So now I'll turn to the question that's been at the back of my mind for a while, and which was raised by The Vinyl Villain recently who was also quoting from To Die By Your Side - namely where on earth is this ringtone/mp3/USB disposa-pop ADHD lowest-common-denominator music thing going? Let me explain.
I am passionate about music. By that I mean I am passionate about the form of music I have gotten used to over the years, which includes concepts such as a silver platter, a case, and inserts and artwork. Oh, and a quality album worth keeping for many years is a plus. Over the last few years, I have felt like shouting out loud, "Hey people, mp3's are not the same thing as a CD. It's not even close. It's comparing a New York strip steak to a Sonic Burger. So how can you charge the same price for either and talk about phasing out CD's altogether?" What it comes down to is this: for me, music is not, has not ever been, and must never be, disposable. I was on i-Tunes yesterday and chose to delete a music file I had gotten for free as a Single of the Week promo - a decision which, oddly enough, hurt a little bit. Frankly, because I don't like the idea of throwing music away. If I don't like something, I will sell it, trade it, give it to the library or charity. I can't bear the thought of CD's ending up in the trash. It's like finding a body in the river - seemingly obscene or unnatural. So to imagine that the predominant means of listening to music in the 21st century is by downloading a ten second tinny ringtone that lasts a week or two is really a problem to me.
I'm proud of the fact that deserving artists now have an additional revenue source which hopefully will encourage them to continue to make music. But, as the bloggers I mentioned above both ponder, what happens to quality control? It brings up an interesting concept that I've been chewing over for the past few days in an abstract way - namely, that the demise of major label record companies may not be so much the tearing down of the Berlin wall but more like the Russian revolution. When all the barriers have been removed, are we entering some form of musical communism? There are opportunities for everyone, but what if mediocrity becomes the norm? Will all our musicians be wearing gray?
For all their faults, the major labels did do one thing, and that was to filter out a lot of average music. And while musicians can upload music to MySpace at no cost, no-one has the leverage to produce a well-co-ordinated advertising campaign, or produce a promo video that takes the music to a new dimension. Where would Rio be without the yachts, where would Vienna be without the snow, and where would Nothing Compares To You be without some tears, to name just three examples? And if there are no videos on MTV or elsewhere, and satellite radio is a jumbled mess, and magazines have no hope of keeping up with the sheer volume of new releases, how are we supposed to fall in love with music any more? What is going to demand our attention, capture our hearts, and keep us coming back for me? Can you imagine that Madonna or Michael Jackson would break through in the same way today?
I've been getting into Britpop in the last week or two, and I have to say that by comparison, a lot of that music still jumps out at me today. I'd forgotten what a good band Suede were. I've had the Sleeper track "Sale of the Century" in my head all week. I've started listening to Gene, and Dodgy and a lot of bands I never had time for back in the 90's. As I'm writing this I'm watching the Britpop documentary Live Forever. So am I just a nostalgia buff? Maybe. But here's the question. How will this decade be remembered? Which bands will stand tall? When music becomes disposable, why should anyone remember anything at all?
Incidentally, Louise Wener is still fine, and "Bittersweet Symphony" is still awesome.
Gene - Speak To Me Someone
Morgan - Miss Parker (Dust Brothers Remix)