Friday, 18 September 2009

Where did all the downloads go ?

Reading today, as I often do, something on the BBC Technology website a nice little piece about how research has shown that the 'kids' do actually want to buy CDs.

Having just spent the better part of two days getting my CD collection onto my Mac Mini, I have to agree... and .... well disagree.. Personally, being a bit of a geek, and loving all this internet malarky, I love the idea of being able to download music that I like off the internet.

Love the idea. The practice, just doesn't work as well for me. Maybe it's something I do, but I don't like the fact that when I buy a piece of music, digitally, I don't actually own it. I can't do what I want with it, in the way that I can with a CD.

I can copy the CD onto my computer, I can transfer it to my phone, I can lend it to someone else (who of course won't copy it, but will play it to see if they want to purchase same CD or not). If all fails electronically, if my hard drive packs up, or I sell my computer, I haven't lost my music collection, because try as I may, I can't port the music I've brought off the internet from one computer to another. I'd have to buy a fresh download. Why the hell would I want to do that, when if I have the CD I can reload it onto any platform I chose? I don't know what my future needs electronically are going to be, but I can pretty much guarantee that whatever form my computing takes over the coming decades, I will be able to play a CD on it (somehow).

Aside from the overall question about future proofing our data.. and how we have realised that lots of data stored 10, 20 years ago, electronically is now unaccess-able as the formats or medium of storage are no longer supported. (I might come back to this question later - might).

There's just something preferable to being able to hold the CD.... I recently ordered two CDs shipped from the USA, because I'd heard some of the music, and I liked it that much. I didn't even entertain the much easier idea of downloading those tracks. Pah ! I want to hold and see the CDs thank you very much.

The fact that other people seem to identify with the temporary nature of downloaded anything, that when it comes to music the 'kids' are saying that they still would like CDs because that gives them control over what they do with the music. So, is DRM to blame ? The rights ownership information on digital downloads that stops you copying it either at all, or to more than a certain number of devices or times ?

Is the only thing that makes downloading attractive in the first place is the cost, compared to physical CDs ? (For me it's not cheap enough, and I'd rather pay that bit more and have the CD in my hand). Is the real equation then, not that downloads are cheaper, but that 'real' music is still too dear ?

Now that's the suggestion that brings the music business out in cold sweats nearly as much as people 'sharing' their music online in P2P. The argument's as old as the music industry itself. Back in the day, we used to tape (that's with a tape recorder) music from the radio. Hours wasted, trying to copy the song off the radio, hoping that they wouldn't cut the song off near the end, or talk over the track (which I'm sure they did in an effort to thwart that very activity). We'd copy music off our friends... but I don't remember that much of my collection being copied. I remember making lots of 'compilation tapes', where I would select tracks that I liked, and record (tape) them onto a blank tape, so that I could listen to them on my personal stereo.

Oh the days of cassettes, and trying to coach another 15 minutes of playing out of a set of obviously dead batteries, the fact that your music rattled (the heads on the cassette).. how we all hated the CD and hoped that it wouldn't catch on because it would be the death of music as we knew it.

Truth was, the death of music as we knew it, had nothing to do with the technology used to record or distribute it, but like everyone before us, 'our' music was destined for history as the next generation of angst ridden teenagers came up and set about rewriting all the rules.

The 'kids' of today aren't stupid, they're actually very savvy, and perhaps they have realised, that official digital music, is layered with lots of control, they, quite rightly, might be thinking that they don't want their enjoyment of music controlled. Not by anyone, no way, no how.

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