Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We live like astronauts and our missions never cross

With Best Buy announcing they are acquiring Napster, I present a personal timeline:

Growing up on infrequent trips to Sound Warehouse, Sam Goody, and Camelot for CDs and cassettes, I went out of my way to go to Best Buy once the first store opened in Houston. They had a better selection, and the average price of a CD was $11.99.

Best Buy was the place that I bought CDs, along with video games and VHS tapes, once the store in Humble opened. 1997 was the year I started working for them in their media department. I proceeded to work there off and on for the next four years. I learned a lot about myself in the process, and I can say without any cynicism that it was a good job for me at the time. I also realized that working retail is not something I should consider as a career.

Hearing about a free program where I could find hard-to-find/unreleased material by Jimmy Eat World and Coldplay, I downloaded Napster and loved it. A few weeks later, I introduced the program to one of my roommates who was having a hard time looking for a Britney Spears song. His face widened once he saw what he could get online fast and easy. A few weeks after that, I hear one of my other roommates and his lady friend (whom I would describe as very passive music fans) talk about how cool Napster is. I realized how quick something spread. The last time I ever saw anything spread that fast was Nirvana's Nevermind.

While purchasing a Jimmy Eat World CD from Best Buy, I noticed a sticker placed on the cover about downloading exclusive non-LP songs from the now-paid/legal version of Napster. I was an iTunes fan early on, and wasn't so hot on downloading another program. As much as I liked Jimmy Eat World (and still like them), I didn't have the same strong love for their post-Clarity material. So, no Napster for me.

When I later heard about all the caveats to Napster's program (less-than-CD-quality sound, your music library could be zapped instantly if you don't pay the monthly subscription fee), I found the metaphor of making music as disposable as toilet paper very apt.

I'm still an iTunes user and I still buy CDs. I most recently purchased Death Magnetic at Best Buy on Friday. I download a lot of stuff from various places, including blogs, because I want to see if I really want to own the whole package. Sorry, a burned CD-R of Death Magnetic just doesn't cut it for me since I really, really like the album.

Whatever becomes of this Napster/Best Buy merger, I'll probably stick to my ways, and just remember being in college and witnessing history in the emerging love/hate affair between the music industry and the Internet.

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