Inspired by Late Night Wallflower's excellent write-up on a recent RIAA editorial, I wanted to chip in some thoughts. Although I've bought fewer CDs this year compared to years before, the point is, I still buy CDs. Am I a criminal because I download and burn CD-Rs with music I got from MP3 blogs and SendSpace? I don't think so; I still view the activity just like I viewed it as a youngster. Was my uncle a criminal for dubbing a cassette copy of The Joshua Tree and sending it to me? No. He wanted to share something I might like. (By the way, I bought The Joshua Tree on CD ten years ago and still have it.)
These days, I test-drive a lot of music on MP3s. Simply put: I want to know if this album is worth owning on CD. Chalk it up to being very frugal and picky, but the phrase "spending your hard-earned cash" definitely applies with me. The idea of buying a record before ever hearing a note has almost completely faded from my view. I can't help but be curious because I love music so much.
There are certain cases where a bonus track, EP or DVD will get me out to buy a CD right away. A timely example is Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' Living With the Living, which was released yesterday. Touch & Go's first pressing comes with a bonus five-song EP, featuring tracks not available anywhere else. I have yet to see these bonus songs on any of the sites I check out, plus the proper record has been growing on me nicely (just like Leo's previous record, Shake the Sheets). So this is why I have a trip planned to a local record store today. Simple enough? Well, it's not that simple for other CDs.
While I check out a lot of new records in MP3 form, there are so many older releases I want to check out as well. Unlike the new records I've checked out recently, many of these older releases have been difficult to find online. In the case of buying Scott Walker's In Five Easy Pieces, I had to go on the faith of a well-written Pitchfork review, a nice write-up on Walker in Punk Planet and what I remembered from my single listen to the It's Raining Today compilation. I haven't regretted the decision as I've been listening to Walker's solo material and Walker Brothers stuff regularly since then. But in the case of Feeder's Picture of Perfect Youth and the Clash's Sandinista!, I really want to hear these songs before I consider buying them on CD. And no, iTunes' free 30-second preview clips don't do the songs' justice.
I won't lie: it's way more economical for me to go about this way. I'm thankful I have money to buy the CDs that I really want.
But I will add this: when you hear a song or record for free, there's a tendency to not really dig much more into it if you don't like it right away. I've seen plenty of people on the SOMB say something along the lines of, "I downloaded it a few months ago, didn't like what I heard and I haven't listened to it again." So maybe that's why I've seen the kind of knee-jerk, underwhelming feeling here and especially here about the recently-leaked Voxtrot album. So I gotta ask: whatever happened to letting a record sit with you over a few weeks/months/years and then writing your feelings about it? These days, it seems like a matter of listening to a record over a few minutes/hours/days is enough.
The issues with downloading MP3s and buying music still rages on, but believe me, I still want to touch the stuff I love. I like the new Ted Leo record enough to want to read the lyrics, look at the liner notes and so on. But the days of spending all my free cash on music have long since passed. Maybe the RIAA should understand that with people in similar situations and quit complaining.