The Hellhole

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bah, $159.33 in CD purchases at Best Buy and I only bought ONE of the three CDs I went in there to obtain. Though to be fair, three that make up that total were Alan's and one of his was $29.99 (but it was a three CD set and a bonus DVD. More on this later.)

Not to get all up on a soapbox more suited to my brother, but I have seen the future of music, and I am dismayed. I think we will soon see the day when CDs have gone the way of the 8-track tape, and this saddens me, not because I am a Luddite who hates to embrace innovation and technology, but because...well, because of several things.

My perspective is that iTunes and Amazon, the latter for books as well as CDs, are great so long as you know exactly what you want. However, some of my very favorite songs and books, including an ardent love for Terry Pratchett which I've shared with many friends and family members, came about because I was in a store to buy something, saw something else that looked interesting, and stuck it in my pile. Perhaps I needed one more CD to fulfill a 'buy one get one free' but the five already in my hand were all I had in mind, so I grabbed something not quite at random but in a 'hey, this might be cool' or 'hey, I've heard of these guys' kind of way, and loved it. Of course, I've done that sometimes and thought, "Well, that's an hour of my life I'll never get back,", but what sticks with me aren't those hiccups but the happy chances that turn out to be, "Well, it's an hour later, and here I am back at the store to buy everything this band has ever released," moments.

Further, I like having the thing. I like holding the CD in my hand, reading the liner notes, seeing the cover artwork, looking at the pictures, whether artwork or photographs, that the band wanted to include with the music. I like it muchly when they include comments about how the song was conceived or developed, how it came about, even (geekily) why the final version is in B-flat major instead of G-minor - I like all those little details that a $0.99 download of the track doesn't give you. Today's case in point: the incredibly beautiful, oh-so-apt drawings that are included with Rush's Clockwork Angels album (the only of the three items that sent me to Best Buy which was available for purchase).

Another reason is (and pardon me if this is grammatically clumsy) that quite often the song that winds up being my favorite from the album isn't the song, or one of the top two or three songs, that were my impetus for buying the album in the first place. Since I used Rush as an example in the previous paragraph, I'll continue the analogy to point out that if I'd bought Tom Sawyer (which got ridiculously repetitive airplay) or Limelight as a $0.99 iTunes download instead of pestering my mom to buy me the album - which incidentally I own in actual album format (kids, back in the day CDs were called "records" and came in this flat, frisbee-like disk of black plastic), cassette, CD and remastered CD format - I would never have had occasion to hear Red Barchetta, which is not only my favorite song off that album, not only my favorite Rush song, but one of my top ten favorite songs EVER. And I'd probably never have heard it, in a music world like the one where I think the music world is going.

I'm sad about this. A lot of bands I like (and still more of the bands Alan likes, which are generally even more obscure than my favorites) are already hard to follow. They don't always get mentions in Creative Loafing when they're in town or have a new release out, or if they do, it's not front-page news - you'd only see it in the publication if you knew to search for [Band] that week. It's already hard enough to be a fan of certain bands, and there are so many songs from new bands and old that I'd never have known existed if I just bought the one hit single from iTunes. Still and yet, browsing in Best Buy ain't what it used to be.

Other CDs I bought: Rush's Time Machine (Alan got me the DVD, but my car doesn't play DVDs, so you can understand why this was necessary), two Silversun Pickups - Carnavas and Swoon, Hollywood Undead's American Tragedy (I don't know if I'll like this but I greatly enjoy the only song they ever play on SiriusXM's Octane, Levitate), Gorillaz's Singles Collection 2001 - 2011 and a DVD by Robert Plant and his Band of Joy, which to my point I didn't even know existed until I spied it on an endcap, but decades of LedZep love compel me to buy anything that has covers of Tangerine, Gallows Pole and Houses of The Holy. I'll let y'all know what rocks.

Remember way back up there when I wrote "More on this later"? The 3 CDs-1DVD set Alan wanted was the complete sessions of Mermaid Avenue which is tons of never-before-released lyrics by Woodie Guthrie, which his daughter Joan asked Wilco and Billy Bragg to set to music. If you've any love of music or Americana or history, you owe it to yourself to check this out.

P.S. The other two items I wanted were Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes and The Glorious Dead by The Heavy. Just in case you were wondering.


  • I completely agree with you on all counts re: CDs vs. iTunes. There's actually a parallel to GOING TO THE LIBRARY to find articles. I know. The library is passe, but I found the greatest articles for my dissertation when I went to the stacks.

    Nice piece, Helly. basil

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:46 AM  

  • To put the other point of view, if bands make good use of the internet in terms of social networking and music sharing then they can reach a larger audience and build up a fan base in ways that weren't previously possible. I have discovered new bands through recommendations on and spotify, and of course via festivals like Tramlines

    By Blogger Neil Hopkins, at 5:36 AM  

  • I agree that it is nice to be able to get music via download, because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to own both Nat Johnson & The Figurehead's albums. But I'd still love to have the physical CDs, instead of just the ones and zeros. CDs often have lots of extras, like booklets with artwork and lyrics, that you just can't get when you buy the music online, and that's what I miss.

    By Anonymous Alan, at 6:40 PM  

  • Oh, I still mourn record albums and all their accompanying liner notes. Back when listening to music was absolutely something I DID (rather than something I did while doing something else) - when I could stay in my room for hours playing records over and over - I got to know the liner notes to my favorite albums better than any subject I studied for school. When I first started buying CDs, it was disappointing to see how little was often included, and how very tiny and hard to read it was at best. And I agree that "browsing" online is not at all as rewarding as browsing in a store - or library - can often be, and that Amazon's and iTunes's recommendations for me aren't as good or at least not as exciting as the serendipitous find. And having "the thing" as opposed to a file, or a list - that resonates with me too.

    Enjoy your tunes!

    By Blogger Nancy Heiges, at 6:16 PM  

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