Is this what happened to the Dinosaurs? Not the ones in Jurassic World, but the ones who buried themselves in a never-ending Hoarders episode where their Vinyl collection took up so much space at home that they suffocated under fallen piles of flat discs enclosed in cardboard. It’s not easy to change formats, even if it’s for the best. Sure 8-tracks and audio cassettes sucked but CDs were a pretty space efficient and decent sounding alternative for a while before digital music that you owned became the king. Not only could you keep these songs on your computer but you could transport them all together wherever you went. No more clunky binders and leather CD cases! I still marvel at the iPod like Ron Swanson did recently: it really is an excellent rectangle to put all of your records on. After years of navigating the world of Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, random blogs with Zip files, and shady sites that popped up on google when searching for “Band Name + Rar” I had built up quite a collection of songs, supplemented by buying hard copy CDS and loading them into my iTunes library. All you had to do was put the disc in! Does it get any better than this?!
I should have seen things coming. For years the only music I’ve downloaded has been through the iTunes or Amazon music stores. Yes, it could be expensive, but I used to spend $13 on a CD at Newbury Comics, not too bad to spend $10 on a new album from the convenience of my home. Also, I had destroyed too many laptops from malware and viruses digging up songs from the sketchiest non-dark web areas of the internet that it just felt smarter. I love music and paying a few hundred bucks a year for new music just became part of my budget. I heard of free programs like Spotify and Pandora but I just wasn’t interested. I don’t want Ads in my music listening experience, and I don’t want someone to design playlists for me, or direct what artists I listen to, or to be provided shitty sound quality. I turn down the volume when commercials come on TV and switch channels on the radio, I’m creeped out by the algorithmization of the internet where every website wants to suggest to me what I will like, and my biggest OCD tendency in life is controlling the order of songs I’m listening to. This streaming shit just wasn’t for me.
But I’m afraid of how much longer I can hold out. Last year Apple announced they were discontinuing the iPod Classic which is the only easy way I could fit all the music I have on a portable device. What do I do if mine breaks? Buy one on Ebay for 4 times as much? Should I still embrace this dying technology? Other signs were present too. When I bought my latest laptop I was shocked to learn there was no Disc drive. What if I need to load in a new album? What if I wanted to make a mixtape for someone? Does anyone under the age of 21 even know what “I’ll burn you a copy” means?! This is an outrage! I went out and bought an external hard drive from Best Buy immediately. I mean how could I not need discs anymore? Well… I’ve used it once since I bought it and that was to install Rosetta Stone. Seriously, is the only thing I’m listening to off discs now about diez tazas and seis tazones?
But just because I weaned myself off hard copies of music, does that mean I could give up ownership too? I always thought streaming was for people who didn’t care enough about what they listened to. You find one band that you like and type them in and then the computer does the work for you and finds some bands that are kinda –sorta like them. Fuck you Pandora, discovering new artists is my drug. Well, that and alcohol. Which is why many times after getting wasted the night before I would check my iTunes library the next morning to find out that some blacked out part of me really likes Carly Rae Jepsen. Weird. But my issues (other than alcoholism) still go back to control and appreciating an album as a piece of art. I went on Spotify and clicked on the Gaslight Anthem’s American Slang, but the slow buildup of the title track is not playing. Why the fuck is track number 8 leading off here?
There is a science (well not a real science) to the track listing of an album. YOU JUST CAN’T PLAY THIS OUT OF ORDER! I was seriously losing my mind. I know that young people don’t care about albums anymore, but eat shit Spotify, you’re empowering these millennial monsters! I admit I have used the shuffle feature on my iPod or iTunes before, but I still had control when. Sometimes to appreciate a record you want to hear it from start to finish. I don’t want to lose that. The sequencing of an album by a band or an individual for the also near extinct “mix tape” is understandably not something everyone is this passionate about. But for every other asshole like me that thought Cusack’s speech in High Fidelity was barely scratching the surface, this online streaming crap is an abomination.
With Tidal and most importantly Apple joining the fray it appears that streaming music will become not an alternative way to listen to music but the only way soon enough. For $10 dollars a month or whatever I’ll probably find the one that is a best fit for me; the one that allows the most control, has the widest selection, has good sound quality. And chances are that in 6 months I’ll love it so much I’ll never understand how I lived without it. But for now, like every other old fool afraid of change I’ve clung onto my downloading and iPoding ways. What am I going to do with the tens of thousands of files that I have on my laptop? (Yeah, I still own one of them too) Are they going to offer these Apps on my Windows Phone or am I going to have to cave after all this time and join the masses with an iPhone? Most importantly how the hell am I going to upgrade my data plan from 2 lousy gigs? Man, it’s tough becoming old and outdated.
Note: This entry also appears on Empty Bottle Evenings. Check that out for album and concerts reviews, as well as other happenings and drunk rantings on music.