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the problem with digital music  Preview
23 September 05 from danzp 1
if you mean where they got the beatles albums in a single download, i've no idea. come to think of it, thay coulda been talking smack.
22 September 05 from WB 18
Regarding the article below please share where?
25 May 05 from danzp 1
The other day I overheard a co-worker exclaim, "I got every Beatles album ever made last night--all in one download!" Now, for me, the joy of music isn't just in obtaining it (though I DO admit to geeking out on packaging, etc.), but in spending time with it. Surely readers of this site know what I'm talking about. I understand that there's always been a rank consumer element to being "into" music, but is it just the old crank in me that thinks that it's worse now than ever before? That recent revolutions in accessibility have trained kids to think of music in terms of quantity rather than quality? I hope that's not a yes/no question. I mean, I hope that's not a 'yes' question.
20 June 05 from Brian Block 17
Reading this thread and the music-biz thread - and, even more dramatically, the Coke Machine Glow article recommended by Jer - made me realize the degree to which i've started to separate myself out from the indie hipster world. I don't feel a need to steal music: not because's legal artist-supportive streaming has everything, but it has far more than i can possibly process, and because it has enough that the albums i still do buy have a hard enough time grabbing my attention.  

I even take almost no advantage of free-MP3 sites. I meant to, but i feel like they'd just rob my attention from the albums i already claim to enjoy. (I do download from Aaron Mandel's and Jeff Norman's sites, but that's out of specific interest in what Aaron and Jeff think.)  

It's mid-June. I can only name 19 albums from 2005 that i'm fond of yet (in part because i'm sampling heavily from older years, true). Even there, System of a Down's MEZMERIZE, which my wife was playing on heavy repeat on our long vacation drives, is the only one i don't think still has surprises in store for me the next time i give full attention.  

If i had a desk job instead of a teaching job, this wouldn't be as true ... but i still can't imagine sampling everything. It took me three full listens to Tori Amos's THE BEEKEEPER just to decide i didn't hate it; now it's one of my favorite albums of the year. I certainly don't knock anyone who can make up their mind in 30 seconds or 3 minutes, and maybe i should be jealous. But somewhere, not really consciously, i guess i decided against letting technology dictate the speed of my listening.  

We'll see how long i hold out.
9 June 05 from NEH 16
I've always considered my music "habit" as an addiction. It seems to mirror that of a gambling addict. The addition is not in the winning of the bet but the placing of the bet.  

For me, the search has always been more addictive than actually acquiring the music. And, yes, I'm a vinyl junky so CDs and downloads aren't close to the rush of flipping through albums looking for something interesting.  

I like to start at "A" and flip through to "Z". The internet version of this activity just doesn't feed the addiction. So I'm a person who still needs real music stores with tangible items.  

I have to touch the music.
5 June 05 from zbnet 15
Answer to 1) My CD player's draw is sticking lots now when I try to open it, so currently my computer (RAID5 card with 4x120GB disks giving 360GB of storage online) is up more than my CD player...  

Answer to 2) Yes, the 4 disks means it has lots of fans to keep it cool, but that's why you need a squeezebox:
5 June 05 from orfeo 11
By sheer chance my reading of old issues of TWAS reached this issue today, all about the future of digital music. The predictions make interesting reading a couple of years on.  

Personally, however, I won't be letting go of my CDs just yet for two fundamental reasons:  

1. My CD player crashes a lot less often than my computer, despite the considerable improvements in the latter over the years.  

2. My CD player is a hell of a lot quieter than my computer. All that streaming audio comes with a constant background hum that isn't actually confined to the background.
4 June 05 from danzp 12
I agree with Ian on iTunes, although one of the few things I feel firmly about in this whole area is the fact that 99 cents is too much for a song--especially when it's compressed--and ten dollars is too much for an album when it's not only compressed, but sans artwork to boot. Hell, sometimes I turn up my nose at a ten dollar price tag at the record store itself. Not to mention that iTunes files are 'protected,' something else they should give up on.  

Course, I'm skating around glenn's year-and-a-half-old dissection of this, but I thought it was worth putting back on the table.
4 June 05 from Ian Mathers 13
You did indeed, good guess.  

