Buying more music at iTunes Music Store over the past six months; their catalog keeps expanding in ever-widening circles. Increasingly, it seems that when I buy a CD, it only gets touched once. Not because it’s not good, but because it only needs to be ripped once. After that, it’s in iTunes, on the iPod, or pumped to the living room via Airport Express, and the meatspace disc does nothing but take up space. If all I really want is bits, why futz with atoms (especially if I can still support the artist, kinda, by buying it electronically?)
When I told a friend this recently, he remarked (nicely/half-jokingly) that I was “part of the problem.” “What problem is that?,” I wanted to know. “Encouraging the proliferation of lo-fi digital music.” Well, he has a point. On the other end of the spectrum, another friend recently rejected a large-ish collection of music because my 192kbps MP3s were of too-high quality. Even with disc space so cheap today it may as well be free. You can’t win this one. There’s nothing to win.
Can’t help but think that too much discussion about formats, codecs, and bitrates falls prey to the traditional and sometimes true criticism leveled at Hi-Fi freaks: Energy spent thinking about gear is energy stolen from enjoyment or discussion of the music (which is why I love it when an audio tweak puts an old scratchy mono LP on the turntable — I know they have their ears in the right place).
Now excuse me as I return to my regularly scheduled MC5.
Related: Mary Hodder at Napsterization: The Musician’s Era: Do We Still Say ‘Album’?
So will musical development change as more people download by the song and musicians know and work with this new way of interacting with music? Or will both musicians and listeners maintain the convention of the reference to an album, even though we don’t have them for the other reasons mentioned, to describe an associated grouping of music as a complete work?