R.I.P. – The Good Ole Days

Let me start out by saying I don’t want this essay to be doom and gloom.  Also let me just remind you about the Yin and Yang nature of the world.  Creation also means something gets destroyed.  Old folks are always crying about how things aren’t the way they were when they were growing up at the same time the young’uns run wild, gleeful embracing every new fad coming down the expressway.  I’m a glass half-full kind of guy who enjoys wearing rose colored specs while examining the philosophies of those dark clouded guys proposing the half-empty theories.

As I mentioned previously, I’m listening to The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen.  I just finished his eulogy for the music store and I just can’t help tossing out my two pennies worth of monkey typing.  I know most bloggers pretend to barf when they hear the name Andrew Keen, but I actually think his book should be read by everyone.  He’s done much cogitating and turned up a lot of ideas to think about.  Only I’m not sure I’m thinking about his vital issues in the same way he does.

When Keen started lamenting the demise of the record store I was reminded how I used to love record shopping.  From 1965 through 1998 I bought a damn lot of LPs and CDs.  I averaged buying two to four albums while shopping in two or more records stores each week.  I loved record stores.  Hell, it was a stab to the heart when LPs disappeared, with their great 12″ venues for fantastic cover art.  To me the good ole days of record stores was from 1965-1975 – from Byrds to Bruce.  Okay I do love those little dinky little CD albums, but never as much as the big beautiful LPs.

Now Andrew Keen wants us to believe that the Internet is murdering the music business.  And that is true for the old way of business.  I believe stealing music is stealing, and P2P does cause lost sales.  However, I’m not sure that music thieves are the only suspect holding a smoking MAC-10.  I never stole music when it became a fad, but around 1998 I stopped buying CDs by the handful – so I’m sure my kind hurt the industry too.  I don’t know how many baby boomers are like me but the damn music industry just stopped selling music I wanted to own.

There are other factors.  I’d say part of the music boom of the 1980s and early 1990s was us old guys re-buying all our favorite LPs on CDs, as well as trying to discover everything great back to the 1910s as we got older.  As the price of CDs reached the point of kissing an Andrew Jackson good-bye I got wary of buying CDs just because of one good tune – or even no good tunes at all.  For years I kept buying all my favorite artists whenever they churned out a new CD and it took awhile to learn that great music often is created by the wild at heart – a state of being hurt by age and success.

Mr. Keen, I’d love to have the good ole record store days back again, but for me that means recreating 1965 and not 1995.  I think Andrew Keen’s ethical issues are spot on and pointing out the music industry has a long history of being unethical is no rationalization to steal by.  His theory about big music companies are the patrons of great artists and without real investment great music in the future might not get made as well, does have some merits, but that is a hard case to make.  Would I have discovered Bruce Springsteen if Columbia Records hadn’t promoted him?  I don’t know.  Would his first five albums been as fantastic if the Boss had made them on a computer as MP3 files?  I don’t think so, but I really don’t know either.

I also agree that the music business is hurting and hurting bad, but so did the buggy whip makers when people started buying cars.  And I strongly believe all those ethical issues Mr. Keen brings up regarding the Internet are happening and they are critical issues we need to work on.  But even if we fix those problems we’re not going to bring back the record store or see CD albums sell in the tens of millions.  Those good ole days are gone.

When Fleetwood Mac sold albums in the kazillions, kids didn’t have to choose between buying cell phones, $60 video games, computers, iPods and so on.  Junk food was still budgeted with pocket change and you could see a major rock band live for $7.50.  If I was in the lamenting business like Mr. Keen, and I often am, I’d wail about what happened to those days when several touring bands came to town every week.  I’m also desponded that sharing music isn’t like it used to be – see my “Why Has Listening to Music Become as Solitary as Masturbation?”

I’ve spent many words on crying over the dwindling subscriptions of my favorite SF magazines.  And there are numerous hobbies that are fading from existence because kids have new interests, and there are lots of Dads sad to see cherished pastimes of old ignored by their sprouts.  Things change and that’s tough.  I actually love Rhapsody.com and having millions of albums to listen to for $10 a month.  Sure, it ain’t as fun as shopping for LPs, but I can live with instant gratification.

Someday, some kid who read this blog will write a blog, but it won’t be called a blog, about how sad it is that iTunes is going out of business, and he’ll have a lot of teary feelings to try and put into words.  Maybe he will even remember reading this essay and note the kids of his time have found something exciting to move on to.  As long as there are people there’s going to be music.  The creation of a new system to promote music will always destroy the previous system.  BFD.  Move with the times or rust, because Neil told us that decades ago.  I bet there are plenty of people out there still crying over the 78 era.

I’m writing to myself as much as you Mr. Keen.  Yes, Andrew, it is a dirty rotten shame that the way we bought music is fading into our dim memories.  Sure, these young whippersnappers won’t know what their missing, but then I haven’t a clue as to what they are jamming on now.  I’m sure it’s something hot, maybe as hot as the Beatles, but I’ll never now.  That’s just the way things are.  I admit I don’t get Rap or Brittany Spears – but I assume that’s just payback for forcing my Dad to listen to rock and roll when he kept screaming for me to shut off that goddamn noise.

Mr. Keen, the good ole days are always passing.


