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Monday, February 27, 2006

MP3s: What are they good for?

Sunglasses you can listen to... what is the point in that?

A global revolution in the music industry was dramatically highlighted last week as the world's biggest online music store celebrated its billionth song download. An unsuspecting 16-year-old from Michigan made history on the iTunes website by downloading Coldplay's "Speed of Sound" - which cost him 99 cents. The landmark purchase edged record companies closer to a new era where online sales threaten to overtake sales of CDs in shops. (Click here for original source).

I have mixed feelings about the MP3. On the one hand, it is helping bands to finally take control of things for them selves, enabling them to get their music out there without having to deal with money grabbing record companies. It also enables people to share music in a high quality format and when combined with the wonders of the Internet it means you can share music with people on the other side of the world at the click of a mouse. So on the one hand, I am fully supportive of the DIY potential of MP3s.

On the other hand though, the ease of it all has made it a little bit TOO easy, convenient and, lets be honest, disposable. I have not quite gotten over the old thrill of rushing home after finally finding an album I had been hunting for months, opening it up, feeling the two ounces of plastic, holding it at the edge, hands twelve inches apart, placing it on the turn table and putting the needle on. Then as the stylus heads off on it’s journey through that long spiral scratch, sitting on the bed to closely inspect the artwork and sleeve notes on the cover.

OK, so it is a long time since I have done that, I converted to only buying CD in the early 90s. I remember my daughter recently saying that she was amazed how many vinyl LPs I had, when I told her that when I were a lad they had not invented CDs she did not believe me. She then pulled out the first Stone Roses LP and looked at the date, 1989. I chuckled to myself when I told her that CDs had been around since the early ‘80s but I was not convinced they would catch on… which was actually true.

But even in this day and age of CDs, holding a well packaged CD by one of your favourite bands is much more of an ‘experience’ than MP3s on you hard drive or you i Pod, or even a copied CD burnt by a mate.

And half the pleasure of music is the hunting down that rare or lost album, then savouring it when you have it. I used to get home from the record shop, and play my new album over and over again, till I knew every word on every track. With MP3s, you can download dozens if not hundreds of tracks in one night; the thrill of the hunt is gone and you do not appreciate and treasure your collection. I read an article recently, which stated that a university had done research into it and come to the conclusion that because of MP3s, music was loosing its ‘aura’. Not sure why we need a professor to come out with this, to me it is pretty obvious.

But it is not all bad; MP3s provide an opportunity to ‘try before you buy’. Through the net I have come across many bands that I might otherwise not have heard, and the ones that I have really liked have resulted in me going out to buy the CD. Record companies are finally starting to wake up to this, for years they have been complaining about MP3s or home copying killing the industry but they are finally starting to realise the opportunities presented by MP3s. The recent phenomenal first week of release sales of the Arctic Monkeys album, which had been much touted on the net, being a case in point.

I have stated before that I believe music is an art form and the music ‘industry’ is a parasite that we will be better off without. So, taking everything into consideration I think the fact that MP3s can put things back into the hands of the bands and the fans, on the balance of things I have to put my retro ideas of nostalgia to one side and say MP3s are a good thing.


At 7:09 pm , Anonymous Al Iguana said...

"sunglasses you can listen to: whats the point of that?"

dunno, but they're sexy :)

At 9:05 pm , Blogger CosmoAKAcitizensmith said...

hell, i totally agree with what you say about music, i think it is the same from the point of view of making it as well.

it is so easy to produce and record your CDs. i've got cracked software on my computer that wil allow me to make stuff of a qulaity 10 years ago i'd have had to pay £££ for.

on stuff like myspace, you can almost build up yr own following/interest etc, you've almost got the facilities at yr fingertips to do what an indie record label could do just a few years ago.

on the one hand, it does seem to make peole more blase about music, simply cos it is so easy to make and download.

but on the other hand, you don't need multinational dickwads to give you loads of cash and mess you about just to get yr stuff out there.

and unsignable twats like me can continue to piss of even larger numbers of people off with my pseudo-creative dribblings.




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