On the Download

Is the online music store the Apple of digital music's eye? It should be.

Robert Wilonsky: Patrick, your abhorrence for antiquated technology is touching. I am not talking about the death of vinyl here. I am talking about software, not hardware.

You and Eric are right: Once people get a taste of an artist, they will likely enjoy the flavor and take a bigger bite--maybe even buy a whole album. Certainly, the death of radio has created a void, and iTunes fills the need and niche: You're your own music director and your own disc jockey, with no commercial interruptions. Of course, there is a difference: You own the songs you like and may not be so inclined to rush out to buy some you might not. Adios, Tower Records.

I just wonder what will become of The Album as a storytelling device, a medium through which an artist can tell a complete tale. Imagine if people only heard Nebraska in downloaded snippets, or Rumours or Ziggy Stardust or Good Old Boys or Transformer or Rubber Soul. What becomes of the modern-day artist who'd like to make a comparable record--and who has the talent to do so--but then figures, fuck it, no one's gonna buy the whole thing, what's the point?

iDo: Marrying the jukebox with the Internet, Apple made downloading music as easy as downloading porn--and that's saying something.
Apple, Inc
iDo: Marrying the jukebox with the Internet, Apple made downloading music as easy as downloading porn--and that's saying something.

Zac Crain: A few things possibly only slightly related that I will state in the highly annoying practice of passing opinion as fact:

1. The dollar-store world of Apple will only make albums better, if that's what you're worried about. Maybe even more essential. I like albums you can listen to during your lunch break--45 minutes tops, 10 or 11 songs. That's all you really need. How many times are you gonna be able to sit through 18, 19 songs at once? Even musicians I dig--Badly Drawn Boy, say--could use an editor.

2. You'll still be able to get those 78-minute Statement Albums if you want because of--surprise, surprise--the Internet. If labels start dropping prestige acts such as Radiohead or the Flaming Lips, that isn't gonna change what they do. They'll just make the same albums they were going to, press them up themselves and sell 'em online. Prolly make more scratch that way, anyway, and reach even more people. Especially if they put those songs on iTunes.

Patrick Williams: It's just democracy at work--don't be scared, that's a good thing, not bad. Can't really say the oligarchs at record companies and radio chains have improved the quality of my musical experience over the years. Thank Steve "Che" Jobs. Power to the people, etc...

I note that there was a long spell there in my 30s, after AOR and locally formatted radio died, that I didn't buy much music, didn't know what was out there, didn't hear much new stuff. Now, with XM in my car and a digital catalog at my fingertips, I expect to be selling blood plasma to boost my collection--some full albums, some not. It's a fact--exposure to music just leads to buying more music.


Robert Wilonsky: I would like to offer the following as an addendum, and as Exhibit A, to my argument that iTunes is killing the album. From Reuters News Service, dated July 2, 2003: "Rock bands The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica are refusing to make their music available as individual downloads on Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes online music store, a representative for the bands said on Wednesday. That move comes in response to Apple's decision to allow users to buy single tracks and is intended to protect the future of the long-playing album, the format that has dominated the music industry for decades."

Just wanted to point out there is backlash within the creative community and that mine are not merely the rantings of a prematurely old man with Good Old Days Syndrome.

Zac Crain: Yeah, but those guys are notorious pussies.

Robert Wilonsky: Nevertheless, I assume they will not be the last acts to take such a stand. But why, oh, why couldn't they have been better bands?

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