I think "more isn't always better" is one of many things the music industry as currently constituted doesn't really get. Hopefully as things like iTunes become more and more successful it'll start to sink in.
3 June 05 from glenn mcdonald 14
I've never had a local record store that would let me listen to anything I wanted, unless you count those bar-code-scanning boxes at Virgin (where there are far too few of them to really camp out at one). Most of them do now have at least a couple listening stations, though, which is definitely helpful. My favorite things I came back from Europe with last time were records I heard on listening stations at the Virgin on the Champs-Elysées. In that case the listening stations are serving a dual purpose, both letting you listen and filtering down to a subset you can listen to. This seems kind of counter-productive, and going from station to station is way slower than flipping through things in the iTMS (never mind the delay imposed by getting to Paris to begin with). But I bought more albums, both absolutely and proportionally, as a result of spending an hour in that store than I have as a result of exponentially more and faster and more-available browsing in the iTMS. More isn't always better.
1 June 05 from glenn mcdonald 2
OK, I think I fixed the problem with what I'm guesing was the link you tried.
1 June 05 from Ian Mathers 13
My local used record store will load up a five-disc changer for you, hand you the headphones and remote control, and leave you alone for as long as you need (within reason) - it's great.  

HMV, not so much. But the used record store doesn't always have what I want.  

I'm younger (24) but between promos and cheap used discs still buy too many albums. As a result, I've become a lot more choosy about my "collection", and in the past four years or so (i.e. since I've had anything approaching a disposable income) I've also had to accept in a very visceral way that record collecting isn't something you can complete, nor should you be trying. I have plenty of albums on my shelves I haven't heard yet or that I'll probably eventually rip a few tracks from and sell, but my collection (which is only glacially being put back together) is reserved for records I know I'm going to want to pull out and listen to again. I no longer have any compunction about selling an album I think is good, even praiseworthy, over one I don't think is as good and wouldn't be as quick to recommend but that I keep listening to.  

I'm very sympathetic to what Newell was talking about in that Russian Futurists review, since I also write for a music website, and by the end of the year I usually feel some pangs of guilt that I never got around to checking out albums x, y and z that are topping everyone else's lists, but I've learned to let it go. Yes, I read some MP3 blogs and download from them occasionally; they all go into an "Incomplete" folder and don't go into my actual playlist until I've had enough time to listen to them enough. If it's a song I already love, that might just be once to make sure there are no skips and the like, but growers have sat in that folder for months before making their way into my listening.  

This is all a part, as someone else here said, of becoming your own filter. I think that's a good thing, and I think some good things can come out of it, such as a decline in the importance given to the mythical notion of a canon and hopefully a decline in "buyer's guide" type music criticism. Which might lead us, instead, to more criticism like glenn's and others.  

[Note: I originally had a longer link to my collection, but even with quotation marks it wouldn't render properly, appearing only as text with all a hrefs etc intact. There were &s in it originally, don't know if that was part of the problem...]
30 May 05 from orfeo 4
"Of course, evaluating music by skipping through excerpts is another interesting byproduct of digitization."  

No, it's not. I evaluated music by skipping before I ever had an internet connection. I did it by going to a music shop. The governing factor is the time available. And while I still like going to the music shop, there is no way I could stand there and assess five albums in a row. The most I've been willing to risk before being thrown out of the shop is two. So being able to sample from home has brought some benefits.  

Plus the odds of most music shops actually having all the albums I wanted to sample were always pretty low.  

I'm well aware of the risks of sampling in any format, but I think we can all agree that one has to develop some strategies for choosing which albums we actually listen to. There simply isn't time to try everything out, and there hasn't been for many decades.
30 May 05 from glenn mcdonald 2
Of course, evaluating music by skipping through excerpts is another interesting byproduct of digitization. I do it a lot, myself, but I'm starting to have serious misgivings about it. I've confidently dismissed several things based on samples that I've ended up really liking when I took the time to listen to them at their own speed and length. Some things lend themselves to random highlights, but some things really don't. I can't imagine trying to make sense of Björk in fragments. It's not even just the fragmentedness of fragments, it's the difference between listening to something with your hand on a buy-now buzzer and listening to it with the idea that this is the beginning of some kind of relationship. Yet another cost of shopping is the insidious idea that the first 30 seconds of your life with something are when the rest of your life with it is determined.
30 May 05 from danzp 12
It's good to hear people struggling with the same issues I have. I wasn't trying to be flip when responding to Jerry. In fact, my initial post WAS asking, in part, if my anxiety about 'the state of music' (or whatever) wasn't just me being an 'old crank.' In other words, there is, as always, an age component I'll never fully grasp, just as vinyl junkies don't 'get' CDs. Still I remain positive. One-off posts aside, I've no doubt that music moves younger people (I'm 34) regardless of the means by which (and amounts) they obtain.  

