Monday, December 22, 2008

Can you feel it?

It's not political, but I found this story in The Times fascinating.

But a study of digital music sales has posed the first big challenge to this “long tail” theory: more than 10 million of the 13 million tracks available on the internet failed to find a single buyer last year.

I've never seen the point of music downloads. You buy the product and all you get is a crappy computer file. You can't touch it, you can't stick it on a rack with the rest of your music collection and once you've played it a few times it'll get lost forever. No one will return to it 10 years later and rediscover that long lost album sitting on their shelf.

When I was a kid buying music meant buying records. Music came on shiny black vinyl in bright coloured sleeves with interesting labels and you got a "B side" which contained a bonus track - something which you wouldn't hear on the radio - as well as the single you were actually buying on the A side.

One of the earliest singles I ever bought was T Rex's "Ride A White Swan" which actually came with two tracks on the B side including a cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" - something which you'd never buy as a download, but which represents a very good example of the sound of the early T Rex.

The point is that you got something tangible - something you could handle and gaze upon. As I got older and started buying albums you got even more - unique labels, sleeve notes with lyrics and a whole bunch of tracks you wouldn't normally get to hear. They weren't just things to listen to, they were a source of pride.

Vinyl was slowly replaced by audio-cassettes and then CDs - neither of which I could really get into as neither had the physical presence of vinyl. Even today, I'm still more likely to buy an album or single on vinyl from Ebay than I am to buy a CD. I started doing that after buying a couple of music downloads and finding the whole thing very unsatisfying.

Nothing can replace the buzz you get from having that actual record in the original sleeve as far as I'm concerned. I actually feel sorry for those kids today who've never had that.


Anonymous said...

Blimey Stan, T-REX was your first single. Perhaps you aren't as ol as I'd imagined.

I remember my mum's collection of 45 rpm singles. Labels such as Decca, His Master's Voice etc. I loved those records by Tab Hunter, Elvis Presley, Bill Halley, Paul Anka, Julie London, Laverne Baker etc.

I was gutted to find out she took them all to a charity shop.

Stan said...

Ride a White Swan was one of the first singles, but not THE first I bought - although it was 1970 when I first started buying singles. I was nine years old then and I would buy about one single a month or so (I think they cost about 6 or seven bob and I got half a crown a week in pocket money).

spqr said...

hey Stan.. good choice!
my first record was T-rex Jeepster (and Benny Hill's Ernie)
same year as yours.. 1970
i used to think they were called 45s because they cost around 45d

Henry North London said...

I still have all my old vinyl

Its a lot more long lasting than CDs