Friday, April 21, 2006

The Real Deal

"We don't touch music anymore. People download it, preview it, and delete it."

-Bob Mould, in a recent Punk Planet interview

Amy wrote this up on Wednesday about the modern day version of sharing music. I agree with her views as how it is incredibly easy to find an MP3 on the Internet of some band you're interested in. While this is all convenient, as she put it best, "it used to mean something to hold that cassette tape or record or compact disc in my hands and rock out with my friends. don't get me wrong, i now feel that mp3's and mp3 players are super convenient but it's definitely lacking in the excitement department." I agree with that, but all to a certain extent. I think about the pros and the cons the Internet has given me the music fan over the years.

I feel there is still a sense of surprise in finding a new band or record that I wasn't actively seeking out that really blows me away. A great recent case in point is the Secret Machines. While I have their debut LP, Now Here is Nowhere, and the EP, The Road Leads Where It's Led, I've never really dug deep into them. Now after hearing tracks from their forthcoming Ten Silver Drops, I am incredibly psyched to hear as much of their stuff as possible. But the deal was, I wasn't excited about them until circumstances beyond my control allowed me to hear them. Last week, Jason watched the band's new video in his room and I was able to hear the song down the hall. I was impressed and asked who it was. Then I heard three strong songs on Sound Opinions a few days ago and became incredibly excited about the new record. This was definitely a surprise, but these are rare instances these days. The Internet is everywhere and easy to get around it at one's pace, but the experience is not the same as sharing in person.

I love the immediacy of hearing something shortly after I've read about it. Hell, Ten Silver Drops has been available on online music stores for a few weeks now. But still, the grand prize of listening to music is having it on CD. This is a physical object that not just has music that I want to hear, but information that comes with it in the liner notes. I'm talking who produced it, who played on it, who did the album art and so on. This information was what made me even more curious about bands, labels and all things related. Plus, CD still sounds better than vinyl and cassette, but it's so much easier to take a walk with a multi-gig iPod than a CD player that plays one CD at a time.

I don't know how many gigs of MP3s I have currently on my hard drives (maybe 30 total, I'm not sure). While it's convenient to have them all in one spot, those are computer files at the end of the day. They're no different than my Word documents, e-mail messages and pictures. I value what is on these files, but they mean way more when I can touch and hold them in my hands. Not to sound all melodramatic, but it was through the information in the liner notes of CDs that I was able to connect with bands early on.

While I wrote one handwritten letter to a band (A.F.I. and I got a response back from Hunter) back before everyone had e-mail, crucial relationships that would help out my research on Post came from writing to e-mail addresses listed in CD liner notes. The relationships are helpful with getting information straight, but what I truly value is the fast and easy connection between band and fan. The two biggies back before I even thought about writing a book were with members of Jawbox and Horace Pinker. Jawbox's '96 self-titled release had an AOL account listed in their liner notes and I dropped them a line. J. Robbins wrote me back and things went from there. Getting to know him, Bill and Kim through my fandom, they remembered who I was when I told them I have plans for a book with a chapter on Jawbox. In the case of Horace Pinker, I e-mailed their old drummer Bill Ramsey mistakenly thinking he had rejoined the band. He was nice enough to forward my message to the current members and we've all kept in touch over the years. These are people I am happy to have know not just as a fan, but these people have been really encouraging folk along the way (with and without a book in mind)

I bring all this stuff up now because it's a nice mix of the old and new for us that remember a time when the Internet wasn't everywhere. E-mail and MP3s are simple and easy, but the real deal is talking to people in person about music with the music in our hands. Whether or not a younger generation will ever embrace this way of thinking, I don't know. But if they ever wonder why they don't feel "connected" to music, I think it's safe to say that I'll point to this example.


jen medina said...

that's funny -- scott eastman was my unofficial prom date (since i wasn't going anyway) and we were pen pals for years. but then again i was big on mail at the time. i sort of wish i could still have people to write to and who would write back, but convenience seems to have taken over.

Eric said...

Most people any younger than us don't remember a time without the internet. I too just like you and my wife miss having CD's and vinyl and obsessing over every liner note. Great post.