5 thoughts on “R.I.P. – The Good Ole Days”

  1. This is just another area where I have to disagree with Keen eventhough I certainly understand where you are coming from. The internet has opened up a whole new world of music for me that I may never have discovered otherwise. I subscribe to Rhapsody and have for years. It allows me to listen to damn near anything I want anytime. I mostly play music in my house so it allows me and the family to put together elaborate playlists and discover all kinds of new music. It is an inexpensive pay service that ensures record companies still get their dime. Because of it, and the internet at large, I have discovered so many new musicians that I would not have stumbled across in the typical music store: just tonight, thanks to the film Dan in Real Life, I discovered Sondre Lerche. So what do I do right after the movie ends? Head online to sample his music. Why? Because I’d love to buy an album of his and You Tube as well as Rhapsody allows me to listen to his music and determine what I want to buy. Same with the recent Juno soundtrack. I used the internet to check it out ahead of time to see if I wanted it. I did and so I went out and bought it.

    Artists like Regina Spektor, A Fine Frenzy, Shiny Toy Guns, Little Big Town, Kate Nash, Scouting for Girls, Rilo Kiley, Lafee, just to name a few…I could literally go on and on and on…are all musicians I discovered through the internet. And most of those musicians I have either bought individual songs or albums of. That is money in their pocket that I sincerely doubt I would have found otherwise. Mostly because I don’t have radio stations that play many of these groups, radio stations rarely tell you anymore who they are playing, and I don’t frequent music stores.

    Now I’m all about the good ol’ days. I feel a nostalgia for days far before my own time and lament their passing. And yet I think technology allows us the best of both worlds–we are allowed to feed our nostalgia and travel back to the good ol’ days…whether through finding that great old book or album on ebay…or via the many cool websites, blogs, etc. that celebrate those good ol’ days. Most of us wouldn’t find that in our normal everyday lives.

    I probably should read Keen’s book instead of judging him book unread, but I have such small use for people like him who piss and moan about the downfall of culture, etc. based solely on technology and the use of it which just so happens to be stepping on the toes of his livelihood. It seems a bit hypocritical for him to set up his soapbox decrying the internet when it is the internet and the internet only that is getting his name out there in the first place. He would not be a blip on anyone’s radar without the internet, without blogs, and without the average every day joe, like you and me, who bring up his name and talk about him. I have to believe he laughs himself to sleep at night knowing how foolish he makes those look who actually support him because in reality any interview he gives, etc. ends up online and makes him a person who speaks out of both sides of his mouth.

    And again what little I know of his thoughts on art, and now music, is just ludicrous and elitist. He’s got his head so far above the ‘common man’ that he just sounds silly. The internet isn’t killing music or art…please…it allows so many people who have to start out small and don’t fit into a corporate mold the opportunity to get their stuff out there, to perhaps flourish, and to inspire other average people who have a desire to create music and art and literature.

    As you can tell I get a bit passionate about this kind of nonsense. I need to get off my own soapbox now!

  2. Carl, your response is exactly what Keen needs to read to understand the positive aspects of the Internet. Keen is great at seeing the negative, but terrible at seeing the positive. I think his book would have been a major success with the fans of the Internet if he could have blended in the positive with the negative.

    I too think Rhapsody is great and have been using it for years. Keen fails to see the pioneering aspects of subscription music on the Internet. I listen to music at work and when visitors come I ask them about what they are listening to. Then I pop their favs up on Rhapsody and add it to my player. Unfortunately, most of my visitors are like me and are in the home stretch to Social Security years. They think Rhapsody is far out but can’t understand how to take Rhapsody into their car. Evidently the car is now the hideaway where most people jam to their tunes.

    Keen is a young man but acts old. He can’t see the new paradigm of digital music. The music industry itself is already finding new ways to deliver digital music in legal ways and millions of people are converting. Keen misses that entirely.

    Keens eulogy for Tower Records is a sad one, and his lament for losing all those High Fidelity type clerks that help us find records is admirable. But I think he overrates those clerks. Back in the good ole days I found new music through friends. That disappeared as we grew up, went to work and had families.

    When a music fan comes into my office I use Rhapsody to get new recommendations. Carl, I will look up the artists you mentioned above. Fellow bloggers inspire me to find new music. All of that is very exciting, and Keen missed seeing that kind of positive aspects to the Internet. He misses it in every chapter on every topic. That’s why people hate his book.

    Thanks for writing Carl, you add a lot to my site.


  3. No problem. I just hope you don’t get to think of me as someone who always comes on and voices a dissenting opinion. I am really not like that at all, generally. You just put out some really good essays, some of which get me all fired up.

    Glad to hear about someone else using Rhapsody. I try to see it to everyone I know! I listen to some music in the car, but I also listen to a lot of sports radio and NPR. More music listening for us happens in the home and it becomes so much more of a family affair. It is great getting my daughter interested in stuff that I was into as a teen as well as new stuff that we are all interested in.

    I especially love Rhapsody during the Christmas season. We make huge playlists that are on the whole month of December. It is such a great service.

    I would be much more inclined to read a balanced book about the positives and the negatives and would probably be more accepting of the negatives as well if I didn’t feel like the person writing the book was both looking down his nose at me as a blogger and blind to the greatness and potential of today’s technology.

  4. It’s great to fire up people. Back in college it was entertain to argue about everything. And I don’t mind people disagreeing with me at all. Feedback helps me grow.

    Listening to the Andrew Keen’s book is even harder than reading it because the narrator has a slight English accent and has a sneering attitude.

    There’s all kinds of fun things you can do with Rhapsody that you can’t do without it. I have discovered I like to hear cover versions of my favorite songs.

    For instance try various interpretations of “Stairway to Heaven.” Tiny Tim does a rather interesting jazz version.

    Another thing you can do with Rhapsody is send people playlists. Maybe we should swap a couple.

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