Gary Cutlack Writes…
Now hang on. I don’t mean the last Muse album was rubbish, so don’t go slagging me off just yet. This column’s actually going to be about how the internet has devalued music, making it a boring, worthless, pointless investment.
I shall make the point that it matters not if companies remove DRM – buying music in any format is totally over as a hobby, thanks to on-demand, easy sharing services like LastFM. I shall also reveal the incredibly embarrassing last CD I purchased. It’s going to be a great personal journey for all of us.
This shameful last CD I bought was about four years ago, and was the new album by a band I liked about ten years ago. It was rubbish, but that’s not what the column’s about. This isn’t the NME, is it? Who do I look like, Steve Lamacq?
The CD of pain was the first one I bought that had that weird PC-based audio player built into it, so if I wanted to listen to Band X* going through the same old motions on my computer, I had to do so in low quality – and not with my usual music player (a version of Winamp from 2001).
This was offensive enough, but I’d also just got all trendy and bought an iPod** so wanted to rip the disc for listening to while “on the go”. Of course I couldn’t. So the CD got put in a pile, while I went on Bittorrent and downloaded a nicely ripped, high sample rate version of it instead. That was it for me and CDs. Never again.
But there’s a twist in this column’s tale! It’s like an M. Night Shyamalan column, this.
I am not a rampant music pirate. Don’t go thinking I now nick everything off the internet for free. Yes, there’s a 5GB folder of every obscure record from my teens I liked and painstakingly searched for and downloaded upon first getting the music piracy bug, but I don’t download anything any more. There’s no need.
MySpace is an amazing personal radio. Should I fancy a bit of Justin Timberlake to get me through the next hour, I head over to his MySpace and fire off the mini, four-track greatest hits collection MySpace gives you for free. Most bands and acts can be boiled down to four of your favourite singles, can’t they?
Seven or eight years ago it was amazingly exciting to fire up Napster or Audio Galaxy and download an individual MP3 – for free! It was staggering, especially if you worked somewhere that had good internet and didn’t understand or mind.
Then we all got a bit crazy, queueing up hundreds of albums, downloading a few gigabytes over night and buying bigger hard drives to fill up with albums we didn’t like enough to bother buying in the 80s and 90s. It was exciting to have a load of free music. You were a rebel, even if you ended up deleting them all without even listening to them.
There’s no point stealing albums now when everything you can possibly want to hear is available to stream somewhere, without going through the hassle of waiting for a download.
Vast catalogues of music can be streamed live from numerous places, like Last.fm or Hype Machine, or if you’re in ANGRY MODE, there’s amazing 24-hour-a-day streaming drum and bass over at Destroyer.net. A personal favourite, that one.
Popjustice has got a nice little radio channel it calls Not Radio as it is, quite correctly, more of a stream of MP3s than radio and it’s really handy if you don’t mind Technotronic popping up on a playlist between the Pet Shop Boys and Moby.
So yes. I haven’t bought a CD or downloaded an MP3 for a couple of years now, thanks in part to getting old and stuck in my ways, but mainly because of the free availability of online stuff that caters to whatever specific genre I fancy a bit of at the time.
If only I had known this would eventually come to pass in 1986, when I first started wasting money on albums.
And now it’s the turn of films and TV shows to get devalued – there’s about twenty gigabytes of Hollywood’s finest queued up on my hard drive waiting to be watched.
They’ll all be deleted unwatched in a couple of years.
What are you doing with all the money you’re not spending on music and films these days, readers?
* It was Placebo’s Sleeping With Ghosts 🙁
**The iPod was sold in disgust about four months later, when the battery life turned out to be more like two hours and it was practically impossible to make it work on my PC without everything locking up.