Sunday, October 07, 2007

Music as Music. No more cd fetish for me ........

Back in the old, old days music obsessives like me were all about getting the music. But we also needed to have the object as well. Whether that was a record, cassette or cd didn't matter. The music was the object.
This month, finally, all that changed.
Something in my brain has switched. Music is music. Doesn't matter how it's packaged. Indeed, it doesn't need a package at all.

But first, a bit of background and history...............

As I never owned a record deck cassettes were the way I had to go.
All my original cassettes sat proudly on shelves - alphabetical of course. Don't get me started on that one. Next to them were the copied cassettes, mostly obtained through copying loads of stuff from Dudley Record Library.
Over the years Dudley Record library was a fantastic source of music for me. It was here I was introduced to the wonders of Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk, The Cure and many, many others. I owe the music buyer there a huge debt of thanks for introducing me to so much great stuff.

And as the years went by I was proof that the old adage of "Home Taping Is Killing Music" was a huge lie. I'd have a huge number of copied tapes, but all they would do is make me want the actual object, the real cassette even more. As soon as I had money to spend I was straight down to the local Our Price spending a small fortune on tapes.
And back then music used to cost. This would have been 1986-9 and I'd be at Sixth Form. I can distinctly remember going into Our Price and spending £7.50 on the Ciccone Youth White Album cassette.
Using a handy inflation counter that works out as £13.80 in today's money. But when's the last time you paid that much for a cd? A quick check on Amazon shows the remastered and expanded version of the cd is just £7.48.

Complete nonsense.

So gradually my music collection increased, both original and copy.
Then along came cds. And for a long time cds and cassettes had to coexist. I'd buy lots of cds rather than tapes anymore, but I'd still copy stuff onto tapes when I needed to. I was also building up an impressive collection of compilation tapes, over 30 C90s at one point of odd songs or stuff taped off the radio.
Eventually my desire for the objects that were cds became too much and I started replacing the original tapes with original cds. (So much for home taping killing music eh?)

Next stage was of course the first CD-R computer. A complete revolution. All the tapes went then, even the compilation tapes. They all got burned onto a few compilation cds.

The next big change was i-tunes and the i-pod.
The ability to get an entire music collection onto a computer jukebox. The astonishing idea of having everything you owned in one place, available with a mouse click. Wow.
Now I realise I'm slightly different from most folks in the way I have my music.
dock. I don't play music from I-tunes anymore. I use the i-pod and speaker set up as my hi-fi system. Because I spend time listening to music in our small spare room/office my i-pod is permanently in it's speaker and it's the perfect setup:

But despite this, I still bought the music, still got the cds. With no broadband in the house getting the music via download wasn't an option. I never liked the idea of bit torrent - paranoia about spyware and hijacks etc. (I know, I know, but humour me). And paying nearly £8 for the album on i-tunes just seemed stupid when you could get it for the same on cd and get the actual physical object as well. And I still wanted the physical object. Or at least I did.

We now have broadband and everything has changed.
I don't know for certain if broadband caused the change. I think it merely tipped the balance. Suddenly I'm perfectly happy to have every bit of music I own as mp3s. (I won't go into the quality arguments here. They just don't apply - remember how small the office is?)

I stopped seeing the music as an object and started seeing it as just music.
There is no difference in an mp3 downloaded onto the i-pod and a cd imported onto the i-pod. I may have to drag the album art into i-tunes. That's the only effective difference.

Whether I keep buying cds or whether I start downloading is another question to ponder.
I'll be looking at cheaper methods of downloading. Being locked into the DRM of the i-tunes store doesn't appeal. But neither does using bit-torrent or some dodgy Russian site.
What does everyone else use?

What it does mean is that I'm able to quickly go online and search music blogs for stuff I'm interested in. During the course of this I've just found and downloaded some Ciccone Youth that I was missing. Yes it's getting music for free, yes, it's getting music without paying the artists, but in the same way as copying tapes from the record library all those years ago didn't kill music, I can't see this doing it either. I'm sure that as I listen to more and more music through You Tube, mp3 blogs and wherever, I'll end up buying stuff I would never have bought before.

The only difference is my freedom from the object of music. No more fetishising the package. Now it really is all about the music. Maybe it's time to offload all the cds?


  1. for the small labels, BitTorrent for the big ones (it's perfectly safe in my experience) until the Amazon mp3 shop opens here which is when I'll start being 100% legit.

  2. I still buy some CDs but only when the price is good online or somewhere like Fopp (sad old rocker that I am I just picked up Cult: Fire Woman for a fiver there the other day. I had it on tape once upon a time, don't own a tape deck no more). But these days I do a virtual mix-tape on the computer, MP3 player or even just for the flash drive which plugs right into my main stereo at home and plays the MP3s direct.

    Between that and digital radio exposing me to new bands and being able to listen to some of their tracks online before buying or even getting some free from some cool music sites I reckon I'm listening to more and different music than I have since my student days when being seen with the NME was vital to your coolness rating.