Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The travails of moving house...I have left the wastelands of Waltham Forest, interesting as it was to see the evolution of the Olympics site at Stratford. I am no more Blazin' Squad's neighbours. Still, expect more regular posts now that I'm settled at a new abode in the capital, nested in the shadows of gleaming spires.

Since my last post, it's been weird to think how quickly technology advances, and specifically to do with music. Following on from previous posts to do with the future of music consumption, I'm thinking of Spotify, naturally, which - at least in the U.K., and Sweden, and certain other Western European countries where it exists - has took off hugely since, well, my last post (the service isn't available - at least yet - in the U.S. and Canada). Hot on it's heels, we now have a 'rival' site of sorts with the Peter Gabriel-funded WE7, which also relies on advertising in-between tracks for its revenue (most of which isn't half as hilarious as the taped messages that Spotify broadcasts of the site's fans - that includes you, Dave from Cardiff, with your intense Oasis/The Jam obsession). It is weird to think that only sixteen years ago - when I first starting going to 'serious' record shops like Rough Trade in Covent Garden (as it then was) and others - your only source for music was the weeklies (remember Melody Maker?); humble indie record shops vs corporate HMV/Virgin high street chains (depending on your preference); or the radio. Spotify has now decentered music to the point where, in those countries where it fully operates, you practically are the record shop. Like many of a certain age, my first encounter with record shops (years before going to the Rough Trade shop mentioned above) was with the long-extinct Our Price. I used to gaze at the sections on Joy Division and New Order, and look with wonderment at their distinctive and mysterious Peter Saville/Factory Records-designed covers. Ditto Depeche Mode, early Sonic Youth, etc. The idea then that they could all be sitting there on my PC was unthinkable. Back then, it would have seemed impossibly naive to believe too in the idea that these albums would essentially be there for free (if you don't count the amount that you're paying for broadband, of course (which obviously didn't exist then)), along with thousands of others - despite home taping having been a common fashion for a while already back then. This isn't even mentioning the mindboggling array of material by jazz artists - I've lost count of the amount of Miles Davis LPs on there. You could, quite possibly, never go to a record shop again and yet play a new album every day with Spotify (though there is no Beatles, Led Zeppelin and a number of others due to copyright issues).
The ramifications of Spotify are obvious: if it stays afloat (and, judging from the backing by the music industry - whatever that is these days - there's no reason why it shouldn't, despite much scepticism), future generations will become used to the idea that music is, mostly, 'free'; the idea, as in my youth, that you had to save for weeks before excitingly trudging to your independent record shop to buy the product, and then taking it home with baited breath, will slowly become defunct. Music is becoming omniprescent, fulfilling David Bowie's prediction that it'll become like running water one day. Of course, in the face of this, some record shops are still thriving, particularly those with attractions such as in-store gigs (which is precisely what Rough Trade and Pure Groove are doing, with the latter becoming less of a generic indie record shop altogether). And Spotify's lack of content from the more interesting and left-field labels (Constellation and Touch & Go, for example, or the Kranky artists) can be frustrating. Indie record shops will still thrive with obscure vinyl and obscure labels, and other examples that Spotify inevitably can't provide.
That said, one search on Spotify brought up material by the likes of Richard Youngs, Phil Niblock, and Keiji Haino, none of which can be accused of being exactly easy-listening (particularly dear Phil's numerous 25-minute long drone tracks in one chord). I guess I'm just nostalgic about the fact that the thrill of one-upmanship that I felt in 1993 when going to Rough Trade, knowing that I was the only person in my school who knew about the shop, those bands and those records, is somewhat gone. In the age of Spotify, everyone is a deeply knowledgeable music fan now, for better or worse.

1 comment:

Spencer said...

Great post. Very well written !