I think mlmitton says it best, that where before there might have been external forces helping out, now the filtering process rests in our own hands and headphones. And that's proved to be a lot harder than I would have ever imagined. Whether I limit myself to legal downloading, or to buying only manufactured CDs, or to checking in to only x number of mp3 blogs, there's always that chance that I'm going to miss out on (cheers, jer) The Russian Futurists' 'Paul Simon,' and the album I've tracked down in my enthusiasm.  

So the anxiety around not keeping up with amazing new music fences with the sheer drag that is, as glen puts it, 'the cost of shopping.' I know an equilibrium will be reached eventually, a system and a filter that I can live with. But it's fascinating to me how it's been almost a year since I obtained a new Mac and a DSL account, and I still haven't reached it...
30 May 05 from orfeo 11
Rearing my head again, because I forgot to say last time that the internet era does at least make searching through the rubbish a little bit easier.  

The other day I was able to sample all five of Bjork's albums (30 seconds per track, thank you Amazon). I came to the conclusion that, while I hadn't been missing out on anything essential, I wouldn't necessarily hate Homogenic or Vespertine.  

Try figuring THAT out at your local music store with something blaring over the loudspeakers just above the one set of headphones that crackle every time you move because some 10-year-old kept twisting the cord.
30 May 05 from 2fs 10
At some point a few years ago, I realized I had more money than time to acquire/listen to new music. To be more specific: the new-music-listening ritual I'd developed (listen to every CD I bought at least twice before filing it) was getting harder and harder to sustain, as I kept buying new CDs before I had time to complete the ritual with the old ones...which of course put a strain on my temporary shelving. As for the onset of MP3s...well, presumably as some sort of low-level OCD, I had to develop a sort of ritual for them as well: I'd assemble them into coherent order in CD-length sequences, then burn a CD (which would then become...a CD, and need to be listened to twice...). First crack in this new system: no time to logically sequence; several compilations in arbitrary orders like alphabetical. Second: time spent sorting a sequence (beginnings and ends of songs) allowed to "count against" listening-to-CD time (so: listen to CD only once before filing). Falling further to bits: there are now any number of tracks resident in my iTunes that are not, and likely will not, ever end up on CD. If ever I buy one of them there AirPort Express thingies (freeing that music from being confined to my laptop), the whole character of my collection - and hence, my collecting - will change, since there'd be less need to ratify its existence (so to speak) in physical form. What will that mean to how I regard music? Not sure, really...
29 May 05 from jer fairall 7
The question of how much music do I need is an interesting one. When I first found TWAS in 1997 and joined loufans in 1998, I was still in the process of discovering the essential core of bands and artists that make up what I now consider to be my favorites (or, at the very least, who I listen to) and therefore sampling music and taking part in forums was essential to building that. In 2005, I know have a substantial number of artists who I follow and buy pretty much everything by. So far this year, such established favorites of mine as Emm Gryner, Ben Folds, The Mountain Goats and Aimee Mann have already released new albums, and Christine Fellows, Billy Corgan, Alanis Morissette, Michael Penn and the New Pornographers have new ones on the way in the next couple of months. Leaving room for discovery of the occasional new artist that plays the kinds of music that I already like (The Bloc Party, Regina Spektor, Shout Out Louds), this should be enough for even a fairly intensive music fan. I could theoretically quit trying to discover something new every week (or every day) right now if I wanted to and be happy with all of the great music that I already own or know of, but I don't want to.  

Of course, my life as it is right now affords me enough time with music that I can spend a good deal of that fraction trying to find new stuff, and a few of my friends are people who also like basically the same kinds of music that I do and also go to considerable lengths to find more of it. I could easily see my music listening habits changing as these other factors do.  

