Call me Russ L

Home taping killed music: 13 disorganised thoughts on downloading pop

Posted in Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 23 September, 2008

All of which are from a purely personal perspective, of course. It should be noted that these are observations purely regarding popular music (and yes, that includes your underground superdupercore), and not anything else.

1) When people who previously controlled the large-scale distribution of music start complaining about the fact that they no longer control the distribution of music, I find it exceedingly hard to sympathise. I’m sometimes (vaguely, faintly) impressed by how open the musicbizzniz actually is about the fact that it’s a scummy and unpleasant carpetbagging operation (‘honest about its dishonesty‘, as it was once concisely and effectively described), but it’s a scummy and unpleasant carpetbagging operation nevertheless and we have absolutely no need for it anymore (if we ever did. It’s perhaps an aside, but I don’t understand how the major label/’signed’ thing has come by most to be seen as the standard state of affairs whilst your more DIY-styled approaches are considered unusual. This is bizarre and completely counterintuitive to me). As a thing in itself, the music industry can crash and burn.

2) BUT… but but but… this will mean losses of jobs. Tonnes of jobs. Not only those who work for record companies, but also music shops (writ large already), printers firms, CD pressing plants, the people who drive the delivery vans etc. This should not be glibly ignored. The music industry as a thing in itself can, as I’ve said, burn; ordinary people don’t necessarily deserve to.

3) Something else that I don’t have any sympathy for is rich folks moaning that they might not be able to afford this week’s yacht/ivory backscratcher/solid gold house/moon rocket. Whatever one thinks of their work, Metallica can bugger right off.

4) At the other end of the spectrum, it’s clearly and obviously apparent that 99.99999% of bands that exist in the world make no money at all out of recorded music. It’s the tiny number of mid-range acts who are (arguably) going to suffer. ‘Statistical insignificance’ sounds like a really callous phrase, so I won’t use it.

5) Music won’t disappear if we end up with a state of affairs where no-one can make their fortune from it. That’s just silly.

6) I don’t care all that much about packaging. There, I said it. Most seriousmusicfans (nuts to them, as well) tend to say “I’m a sucker for packaging” as though that’s not exactly the same sentiment and usually exactly the same form of words that practically every other seriousmusicfan repeats as often as they do. There are, of course, examples of cover art and packaging that I like; I can’t pretend that it’s especially important to shallow ol’ me, though, and I frequently don’t notice it at all. I have two ‘cover art’ anecdotes – when I was about 17/18/ish, Faith No More were my favourite band and I once found myself trying to describe which album “King For A Day… Fool For A Lifetime” was to a mate.
“It’s got a red and black cover.”
“With a picture of a wolf?”
I honestly wasn’t sure, despite them being my favourite band of the time and despite having owned the album for a few years. More recently, I hadn’t noticed until it was pointed out to me that the picture on the cover of Tuung’s “Mother’s Daughter And Other Songs” was still a picture whichever way up you turn it, despite having owned it for a few months (on CD. I had a taped version for a long time before that).

7) Given the above, the reader may not be surprised to learn that I don’t get object-fetish-y over music in the same way I do about (say) books.

8) I’m as deaf as a post and even if I wasn’t I don’t think I’d have the attention span to be an audiophile. I know that MP3s are of poor quality; this doesn’t affect me, most of the time (as ever, there are a few exceptions)

9) I would nevertheless be sad to see actual physical albums disappear.

10) I’d be even sadder to see the concept of the album disappear. The ‘song’ is not the only basic unit that popular music can be reduced to, in my reading of the whole affair. Also, this.

11) Paying for MP3s is a really weird idea. I don’t like the thought. I’d be handing over cashmoney for a pile o’binary that’ll disappear the next time a spike wipes my hard drive. What am I actually getting?

12) Theoretically, downloading could result in an individual pirating a lot less music than back in the days when said individual would go to libraries a few times a week, take out as many albums as (s)he could, and tape them if (s)he liked them. Theoretically. I wouldn’t know anything about this myself, though, what with me being a good ‘un and such.

13) Recorded music is boring anyway.


One Response

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  1. Russ L said, on 25 September, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Post-script: A little bit of me thinks it’s perfectly fair to encourage everyone else to illegaly download an album if you buy it on CD and find the tracks aren’t tagged when you put it into your computer, like (say) the Rolo Tomassi album I bought at the gig last night. “Unknown Artist – Track 1” indeed.



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