04 March 2009

Music as a consumerist accessory

Consumers treat music, in these times of iTunes, like a disposable accessory. Something they will pick and chew at before discarding for a trendier option.

I have an old-fashioned point of view where I perceive an album to be a work of art, to be heard in its entirety in the manner the musician anticipated. Not a $1 track to be shuffled in between other miscellaneous pap on an iPod.

Ironic, isn't it, that many musicians use Apple products to create music and yet, in some way Apple innovations such as iTunes, iPods etc have resulted in the demise of the concept album.

They existed prior to Apple; there have always been file sharing sites where the musician received no money for their efforts, and MP3 players are not solely an Apple invention. But Apple's marketing panache created a mindset: you are what is on your pink / green / blue / red / black iPod / Nano / Shuffle / next Apple marketing ploy. Your MP3 player, in other words, represents who you are, what you stand for. You can pick a colour to suit your personality and clothing, and buy single songs from iTunes to suit your mood.


The grand scheme of a concept album is, sadly, becoming lost amongst the multi-coloured rainbow that is the Apple product line. People love their Apples more than they love the music played on them. In fact, Apple is one of the top 'love marks' in the marketing world.

So, when I think of all the effort a good musician goes to in order to create a work of meaning, depth, fluidity, I can't help pining for the album on vinyl. Getting an album you had to wait three months for as a US import in your hot little hands. Going home and placing it on your record player for the first time. Hearing those first notes, guitar chords. Looking at the wonderful cover art and photography, singing along to the lyrics that were printed large enough to read. Now THAT was exciting and music was worth waiting for.

I understand how convenient iTunes and methods of sale like that are for unsigned musicians who might not have any other opportunity to be heard. But for bands you love, who bother to release vinyl or cds...buy the whole kaboodle. Make your local independent record store an exciting place to hang out again. Don't just buy from Borders or HMV, track down some little store in your local neighborhood where the owners and people who work in it LIVE music. These are the guys you're going to get tips from on bands you really need to be turned on to. Once you have your cd, you can always come home and copy it on to your iPod or MP3 player. But listening to an entire album from start to finish, a nice glass of red in your hand, the lights off...nothing beats it.

My favourite record store in Brisbane has, for a long time, been Rockinghorse Records. Although they're getting more commercial, it's the closest I've found to the store in the film High Fidelity. If it paid a bit more, it would be my ultimate job. So if you live in Brisbane, check it out and if you don't, investigate your local options. I'm just saying, it's good to get out and about and meet people for whom music is their passion. They just might introduce you to something wild.

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