It should aslo be noted that my favorite album of the year so far--Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake It's Morning--is by a band who I'd thought for a few years that I was not a fan of, and had even bought an earlier album by and not liked. A reasonable person would probably not have purchased an album by a band that they had good reason to suspect that they disliked, so look where that line of thinking would have got me.
29 May 05 from orfeo 9
Even before the digital era, I often found I was simultaneously overwhelmed by the vast amount of good music I knew nothing about, and the even vaster amount of complete rubbish I would have to search through to find it.
29 May 05 from glenn mcdonald 2
Music was already cheap enough for me, at one point, even at CD prices. For a couple years, my music purchasing was not gated by money, and only vaguely gated by time. That is, I bought more than I could reasonably listen to, and assumed I'd somehow eventually catch up.  

That was interesting, and would have sounded like nirvana to me when I was a kid, but ultimately it was of crashingly little use. I found a handful of bands I turned out to really, really like, and two car-loads full of CDs I later sold because they weren't worth the space they took up in my mind, never mind my house. I did not rip them before I sold them. I caught up by giving up.  

The most interesting truth, or theory, or whatever, is that I'm pretty sure I'd have found just as much music I love if I'd spent those years buying music at the same slower rates I had before. I'm on track to buy about a tenth as much music this year as I bought in my biggest binge year, and if I've got any complaint about the effect of my buying rate on my listening it's that I still don't have enough time to listen to older stuff as much as I want to.  

So these days, I spend almost no time listening to random music. I follow up leads, or search assiduously for threads inspired by things I've discovered I like, but I don't listen to the radio, I don't listen to internet radio, I don't follow any daily mp3 blogs. The goal of my listening is no longer constant expansion. It was, once. Now I want more time with less. Digital instant gratification is useful sometimes, and excellent for a highly error-prone kind of snap-judgment auditing, but mostly it takes too much of my time, and requires a mode of attention I no longer find that emotionally rewarding.  

When music seems free, shopping for music seems free. But shopping is never free. That's the trick. Less shopping, then, and more listening.
28 May 05 from mlmitton 8
Entertainment weekly, MTV, The New York Times, your local radio station all exist to get us to look at advertising in return for content we want. But what we get from them is not simply content, it's filtered content, which is exactly how we want it. Nobody wants to turn on a country station and hear Ratt. It's entirely possible that nobody wants to turn on any station at all and hear Ratt. Implicitly, we're counting on all of these outlets to separate our wheat from our chaff. That is, we use the filters to decide how to spend our time and money.  

Digital music, both legally and illegally, has lowered the dollar cost of music. This directly decreases the burden we place on our media filters, and shifts the need for filters from money to time. How can this not create a culture where people possess music they don't appreciate? I don't know the magnitude of the effect, but I certainly know its sign.  

So people loosen the standards they set for appropriate filters, and they take on more of the burden of being their own filter. In some ways, I appreciate that people are wresting control of the filtering process from big media. That itself is, I think, of value and somewhat offsets the Gatsby possessing-without-appreciating syndrome noted by danzp, if in fact filtering actually takes place.  

While I'm certain that the nooks and crannies of unfiltered music have gems I would adore, at this point what I would gain from those gems doesn't make up for the time it costs to find them. But if time were cheaper for me, I too would be downloading loads of music, and if the music is monetarily cheap enough, I would end up with a lot of music that I never gave half a chance.  

As it is, maybe 1% of the cds in my collection have never made it into my player. Cheaper music would necessarily raise that percentage.
28 May 05 from jer fairall 7
The problem of music-binging (in general, although the topic of digital music is rather inextricably tied into this) was discussed recently in a compelling Coke Machine Glow piece written by Aaron Newell (nominally a review of the new Russian Futurists album, although it's a good eight or nine paragraphs before it gets to that) that I highly recommend reading and discussing:  

