Wednesday, February 14. 2007
Things come and go. The way we interact, communicate, the way we live our lives changes so very quickly and the very act of talking about it, especially if you are a non-expert source trying to write about technology so that late-thirty businessmen might relate (or even your conservative yet low class audience) is so incredibly naff, it is all I can do not to do it. Really. At least the ‘next big thing’ headlines attached to dribble about iPods has gone. Yet bullshit persists, and there must be some esoteric way for me to relate it to you.
I was listening the Penny Arcade podcast this evening. I would listen to their shit religiously if they were consistent or even vaguely prolific about making their recordings. They do have all the episodes up for our attention, but there ain’t many to go around. For public record, the productions I profess devotion to are the daily antics of comedians Merrick and Rosso, the delights of Violet Blue, the quasi-science slash lies to children output of Dr. Karl, Jay and the Doctor and the winsome Sunday Night Safran. The last three come courtesy of Triple J, who have many other reputable podcasts for your perusal. But the Arcade is a staple of my internet time and we would all be lesser beings for their work. They were talking about the Zune, the Microsoft engineered portable music player.
I couldn’t give a crap, since I am well served by my obsolete iPod (it’s a rare model, bitches) but their point got me thinking, about a few things, but of a conversation started a long many years ago now. The place of digital music, downloading, and FM radio. How we get our input, our choices, how we digest music. The Zune has WiFi, presumably to sync with a PC, or even to directly connect to the wider web, and the dream is that you could surf a digital music site, buy your tunes and download them directly to your device, then go on listening. This cuts out the need for the middle man, that poor computer sitting on your desk or lap. That, as a concept, isn’t that far fetched and easily imagined my most people these days. I mean, of my demographic. It’s fucking cool, if you like paying to download stuff. Get a device, make sure it’s got a massive screen, buy your gear on the go and be listening right now. It’s the sleazy easy generation, you best believe.
This got me on the idea that if that sort of deal, unimaginable a few years ago on that night in a suburban train station with the J, has become almost passé, how lazy we are. Or even just what great changes have come along these few years.
The conversation was something like this.
Me: I think downloading mp3s is the new FM radio.
J: How’s that?
Me: I don’t listen to radio anymore. I can get popular new tracks from any fucking p2p service, illegally, without retard disc jockeys, adds, or songs I don’t want to listen to. It the new delivery method. I have greater control.
J: I have to jump on a train and derail this conversation.
But you get the point. The J had an opinion, but I forget what he was on about. The point was, in terms of getting new music and hearing what’s out there, all my life it had been the job of FM radio to do it. I rely on them, their choices, to get it to me. I listened through the good and bad, and when my paltry salary allowed, go and purchase a CD. I was right, because since unfettered internet access and the growing availability of files (starting with Napster, and on from there to the current orgy that is bittorrent) my radio listening has decreased to almost nothing. My beloved radio, gone. No longer do I get their fresh output, good or bad – but as supply and demand dictates, it’s because I have something better that fulfils my purpose. I have a supply that meets my demand.
Extending from this, I will now compare what it took to first find out what music I wanted and how I got it, with what I have now, and line it up with the Zune talk above.
Hear something cool on radio. Listen and hopefully get the back-announce, remember the artist. Alternatively, read about it in a print magazine such as Rolling Stone. Work at supermarket, mow the lawn, wash the car, scrape together the thirty dollars needed (ten if the CD single was acceptable) and find a way to get body to music store. Accepted methods include ambulating on foot, from home or from school once lessons finished, haranguing parents into driving (this always came with additional baggage about wasting hard earned money) or in extreme cases, flying. Then you go into shop, scour the racks, pick out your desired recording from the hundreds on offer, fighting desire to get something else that you heard or looks cool, and purchase from guy behind counter using hard-earned. Go home and listen to plastic disc in boom-box. Feel happy.
Fast forward to today. It’s a matter of everything is available on one of a myriad of torrent sites. Some sites I frequent have more music than I could listen to in several lifetimes, if I was to listen continuously from the time I had ears to the time I died. Anything, everything. Hw to filter it and get what turns you on? There’s a million fucking places that have opinions about music, some better than others, there’s services that take account of what you listen to and what others listen to and then they tell you what the others listening to your music listen to, thus giving you ideas about what you might enjoy. One torrent site has a top ten page, and if it’s popular usually that means it’s worth checking out further. The download is free, because pirates are cool. You can get practically anything for free. Then I run it through a tagging program to get rid of any bullshit people like to add, get the album art, load onto iPod and go. The most part of all this is automated. All I have to do is research and choose, then listen.
I don’t get a physical CD. This still hurts a part of me, the one who likes to collect shit like that, and has boxes full of jewel cases. But since I didn’t pay for it, I can get over it. If I was paying, then I would be peeved. But hey, we all sort ourselves out.
So that’s the process. My, how far we have come. Here’s to the future, implanted data storage in our heads that we download pirated music to via wireless connections. That plays in your head. Cool. No more earphones. This is how to kill the iPod. Microsoft, take note.