Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Winner's Take On Music/Life's Blood

A couple weeks ago a friend and I were discussing an older blog of mine on the death of physical media (iNightmare). It turns out that she was having a similar discussion with some of her friends. Well, to make a long story short our discussion along with her discussion led to a pretty cool blog piece that she wanted me to share with my readers . . . all two of you (Hi, mom & dad!). Anyway, here's a contribution from one of the coolest people I know . . .

Music Fades

By Fledgling Fashionista

When I first heard Kick, Push I was amazed. I had a burned copy in my car and seriously I listened to it on repeat for weeks on end without blinking. I’ll admit I’m a bit of an orchestra nerd. I played cello for many years and it’s still on my wish list of things to get myself. I fell in love with the strings and horns on the track so much that every time I hear the start of it, I turn up the volume. I get lost in the music of the song. It’s not the lyrics (nothing against them, however). It’s just the music.

Why did I love it so much? Maybe it reminded me of growing up the daughter of a DJ and tapping back into that love of music and feeling like I was a little girl in a basement full of records learning how to use turntables and a mixer for the first time. Maybe it made me realize, I’ve become an “oldhead”, that I miss ATCQ, Leaders of the New School, De La Soul, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Brand Nubian, LL Cool J, MC Lyte, Kid N Play, Salt N Peppa, Eric B and Rakim, and a whole crew of others. I missed music and Lupe’s song took me back.

Back when I was in junior high and high school Friday nights meant come home, eat, change and head to the mall. The highlight of those evenings was going into Camelot Music and coming out with three cassette singles for $10. Sometimes I’d even have enough to buy a full CD or an EP from one of my favorite artists. I can clearly remember the bright yellow, long bodied, cardboard case of BBD’s Poison. I can recall the feel of the REM tape in my hand and my first exposure to The Roots through a CD single of What They Do. Growing up I had a world of music at my fingertips via my father, but there was nothing like having my own collection.

As I got older I would make bi-weekly trips to Record Exchange and build my collection with cheap used music. Now at 30 I’ve amassed about 400 CDS (minus the ones I had to sell to eat in college), but where are they? Sitting in booklets in my office. They are rarely touched outside of those I keep in my car. For someone with music so engrained in her blood why? Well first there were the mixtapes I made when I first discovered Kazaa. Next there was my 2gb Creative Zen, then the 32gb video Zen and now the 80gb iPod Classic. Sadly, for all the good memories I have attached to physically having the music in hard copy, I have become one of the many who download. That’s not to say I do not buy hard copies anymore, but the number has seriously dwindled. I can tell you on one hand the music I bought in store this year: The Odd Couple by Gnarls Barkley, Shine by Estelle, Rising Down by The Roots…I think that’s it.

Having my students write a paper this semester on where they stand on the issue of downloading made me look at my own thoughts. Do I consider it a crime? Yes I do. Is it a crime that can be stopped or properly punished? Of course not. The recording industry turned a blind eye to this phenomena for so long that when they did act their attempts were purely scare tactics and unreasonable. Me, along with many others, have had so many years and such easy access to filesharing networks, blank CDS and burners that the incentive to change is not there. There are a variety of reasons I download and I’m sure those reasons are shared by more than a few.

Just like I remember the look and feel of the BBD case from way back when, I still do love cover art and liner notes. I’m one of those people who have framed album covers in my living room, who remembers albums sometimes not for their track listing, but rather the picture they’ve left in my mind. I enjoy reading the thank yous and stories that those booklets contain, but convenience and a wide variety of musical tastes have severely disrupted that. Why convenience? Well until I moved to southern New Jersey last year the only available music was at Wal-Mart. I don’t want edited music and I certainly want my choice to extend past the typical blazin’ hip hop and r&b fodder, county and rock. There is such variety and Wal-Mart is not it. Now that I live near an FYE, the pull of LimeWire and my laptop have become too strong to resist because of years of use. I know I can get five blank CDs from Walgreens for $2.00 and next thing you know I have what I want in rotation in my car. I can indulge myself in that random Lil’ Wayne single or burn a whole Stevie Wonder mix in a flash.

Secondly, I wholeheartedly believe there is a lack of artist development. Of course as with everything there are exceptions to the rule and there are wonderful new musicians if you know where to look, but I’ve struggled in many debates to come up with my generation’s Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway or Nina Simone. Do we have one? I’m not really convinced we do. I’ve held conversations about how easily the word “genius” is thrown around in relation to musicians today. How do the artists that are popular now and even ten years ago stack up to their predecessors? Music is ever evolving, but I think I’m becoming one of those “I remember when” types and it’s funny that I look forward to the old school mix at noon. Why? Because I know if I was to buy one of those CDs I would be getting my money’s worth. There were stories and plots crafted into music in previous years that I think is lacking as a whole now. So I will continue to download that new Beyonce single or that Rihanna re-release because it’s about the single and not the album (or the career) as a whole.

So where does that leave us (or specifically me)? I will download the junk and buy the sustainable. I will always buy albums from those artists that I believe put out the best they can for each album, that go beyond working with the next hot producer, that are not changing their image or sound for the sake of sales, but rather evolving from something familiar to something cutting edge. I will continue to buy t-shirts and concert tickets.

As for the industry? Perhaps I would have more respect if they’d sued consumers for the actual cost of the songs and not for more than they can ever expect to collect. There is a possibility I would feel differently if the cost of CDS remained consistent with the quality of music, if there was more artist development, or better relations as a whole with those who fuel this industry. Maybe there is a change is coming with the downturn in sales over the last few years, but only time will tell. What I do know is that some of my fondest memories are based in music; I separate time periods in my life in categories of songs; and there are melodies that can bring tears, smiles or laughter within in the first few notes. Perhaps I have taken too much of a personal stake in these sound waves and beats, but it’s that important to me.

You can roll with this winner at


Conrad said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


8thlight said...