I know that my own music listening and consuming habits are starting to change as a result of the recent onslaught of iTunes and MP3 blogs. It is getting to the point where my day is not complete until I have visited Six Eyes, Music For Robots, Copy, Right?, Womenfolk, Lost Bands of the New Wave Era, Teaching the Indie Kids To Dance Again, and so forth to see what new stuff I need to hear. In a sense, these blogs provide the same function that mix tapes/CDs used to: they hip me to albums I might potentially buy and help me weed out things that might have sounded interesting to me in print but turned out not to be something I would like after all. Except, this is not quite the way it has been working, so far. Looking over the track listing of a mix that I put together recently, for example, I see a good number of excellent songs by artists (Anathallo, The Field Mice, The Talk, The Dudes, Paper Moon) whose MP3s I grabbed off of one of these sites, but whose albums I have yet to purchase (though in fairness, I should note that the Dudes record is already out-of-print while Anathallo's debut full length is still in the works, and I would have purchased both albums right away if I could have). In the old days, when music recommendations came to me mainly through two or three different sources (TWAS, mixes from friends and, in rare cases, the radio/MTV), I was able to keep up with all of my new discoveries with reasonable effort. Now, there is just too much of it coming at me at once, and if this is why I still don't know what The Talk or Paper Moon sound like beyond the one song from each that I have on my iTunes playlist, I'm honestly starting to wonder if this is a problem, or if the ways in which music is experienced is simply changing.  

28 May 05 from danzp 6
True enough, Jerry. You caught my cynic by the toe.
28 May 05 from Jerry Kindall 5
Perhaps your co-worker, danzp, was so happy to have downloaded the complete Beatles catalog because it meant he'd finally be able to listen to all their music.
26 May 05 from orfeo 4
I really like completeness, and sets. But I would never take someone else's word for it that they were offering me the "complete" something-or-other. There are too many levels of completeness. For music, it could be every 'proper' studio album, or every officially published work, or everything recorded in the studio, or including every live performance that was recorded, or...  

For more modern artists you can then deal with remixes and the like, if you can stand that kind of thing. And don't forget that the same song/album may have appeared with different packaging.  

Deciding what level of completeness I personally want and how to achieve that goal is something that takes quite a bit of research. I was quite tempted by the idea of acquiring every Beatles album until I found out that Hey Jude wasn't on any of them. I am personally quite thrilled with No Doubt's singles collection, because it appears to really have EVERY single I ever heard (and the rest besides) and I've never been convinced I want their albums.  

For Tori Amos, I want every song that's available in studio form but I'm ambivalent about live recordings and downright hostile to the majority of remixes. I have no intention of trying to get the American version, British version, French version, German version and Australian version of the same tracklisting to have a 'complete' set of singles, once per song is enough.  

What I'm attempting to say, however poorly, is that the 'completeness' of danzp's co-workers' Beatles album collection is only going to mean something if that person can precisely identify what it is they possess, and don't possess.
26 May 05 from Aaron Mandel 3
The cool of collectors' items is easier to kill than the cool of obscurity. If you download the whole Beatles catalog, you have the whole Beatles catalog. If you download the whole Sub Pop catalog, knowing only that they're the people who put out the first Nirvana record, you own some very cool albums but you don't know it, nor which ones they are, nor why they're cool. At least, not until you spend the time with them that (I agree with danzp) is really the way to appreciate them.  

That said, I regularly buy books that I expect to possibly never read all of (collections of poetry too long to read methodically, for example) which give me joy both in the parts I read and in the sense of abundance implied by, well, by there being too much of it for me to actually consume. I don't think this is crazy, though I wonder sometimes.
25 May 05 from glenn mcdonald 2
In hopeful moments I think the concept on the way out here is not quality but merely the link between appreciation and posession. When all the music in the world is available instantly through the air, your co-worker won't download the whole Beatles catalog at all, they'll just listen to it streaming out of hyperspace. They might do so mindfully or mindlessly, but that's a different question.  

But yeah, in other moments I too worry that transparency is killing cool. But then again, if obscurity is the key to cool, the Beatles stopping being cool about a thousand years ago.
25 May 05 from danzp 1
The other day I overheard a co-worker exclaim, "I got every Beatles album ever made last night--all in one download!" Now, for me, the joy of music isn't just in obtaining it (though I DO admit to geeking out on packaging, etc.), but in spending time with it. Surely readers of this site know what I'm talking about. I understand that there's always been a rank consumer element to being "into" music, but is it just the old crank in me that thinks that it's worse now than ever before? That recent revolutions in accessibility have trained kids to think of music in terms of quantity rather than quality? I hope that's not a yes/no question. I mean, I hope that's not a 'yes' question.
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