As the resident curmudgeon emeritus I claim the right to vent here and again. As one of the co-founders of what once was a music magazine in print and all that foolishness I like to imagine that my music geek credentials are still well enough in order. Anybody walking through what passes for my office, which really looks like an unkempt storage locker with unpacked boxes of CDs supporting unhung artwork, shelves of LPs and 45s and all the rest...I think my geek credentials are in order.

But maybe they're not, not any more.

Peter posted a question on Facebook about something called Spotify, wondering if it was worth the trouble. Kyla invited me to play DJ on some virtual something-or-other but when I clicked through it asked for a bunch of information I tend to think -- even as a very public confessional writer -- ought to stay private, and so I declined.

I have no idea what Spotify is.

I'm quite sure it's new and important and will utterly change the listening habits of generations which follow.

But not me.

Used to be, if you wanted to learn about music you turned on the radio. If you really liked something you'd go to the mall and buy it. If you really got into music you'd go to an indie record store and listen to the clerks. Buy a magazine.

All of which is now virtual.


But you have to care to play now. You can't casually decide to become interested in music, in finding new music. You have to master various kinds of technology, spend hours hunting sites, sifting through files, staring at your computer.

I don't have time for that.

I don't have time for that crap.

There was a smug piece on the economy in The New York Times a few days ago -- I make time for that, online, yes -- that argued we need get past our fixation on physical objects, get busy in the new information economy trading money.

I call bullshit.

We have this perverse impulse to detach ourselves from the physical world. See: rising obesity rates. See: the utter disregard society shows for the making of things. See: the price of everything.

We have turned food into a luxury item. Good food, that is. What our grandparents grew on the farm, what I'm trying to grow and eat these days.

And a product, with fewer choices, witness the sudden rise of Kroger brands.

I love music, surround myself with it in every way possible. But I'm too busy living my life, engaging with my daughter, having sit-down meals with my family, growing our food, helping to operate our businesses, to spend hours glaring at this screen trying to figure out how to operate the latest technological whiz-bang.

Thing is, once you drop out of the tech race, it ceases to matter. It does absolutely nothing to enhance my pleasure in listening to music.

And instead of adding to the potential audience for a song, it is diminished, in my humble opinion, by every single new widget one is obliged to master in order to find it and listen to it and store it.

Follow the money: The money isn't in making music. It's in writing software and in manufacturing (offshore, of course; we can't make it here) the disposable equipment on which it plays back.

I call bullshit.

We're being conned. This isn't newer and better, not for music, not for musicians, not for music fans. My brother used to be a hi-fidelity nut, had the most expensive stereo he could cobble together. It made him more interested in the quest for perfect sound than in what the sound conveyed.

We walk that path now.

Further from community. Online communities aren't real. You don't know me, no matter how eloquently or plainly I portray myself here. You know who you imagine me to be, if you trouble even to do that.

Enough. I've got work to do. And, yes, I realize the contradictions and incomplete thoughts wending throughout. No matter.

Views: 151

Tags: alden, rant, spotify, technology

Comment by TenLayers on July 19, 2011 at 7:11am
Raising my fist in solidarity on this.
Comment by Jane2 on July 20, 2011 at 8:49am

I'm not sure that Spotify deserves this vitriol.  


Personally, I love good internet music sources...for example, SOMA-FM has some excellent offerings that have introduced me to all sorts of independent music.  Boot Liquor, my favourite, has great playlists that are integrated with purchasing information, making it very easy for me to buy.  Further, it has an iphone app for a very reasonable price, allowing me to listen even when away from my computer.


I dont' think it was this simple pre-internet.  Unless one lived in a major market, finding and accessing independent or non-mainstream music was much more difficult than signing up for Spotify or whatever.  And if one did have a subscription to a niche publication, and found stuff to buy, ordering/importing it was a chore, if not impossible.  


Give me the newfangled way.

Comment by Chase Barnard on July 20, 2011 at 10:36am
Wow,  no disrepect (although I found your post rather disrespectful of folks who do embrace or at least try to adapt to new technology), but it sounds like you should pack up your CD's and LP's and go home.
Comment by David Haskin on July 20, 2011 at 10:37am

Respectfully disagree, in part, Grant. I live in the country and grow the vast majority of the food we eat through the year. The rest, we buy from local growers.  And, I love technology, at least inasmuch as it helps me do things I otherwise wouldn't do.


