catapult magazine

catapult magazine


I think I'm a fuddy-duddy


Apr 20 2007
06:46 pm

I need some help from those who have wholehearted embraced music-as-digital-file. I know how to download music. I understand that it’s nice to have 2000 songs on your ipod. I like the fact that it costs very little, if anything, to have a large collection. What I don’t like about this way of ‘consuming’ music is that 1. it seems to be context-less, and 2. it takes so much time to collect it.

With a music-file all I’ve got is the song, and that isn’t enough for me to grab onto. I really like the disc and the jacket with the lyrics and art and photographs. Actually I take that back, I don’t particularly like the disk but I like the rest. I like having "an album" in my hands, physically, and then to listen to it. And then, whenever I listen to that album for the rest of my life, I’ll think about that physical album. For example, after not having heard it for years, I recently listened to music from the Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream and I immediately visualized the album cover (plus a bunch of angsty high school memories).

So here I am, an old man, with no ipod, and certainly no time to spend downloading music. I already spend my whole day in front of the computer and don’t want more of that. All I want is a reasonably priced THING I can buy in a store to look at and listen to. I know overpriced CDs are still there but I’m told they won’t be for long and I’m starting to wonder if I’m missing something.

I need help on two fronts. How can I love music-as-files? How can I have a great music collection without spending a million dollars on CDs or a million hours on my computer? T

Thanks for helping me out. I’m a troubled old man.


Apr 23 2007
06:15 pm

Hm… as someone who has only half-heartedly embrased music-as-digital-files, I’m not sure if I’m the right person to comment… but I will anyway.

I see some nice advantages and sad disadvantages to curent tech trends. You’ve pointed out some good ones. Let me agree with you and take it a step further with a few of my observations.

advantages of digital-file-music:[/b:af4dc94e72]

Convenience/portability :
Get the music you want… right now… anywhere, and take it with you in a nice, small, package. In fact, if programs like Orb ( become mainstream, the future of your collection may not even be to copy your downloaded music files, but rather to stream them through an ubiquitous wireless Internet to any device you happen to have near you: a PC, a wifi-equipped player-device, a cell-phone, etc. This is currently bleeding-edge technology a nd it’s hard to to say right now how it will pan out, but it could become very widespread, making the physicallity of "your music" even more clouded and ethereal.

Single-downloads at a low standard price means you can satisfy your guilty pleasures by downloading that one catchy single you like without the baggage of paying for the the rest of the album (i.e. in many sad cases, the filler).

Even playing field:
Major labels and indies alike can offer their music to the entire world, with far fewer artificial barriers to entry.


You hit it dead-on. It’s the liner notes, the artwork, the physicallity. In fact, it’s more than that – it’s very possibly the death or near-death of the album itself, the concept, the tracklisting, the wholeness and self-contained "thing" that makes up an album. The mainstream music industry has already felt the negative financial effects of this paradigm shift. And the bad guy isn’t piracy or file-sharing (at least not as much as one might think). It’s everything I just said above, in the advantages of digital downloads. By picking-and-choosing songs, consumers get music the way they want it: cheap, convenient, on demand, etc. The end result is that while song download sales are up, album/cd sales are down.

And what of the artists trying to make a larger-scale, self-contained, body of work… an "album" with interconnected themes and connections and subtleties? It’s a lot harder now, since the listener may or may not listen to your work the way the artist wants it heard. It’s now taken out of order, out of context, out of place and subverted by its own convenient delivery.

What’s the answer? I don’t know. I’m still wrestling with that, I and I doubt that I’m the only one. Perhaps both audience and artist alike have to "let go" a bit and realize that neither physical or creative control will dominate in the way they used to. Perhaps, the new liner notes, commentary, and artwork will become the Internet itself: blogs, videos, commentaries by both the bands and the listeners who experience and now interact with the music in a global community. And even though it screams "marketing gimmick" to me, what I’ve heard of the puzzle-piece, website-driven, theme-based promotion Nine Ince Nails did for "Year Zero" ( sounds interesting to me, and I think this approach may become a very common way of re-creating in the digital realm those album extras we love and may soon lose in the physical realm.

Those are some of my thoughts. I’d love to hear from others, though.

Grace and peace,