more laments

Yesterday, I wrote some about what we’re losing by going digital.

Obviously, I’m not trying to speak in absolutes. There are many ways to consume and/or enjoy music, and I’m not saying that my way is the only way.

But I did want to take the thought a step further. I was discussing the thread with Friend Steve, and he articulated many of the same feelings that I have.

Namely, that digital downloads are simply not as personal as a CD or vinyl. When I purchased a CD or vinyl, I OWNED the music. I took care of it. I studied it. I read the liner notes. I knew the names of the band members. I knew who played what instruments. I knew who they were thanking and looked for personality in their thank you list. I knew where it was recorded and who produced it. I learned the names of the songs and knew which songs came from which albums.

All of that is gone now. I’ve probably accumulated more music this year than any one year since college. But when I hear a song from my iPod, I can’t tell you what album it came from. Sometimes, I can’t even tell you the band – even though I really enjoy the song and listen to it often.

And without album art, you lose the extra way that musicians have to express themselves… ways beyond the music. Like Steve said to me, I don’t even know what any of these bands look like. I used to be able to identify them all.

This isn’t about the quality of the music, or a simple pining for the good old days. From a marketing perspective, I think it’s about trying to find new ways to establish the fan-artist connection that immediately existed when one purchased the album, took it home and studied it while listening to it.

Sure, one of the main differences now is that instead of looking at their packaging, I can simply email the band – and usually get a reply! Now I can talk directly to them (or at least feel like I am, even if they have someone else doing the replying). But the communication is disassociated from the music. They don’t tie together.

Again, I am not suggesting my way is the “right” way. People take things in at their own pace in their own way. Even if I download a song digitally, I usually turn around right then and order the CD from Amazon. I just like to see the music as a work and try to digest it accordingly.

I don’t think our mission at NewTunes is going to affect that positively or negatively. We’re about finding new music. We will hopefully point people to music they’ve never heard before, but have a good chance of enjoying. Here’s hoping that when they leave our site to purchase that music, they consider buying the whole package.


3 Responses to “more laments”

  1. 1 nicole
    August 21, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Well, being that I just finished my thesis on a similar issue with narrative (books, really), I feel the same way. Basically, my whole point was that writers would begin to write either for print or for digital—as they both have characteristics intrinsic to them that can really shape the way that readers experience the narrative. The key was, though, to consciously use those characteristics for the benefit of the reader and the story itself.

    I have to wonder if it isn’t the same thing with music and its collateral. We’re seeing this more and more with musicians who release unique editions of their album along with standard editions. Ben Folds comes to mind, as does Radiohead and Spiritualized. These premium editions also come with a premium price.

    But on the digital front, maybe artists just aren’t embracing the characteristics of the digital world when releasing the digital versions of their music? Maybe there is a digital form of album art that just really hasn’t been created yet—one that is immersive, awe-inspiring, and informational in its own way.

    One interesting thing I’ve found that might herald a kind of a future is here: Arcade Fire: Neon Bible

  2. 2 sjb
    August 21, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    When it’s done right, in other words, the marketing can be a *very* important part of the message.

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