Monday, July 30, 2007

Physical or Digital?

As our music collections take up more and more hard drive space than shelf space, I pose a question: do you feel closer to music in a physical form or digital form? For me, as nice as it is to have a portable digital jukebox, I'm not about to jump ship on the physical format any time soon.

MP3s are convenient, but there's a more intimate value with holding a CD or vinyl record. Having the album's cover pop up on iTunes is just not the same. "Value" is the key word as I wonder how much of value something is when it's a phantom, ones-and-zeros kind of thing. Plus, when you can get so quickly and easily (and free in a lot of places), is there any value?

This is not exactly the same, but what if this was seventeen years ago and you replaced your entire vinyl and CD collection with dubbed cassette tapes? You may save on space, but what about the connection to the music itself? Case after case of handwritten liner notes with no real distinction between them is what I'd see them as. Plus, I couldn't claim I really owned this stuff.

It's been six years since I was in college (when CD-Rs, burning and peer-to-peers exploded), but I still feel weird about having burned CD-Rs. I have numerous spindles filled to the brim with copies of mix CDs, full albums, EPs and so on. But the most I listen to one of them is in the car. Usually, six of my eight sleeves in my CD wallet are CD-Rs because of safety reasons. I know quite a few people who lost almost all of their CD collections because they put them in a large case in their cars. If my car was to be broken into and the CDs were taken, I'd probably lose about five dollars worth of CD-Rs. In other words: no big loss.

CD is still my preferred way of listening to music. The sound is still far better than any MP3 or vinyl I've heard. Maybe that shows my entry point to music as a child of the Eighties, but that's the way it is. But I wonder about kids who were born after Napster and the iPod broke through. I doubt the connection to music in general will be substantially less, but the disposable nature of current listening habits makes me wonder.


Ryan said...

recorded music is just a fluff girl to the porno that is live music.

Random Kath said...

Now that I have an ipod, I still really appreciate my CDS. Like you, I need to have the tangible. I like reading the liner notes and the lyrics and seeing the cover art. And CDs were a great improvement over cassettes, although I stiil have way too many of them. At the time I bought cassettes, I thought they were quite the improvement over vinyl - hey, you can carry these in your bag and listen to them in the car!

CDs are like vinyl in that you make a committment to the album as a whole. Yes, you can pick out a song, but listening to the whole thing at once is something different. and the feeling of ownership - this is mine! The inner 10 year old thinking, I paid for it with my own money and I'm supporting this person or people (OK, regardless of whether the money actually gets to them, that's what most people think.)

Besides, with iTunes, I feel like I'm one hard drive failure away from losing everything I've amassed . . .

the secret knitter said...

I still prefer the physical form, although at this point the CDs get one-spin-ripped-to-the-computer and listened to on the iPod. There's something too fragile about having all that music on a hard drive that will eventually fail and not having the hard copy.

Eric said...

Interesting thoughts. I'm with the knitter than is afraid of losing their hard drive.

Kev said...

Add me to the afraid-of-losing-the-hard-drive crowd; that happened to me twice with my old computer. But at least with the MacBook, I can burn CDs, so I have a backup copy of everything I've purchased over iTunes.