|The end of the disc?
||[Apr. 29th, 2013|01:31 pm]
A lot of people have recently been telling me to buy the new Depeche Mode album. This is the sort of thing I'd likely buy anyway, but apparently the new album is really good so I decided to spend a few extra pounds on the deluxe edition which apparently has extra bonus tracks and stuff.
Except I've not purchased it (or heard it) yet because I can't get to anywhere which physically sells compact discs any more! There were two HMV stores near to my home and my office until very recently, but the recession and changing social/technological trends have recently put an end to that. I tried the (big) Croydon branch of WH Smith's on Friday evening, as I was pretty sure they still stock CDs, but their selection consisted of a couple of dozen titles from the 90s and crappy compilations with titles like 20 Christmas Office Party Hits. All of which were on special offer, presumably because they're phazing out their music section and these are the last dregs they've not been able to shift.
I'm not against downloading music. Not at all - I'm constantly getting indivual tracks that way to fill up gaps in my collection and maintain a reasonable state of readiness to DJ - assuming I can find another gig somewhere anyway, it's been a while now! But if it's a whole album I want, and if it's a band I particularly like, then I'd still prefer to go through the ritual of buying it on CD, taking the celophane wrapper off, getting annoyed because the jewel case has sustained superficial damage somehow and has small nodules of broken plastic rattling around inside, admiring the cover and inlay art, playing it a couple of times on my stereo... before then ripping the tracks as MP3s, shoving it in a metal flight case with all the others and then probably never looking at it again in its physical form. I went through this rite of passage with all the musical discoveries of my life up until now, starting at the (now long-defunct) Croydon Virgin Megastore. My parents gave me - during that particular bit of my life - £10 pocket money per week and I'd blow slightly more than that sum occasionally on something that I'd read about in Kerrang!, the more obscure the better, then walk out of the shop with it in a little miniature shopping bag, feeling worried that I'd wasted money on something I might not like after all. Hell, some of the older CDs in my collection have considerable scratching and the inlays are noticeably dog-eared from being played on my stereo a lot before I started converting all the songs to MP3s around ten years ago.
It's strange that, since I started my own bands and have been tryign to 'put out' my own music, almost everyone has shown a preference for wanting it on CD rather than downloading it. It feels more exciting for me to release music on a physical unit, even though the manufacturing costs are a pain and I know I'll almost certainly make a loss from getting a batch made. But when I start handing promo copies around at festivals people's eyes light up**. Trying to get tipsy people to remember a long website address looks pretty underwhelming, and sometimes borders on creepy when I have to find pens and scraps of paper to insist on writing it down for them.
I used to love Resurrection Records on Camden High Street. I didn't always have something in mind to buy from there, and I often didn't buy stuff, but I couldn't walk past the place without quickly calling in to see what they had. And feelign clever because it was obscure stuff which I knew about. That sadly disappeared last year (although I think it lives on as a mail order company). I could go off on a tangent rant here about the slow but steady gentrification of camden town, but let's not.
Physical music probbaly won't go away entirely, at least as far as I can currently foresee. While first-hand record shops may have now upped sticks and abandoned my home town, there are still two second-hand shops within walking distance of my house and that feels oddly comforting, even if it doesn't help me obtain the brand new DM release. People still seem to go mad for collecting music on vinyl and a lot of them - I suspect - actually get these shocking dinner plate-sized plastic lumps off the shelf and play them with a damned needle. When my grandmother passed away last year I donated her battered old LP collection to a charity shop - it contained titles by Des O'Connor and Max Bygraves and the like - although I did make a home for her turntable in my 'study'. I intended to finally start my own vinyl collection because I thought it would be cool, although I promised myself I'd only buy titles I'd actually feel proud to own. It's still sitting there gathering dust in the corner and hasn't been switched on once. I've wandered around the record stalls at Spittalfields market a couple of times on my lunch breaks, admiring old LPs by Kraftwerk, Black Sabbath and Gary Numan, then hurriedly backing away when I catch a glimps fo the price. Who am I kidding? I probably have most of those tracks on my hard drive anyway and I'm not paying all that just for some engraved plastic which I'll never get the time to sit down and play. I don't have lazy evenings where I can sit around payign rapt attention to old albums over whisky and cigars while nobody walks in and bothers me. It would be lovely to live like that, but not in this lifetime. I can scarecly cram in two listening to two tracks on my headphones each morning while I'm riding on the train and even that's rarely a pleasurable experience thanks to other commuter's elbows and trying to listen to the driver's announcements.
In conclusion then: the most likely culprit for killing physical recording media is people just like me. I'll go and shoot myself now.
* I could order the CD from Amazon I suppose, but this seems a bit pointless when I could buy it from the same website as a download and have it in seconds instead of days. And sending compact discs through the post - see my comment above about damaged jewel cases!!
** Usually people who've not yet experienced my music.