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.