I'm not at all sure where the contradiction is in that.


The only problem with technology (or anything, for that matter), is the value we attach to it..  There is nothing wrong with not being into Spotify, and there's nothing right about being into Spotify (or whatever the technological soup-of-the-day is).  It's the value and identification we attach to -- and the judgements about ourselves and others that arise from that attachment -- that can be hurtful. "I'm into Spotify, so I'm cool."  "I'm not into Spotify ... what's wrong with me?"  "I'm not into Spotify and the hell with everybody who is."  


Me ... I like services like Spotify because they enable me to discover music without using all the fuel to drive into town to talk with somebody in a CD store, then buy a CD wrapped in plastic that was shipped from somewhere else.  But to others, Spotify represents something shadier, more challenging.


This isn't, of course, about Spotify but, rather, how we each move through the world differently.  And ain't it a wonderful thing that we do.

Comment by Grant Alden on July 20, 2011 at 10:56am

Chase...I am home!

The larger point, to the extent that anybody will admit I have a large point past the biling point [sic], is that we have made music increasingly less accessible to anybody who isn't committed to the quest. Yes, if I'm hunting for obscure Chicken Shack recordings (as I am, incidentally, though not nearly hard enough so as actually to find them at a price I could justify), I'm quite confident the internet could oblige in many useful ways. But I have to know where to look, and how to use the interface I find there. Then I have to have speakers on my computer (or not to have broken the headphone jack!), and the patience to wade through the process and all the choices. Then, once I master that particular interface, look! here's a new one! Yippee!

I don't have time to figure all that out. I don't have time to watch YouTube videos, nor to wait for them to buffer down to my computer. And I'm baffled by those who do, honestly.

Maybe Mr. Haskins is right, that Spotify and every other iteration of technology is simply a new way of joining or abandoning specific, specialized tribes. I dunno.

But if staying in touch with music means I have constantly to learn new software and acquire new electronic devices...sorry, y'all, but I just can't.

Comment by PLMelton on July 20, 2011 at 11:55am

This Luddite rant reminds me of the kind of stuff Steve Allen and his ilk used to say about rock and roll.


Comment by Adam Sheets on July 20, 2011 at 11:57am

I will agree with most of this. I think that things like Turntablefm and Spotify are helping people discover more great music, but I question which people these are. Are they the people who listen to the top 40 and Nashville pop stations on the way home from work or are they music geeks like myself who are already in on the secret that great music is still being made? 


Not that these things can't be of use, but I don't think we've seen the big bang yet. 

Comment by doug heselgrave on July 20, 2011 at 12:05pm

Also mostly agree.  I don't have time to watch all the Youtube videos I'm sent, downloads of CDs from young artists sit in my inbox while others - perhaps less deserving - get a listen because they arrive in physical format in the mail.  Just too much information sometimes.  I remember when a video of a favourite performer was something to treasure - now there are hundreds of varying quality all over the Net, and I haze over.  I spent years and years putting together a music collection and friends ask to copy it all to their hard drive - telling me that they're collecting other people's collections.

How can we make music - as commodity - as occasion - special again?

Comment by PLMelton on July 20, 2011 at 12:26pm
The points about music bring increasingly less accessible is ludicrous. In the late 70s, two books that got me into exploring a wide range of music and artists were the original Rolling Stone Record Guide that Dave Marsh edited, and the book Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, edited by Greil Marcus. There were innumerable artists whose records were out of print. If you wanted to find them, you had to be committed to searching through a magazine like Goldmine or scouring used record stores or flea markets. One in particular that comes to mind that I had an incredibly difficult time finding was Phil Spector's Greatest Hits. At that time, probably 1978-1979, there was no Phil Spector anthology in print. With the advent of digital technology in the form of the CD, labels found a goldmine in the reissue of their backlists. Over the last 30 or so years, it's gotten to the point where you can now access almost anything from the history of recorded music with a few keystrokes. If you can't find the music you're looking for now, it's not because it's necessarily more difficult (though it's not like walking into a record store and asking what's good), it's because you're lazy.
Comment by Adam Sheets on July 20, 2011 at 12:28pm
I must disagree with you there....If you can't find the music you're looking for now, it could be because it's being overshadowed by thousands of lesser albums.


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.