Thursday, 17 May 2007

Every other household's got PCs

Downloads are killing music. How many times have you heard that? And do you agree? Have you actually thought about the implications of such an accusation? Why are MP3s apparently heralding the end of music in more tangible formats? Is it because all the kids are downloading illegal files for free and not contributing to the industry? No, in a word.

Little Johnny gets an MP3 player (its not an i**d, just a regular, generic MP3 player) for Christmas because they’re cool and his mates have them. He wants some music, he’s only 13 and hasn’t built up anything resembling a record collection. His choices are 1) get dads CDs and rip them, 2) go out to buy a CD, or 3) get on that computer and get loads of good tunes for free. We all know which one he opts for, but before we continue, lets explore his other choices:

Dad’s music; yes he likes it. The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkel, Black Sabbath – a brilliant musical grounding for any aspiring music fan – but in front of his friends; No way Jose (as I believe all the ‘hip’ kids are saying these days).

A trip to HMV; he doesn’t get enough pocket money, he doesn’t have a paper round and mum certainly aint gonna buy him that Eminem album even though she can pick it up at Sainsburys for £7.97 along with the weekly groceries.

Downloads; yes he downloads. This kid is not ruining the economy, without the internet he would simply just not be listening to music. He would have no means of doing so. This child does not represent the people who buy actual CDs. He represents a new cross section of society; the youth who now have access to almost everything they want. Pre internet he’d be playing the CDs he got as presents or after a big save over and over again. And he would be appreciating it.

Appreciation. LP. These words are synonymous in my life. There are probably only two albums (and only one actually springs to mind) that I regret buying. The rest I cherish and enjoy for one reason or another. The complete embodiment of an artists work is a treasure. I remember sitting in my room with liner notes; scrutinising the artwork, production credits, who did the scratches, who played slide guitar on one track, how the line up changed for that particular song – I still do it now and it is nothing short of satisfying.

I contrast this to myself post-mad download spree. First 10 seconds - Whack. Next track – hmmm, OK I suppose. Delete or keep? Yeah I’ll keep, might not listen again. Next track – forgettable. Oooh this tracks good, I’ll remember that one but…let’s see what else I got. Skip. 30 seconds. Skip…and so on. An average mp3 player now will contain tracks in their thousands. How can one teenager possibly listen to and love all of these? They can’t, portable audio collections have meant music becomes a backdrop – it becomes another element of overall fulfilment that people seek in multiple pleasures. Will these kids ever sit down and devour the text and images whilst listening and consuming a whole product? Or will they be content in their skittering, whimsical, non-committal competition to have as many days worth of music on itunes as possible? Will they appreciate an artist and their work this way? I don’t think so. I have cherished and loved the albums I have bought. Many of them were the result of hard work, anticipation and deliberation. When downloading is as easy as right click, save target as, save; the personal value is immediately deleted, along with 50% of the downloads that didn’t sound good after 30 seconds.

The lack of appreciation leads to the increasing popularity of bands and artists being 'the next big thing'. These days anyone touted so is pretty much destined to fall off the conveyor belt before reaching anything resembling a career pinnacle. Their heady ascent to a plateau someway below the peak is their highlight, it is their achievement. The modern consumer wants more, wants it new and they want it now. Artists, and indeed albums, are not given the chance that past generations would have afforded them to mature. They are now flung into the spotlight in front of a baying crowd who 6 months down the line will reject them and will have had flirtations with numerous bands and several musical crushes since.

Downloading isn’t all bad, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Album buying comes with a greater degree of certainty once you’ve heard a couple of cuts of it. Finding a tune or group you absolutely adore is easier now you can afford to explore. But don’t let these advantages put you off buying an actual product that you can hold in your hands. Multi-sensory stimulation is not a thing of the past; the internet is not the only medium available to us. You are depriving yourself, it wont affect the artist; they’re probably minted already, it’s only CEOs who care about their sales figures. And anway, if artists do want more money, they should do more shows instead of flooding the entire world with second rate product called ‘mixtapes’.

What do you think? Am I barking up the wrong end of the stick? Hit me up with some comments.


Tom said...

Last night i heard The Ting Tings on 6music, liked the song so went and googled it. i then ripped it from myspace and posted it on my blog for all to hear. All the while though i was thinking 'this is all a bit too easy'. Hard-format singles are obsolete for me, all the remixes are on the blogs and if i want the song i'll buy the album.

I feel bad for Justice having their album leaked, their main fanbase is hipsters/bloggers/myspace kids so who will be left to buy the album if they all download it?

The next album i buy will be Dizzee's, even after the dissapointing Showtime. When you hear the sirens comin! (better run cos it's the intenet police suing you for downloading Justice!) Blap!

ANS said...

Well hopefully this time you haven't been messing on your computer at the same time with the page clicks and download alerts recorded as well (LDN is a victim)!

Singles are stupid, i don't know who buys them other than DJs who need them before the album comes out.

Dizzees new stuff sounds good so i'd advise the album.