Care Of Editions is a record label that pays people to download using the profits from vinyl sales. Since we can’t give money away forever, this is an excuse to limit downloads. More importantly, the project sheds light on how this limitation is constructed so that consumers can decide for themselves if numbering downloads has any significance.
Payments for downloads are funded in real time, as records sell, so the downloads become unavailable whenever there’s insufficient money coming in from the vinyl. The amount of money a person would receive is tied to the download number, so it starts with one dollar and increases by one dollar for every download. Each edition contains 118 vinyl and 45 downloads. The last person to download would get 45 dollars.
The form of payment is a check sent in the mail. In order to be made widely acceptable, and to avoid recipients having to pay fees or join third-party services, the checks are sent from the Swiss postal bank. This bank works with other banks from all over the world to have the checks made locally, in the currency of the recipient’s country, so they can be easily cashed at the post office. In effect, downloading could produce a residue that is more limited and more unique than the vinyl editions, and whose value as an art object could potentially outweigh its face value.
The project is limited to six releases, to be issued over the course of 2012 and 2013. As downloads go out of stock, the website starts to fold up, possibly disappearing along with the editions. If this happens, we will have profited only enough to recover the costs of producing the records, and to pay the participants, musicians and artists.
Numbering downloads will have been a performance that plays with gauging something whose value is always in the making. In that sense, what the project proposes is to stay at the periphery of an unusual testing ground.
For downloads, limitation is always arbitrary and always an illusion. This particular illusion is traced back to a tension between two economies: one based on limited objects, such as records, and the other, on digital objects that have an infinite number. Making this correlation is an instance of malleability. It draws on the lens of the market as a form of perspectival space. Doing so allows the virtual economy to maneuver according to the strategies of marketing and value borrowed from the limited economy.
Care Of Editions essentially gives a number to each download as well a means of calculating this number. Without calculation, or without giving an apparent reason, limiting downloads would be Romantic. It would protect Number, and by extension, the Absolute, from the consequences of thought. Even aesthetic reasons, such as the symmetry and reciprocity involved in proportioning downloads to vinyl, fall short. They are already too embedded within the logic of the marketplace to be distinguishable from it. This is the reason for paying people: to create an opaque means of discerning an invented, though viable, significance associated with limiting downloads. Without it, one number is as good as any other.
Care Of Editions creates a highly visible scheme that illustrates the way in which the limitation of downloads can be calculated, or grounded, even if the grounding is unique to this project alone.
Gerhard Schultz was born in 1982 in Michigan. He holds a BA in Music Composition from the University of Michigan and an MFA in Experimental Sound Practices from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts, Los Angeles). From 2010 to 2011, Schultz was co-director of The Wulf, a venue for experimental music in Los Angeles. Apart from compositions and installations he works on conceptual, pseudo-social projects with the artists’ group “Untitled Collective”.