Physical v. Digital
Further to my post (today) about Amazon’s Top 10, which showed that it was (largely) full of artists who have been around for a long time, James made excellent points as to why this happens. Of course he did, James is the brains of this operation. I am the monkey with the typewriter. We’ve discussed this in these pages before, I believe.
Anyway, even my saying ‘monkey with a TYPEWRITER’ exposes me for the old fogey that I am, when it comes to how I enjoy my music. James’ point, well-made, was that the whippersnappers just download their music, either for free or from a service. They don’t buy CDs anymore. That’s why Tony Bennett and Barbra Streisand occupy all those top spots in the bestsellers lists – they’re the kids’ parents’ and grandparents’ music, not theirs. Only old fogeys buy physical media, anymore. Online is the place to be.
Lefsetz writes about this a lot, and you all know where you stand on it [we’d love to hear from you, in the comments!]. When I was growing up, LPs were the only thing available. When I started buying my own music, around 10 years old, it was cassettes. CDs were way, way later. I didn’t even have a PC until around 1997 or so, and not many of the things we now take for granted were in existence online, then.
So it’s pretty easy to see why I buy physical copies – it’s all I ever knew, really. By the time downloading and all that crap came about, it was already in my DNA to need the physical copy on hand. To my memory, I’ve only ever paid to download one thing from iTunes in my life, Metallica’s Beyond Magnetic. Because they lied to me and said it would be download only. Then they put it on CD later. Bastards. [I’ve already ranted about this in these pages].
But maybe the kids are onto something. Youtube has tons of full albums for free. Pick an artist and an album, betcha its on there, either in full or track by track. You could probably hear just about everything I own, for free, without needing a gigantic shelf in the basement to hold it all. Other services, like satellite radio, Spotify, iTunes, you know them all, give a lot of options, at varying prices. I suppose you could illegally download whatever you wanted too, but that’s not very honourable.
And come to think about it, whenever the rest of you guys are writing about an album you like (and which I don’t yet own), I usually find it on the Youtubes and enjoy it there. Even the occasional drunk reviews! I hadn’t given much thought to how often I do that until just now. It’s actually quite a bit. Hm.
So, just about the only thing making me still buy vinyls and CDs then, I suppose, is conditioned response. I already rip everything I have to my Mac and my iPod (my two main sources for music), so I obviously can’t care too much about the sound quality of digital versus CD or vinyl. Is it really just my need to be able to hold the LP cover in my hand and read it over and over while I listen?
There are some bands I collect that I simply won’t stop collecting, it’d be a shame to stop now. And there always those cool releases that just owning them gives obvious pleasure, like exclusives and the like. But catalogue albums? Readily available for free? Why own it? It’s a fair question.
True, there’s the collectibility and value of physical product, but that only has value to like-minded people, and if their numbers are diminishing as our generation ages, will I eventually be left sitting in a house full of things no one but me cares about anymore?
I think many Readers here will nod along when I say we’re in too deep at this point, sometimes thousands of records in collections. And it’d be painful to just get rid of them all. But going forward?
I can see value in both sides of this line of thinking. What do YOU think?