. That’s a lot ofsongs. And that kid is gonna be really psyched to play with his newbad-ass iPod. And you wanna know how he’s gonna play with it? He’sgonna see how quickly he can fill it up! And I can guarantee you onething: Nobody is spending $40k to fill up his iPod. Forty thousand songs? Thekid wont even buy 100 songs from iTunes. No, you wanna know what he’sgonna do? He’s gonna “steal” them. Even if he doesn’t use a P2P or abit-torrent program to download illegally, he’ll just hit up all hisfriends and do hard-drive swaps, or just IM them and search throughtheir music files.

The CD may in fact survive, but if it does, it will do so much likeit’s old friend the 7”. Enduring nostalgically on the sentimentalpatronage of collectors; the die hard fans. The ones who need to haveevery song, who need to have the artwork, who need to hold the booklet,and who need to read the liner notes. Sadly, however, it seems thatthese fans have become fewer and farther between. But who can blamethem? How can I expect anything more of my fans than I expect ofmyself? I barely have the attention span to watch an entire show, muchless sit at home and listen to an entire CD. I go out, and if the DJdoesn’t mix in the next track quickly enough, I get bored. We areconstantly being bombarded by media, and our attention is constantlyjumping onto the next thing being thrown at us.

When I first realized this, I was truly disheartened as an artist. Ihad just finished my third (and what would ultimately be my final)record with my former band. It was a conceptual record. An explorationinto the nature of identity and the self. I poured everything I hadinto making it, and learned more about myself than I could imagine inthe process. Every word, every note, had been meticulously andpainstakingly contemplated. When it was completed, I felt like I hadfinally accomplished what I set out to achieve when I first picked up aguitar at 13. The realization that people were just glossing over itand simply not “getting it” was one of the biggest disappointments ofmy life. It made me want to quit making music.

But then I rationalized it a different way. Instead of judging ournew world as a cold and indifferent one where nothing is given thechance to truly flourish, I embraced it and saw it as a challenge; tofind a way to be creative, to love what I do, to be true to myself, butto captivate and hold peoples’ attention. Entertain the masses, whileoffering something more for anyone wanting to scratch the surface. Sowhereas in the past it would have bummed me out if people sang alongonly to our single, today I’d be psyched that this one single hasbrought them to our show!

Lately, all the shows we’ve been playing have been sold out, andit’s pandemonium at the venues. But you would never know it fromlooking at our SoundScan numbers. What am I supposed to do? Yell at thekids for not buying CDs? No way. I am so grateful for all the support Ido get from our fans. And honestly, if they don’t buy the record, I’mnot losing sleep. I’m psyched that we have kids coming to the shows andsinging along. 

The death of the CD does not mean the death of music. Music isarguably more pervasive in the culture than ever. The futuristicchallenge is to figure out how to make money from recorded music. RickRubin’s recent New York Times interview put the word”subscription” on the tip of everyone’s tongue.  Who can say if that’sthe answer for sure? Definitely not me. I gotta make music because Ilove it, and hopefully some people listening will love the music I makeas well. In the end, only time will tell which technology conquers andendures, and the person who figures it out will be very, very rich. ButI think we’ll be banging in that last nail on the CD’s coffin before weknow where we’re going next. After all, it was all about the adventureanyway, wasn’t it?

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