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I'm thinking of making my first digital music purchase. I'm so enamored with the "cover flow view" on Itunes that I actually think I could do without the actual CD. There's something about actually being able to see the cover art that makes paying $10 for a digital album not seem as difficult. But at the same time, I could pay a couple of bucks more and get the CD on Amazon and upload it to Itunes. I'm torn. So, my question is, has anyone quit buying CDs and gone entirely to downloads?
That's evil talk.
I ain't got a credit card
I actually get most of my music from the library - copy them for like $1 a pop...They get all the new albums in as well - quite a good selection.
Whether you still buy CDs or not, Ipods are great. Being able to carry around 1,500 albums on a conraption the size of a deck of cards is incredible. I want to have something physical to pass on to my kids when I have them, but I definitely like spending time in both worlds!
From an old guy's perspective, cover art hasn't meant all that much since they got rid of the big LP's.
I like downloading because you can pick and chose tracks with less of an investment. E-music is a great place to get cheap indie stuff. Works out to about 33 cents per track and its legal to boot. (Although it doesn't come with any art, you can find the cover art on the net and cut and paste it into your MP3 player).
I've actually wanted to discuss this on this forum for a while. Thanks to iTunes and EMusic, I can now pretty much get any album I want for 10 bucks or less. That's a big deal since usually I grabbed many classic albums when they got on sale for 9.99 or less, but avoided them if they cost much more than that.
But since I was a young pre-teen music fan, there was something about the experience of buying a physical musical product and holding a sleeve in your hands, looking at the artwork and album credits as you listen to the music for the first time. It was like you made a decision to purchase a work of art, and it was a decision that weighed a lot of factors, such as price, the artist's previous work, and the songs you heard on the radio, etc. For me, the browsing at the music store, the purchasing of the album, and listening to it with my full attention was the only appropriate way to initiate an album.
Now I love the access to tons of interesting music that the Internet provides, but by downloading mp3s and throwing them onto my playlist, it's more like I'm just getting as much content and music as possible, and it's hard to think that the same machine I use for mundane Web-surfing and e-mail is also going to be my primary portal for music in the future.
I have trouble understanding how people connect with music by downloading their favorite albums for free from illegal sites. I understand the need to save money... heck I wished I had the resources to buy every CD that sounded interesting, but to take any sense of ownership out of the music, that it's just something to download, is hard for me to accept.
It's been a treat to download some one-hit wonders from iTunes, but I've yet to fully adjust to this new situation. I think some bands already have, as indicated by their very flimsy sleeves that come with the physical CD. I actually think it would be very helpful to have a database or a review forum for just album artwork. If I new that by purchasing a CD at a store I could get a durable high glossy visual representation of the album (Neon Bible comes to mind), I would easily pay a few bucks more than iTunes. If there isn't anything special about the CD, I could download it, and try to enjoy it without an insert to look at. Anyone know about any database? Should one of us start one?
P.S. The first complete album I bought on iTunes was The Knife's Silent Shout, which I could not find anywhere at a decent price. It worried me that I was music out on some good visuals in the album artwork. Should I be concerned?
Does anybody do the subscription plan? I do through MTV Urge. The quality is pretty decent. ITunes definitely has more content but I only have to pay 10 bucks a month instead of 10 bucks an album. It's all gone when I cancel and who knows if they stop offering it, but considering cable TV costs a whole lot more I see no problem paying 10 bucks a month for almost every release I want.
On another thread a few weeks ago, I mentioned that since the loss of almost all of my CD collection, the vast majority of my new purchases have been downloads, although I will still buy the very occasional CD if I feel the need to have a physical object with mass and volume (or if I just can't find an mp3). But I ain't buying a CD for the cover art...at this point, that seems like buying baseball cards to get the gum. Cover art, after all, is absurdly easy to get for free online. Liner notes are a different story--but 95% of them are snoozeworthy.
If I may talk about a related topic for a sec...
Actually, I think it's possible that the new model for purchasing music is starting to create a major climate shift in the business and the art of music. Around 1965-1967, popular music shifted from a singles-dominated model to an album-dominated model, in which not only sales but critical appraisal of artists was based on ability to craft, not a 3-minute pop song, but a suite of 10 or more songs as a unified whole. Most music critics for the last 40 years have treated the album as their main touchstone... now it seems possible that we're moving closer to the evaluation of artists based on individual songs, as was the case in pop music--though not jazz--before 1965.
(I hope so, anyway.)
we're moving closer to the evaluation of artists based on individual songs
Why are you hoping for this?
I for one have always thought the basic unit of pop music is the song. I think sometimes critics and we music geeks try to elevate popular music to a "higher art" by considering the album a "statement." And certainly there are albums that deserve to be listened to as albums. For me, Astral Weeks, OK Computer, and Odessey and Oracle come to mind. But I certainly think that some albums (most?) are just a collection of songs that could stand on their own. Even great ablums like Moondance, and for me, most Beatles albums are collections of songs that can stand as independent units. Like I said, as a music geek, I like the album concept, but I have trouble believing Fergie needs 12 songs to tell us what she's been doing the last couple of years.
I've thought your question over, Anthony, and I think I can boil it down to two answers, one personal, one general:
1. Personal Answer: Though I like music from all periods and genres, my favorite eras in pop music are the 50s, before the album era, when the basic patterns for rock were established, and the punk/new wave/indie era from, let's say, 1976 to about 1991 or 92--in the album era, but after its peak. Conversely, it seems that people who value albums over songs usually prefer music in a ten-year period from about 1965 to 1975, which I think is the period with the largest amount of overrated music in pop history. I don't mean that 1965-75 wasn't full of brilliant music--it was--just that it was also full of mediocre music which is prized today merely because it came from that era.
2. General answer: There's a bias in favor of albums, because albums are seen as more weighty and serious, and singles are seen as frothy, ephemeral kid stuff (Chris made a similar point in his post). As you put it in nicolas' "Before the Beatles" thread, "fun and exuberant" 50s singles must be put a notch below the "serious" albums that came later.
I respectfully (but firmly) disagree. It's not that I think we should argue about whether, say, Astral Weeks is more "serious" than "Folsom Prison Blues"--whatever that means. Instead, I reject the idea that because music is entertaining or funny or danceable, it has a strike against it compared to music which is not.
Also, I think some major problems arise when ARTISTS believe that the valuable is the same as the "serious." That way leads to ponderous double albums, rock operas, Marillion, the movie of U2's Rattle and Hum, symphonic arrangements of Metallica and the kinds of things which were parodied in the movie This is Spinal Tap.
I'm not arguing that we should prefer a bubble-headed, focus-group-tested, crappy single to a well-executed album by an artist with skill and vision...the Band is still better than Debbie Gibson. I'm not even saying that songs are "better" than albums--just that they're different, and the perspective that we can get from looking at songs individually, instead of looking at them in clusters, is one we need more of.
I agree with you for the most part, schleuse, but regarding the bias towards albums – is it not warranted? After all, music is an art form, and so shouldn’t “weighty and serious” art be regarded more highly than the not-so-serious art? In other words, it’s reasonable to regard albums higher than songs because albums are more artistic; it’s this format which give artists a medium with which to make truer artistic statements.
Regarding “funny” and “danceable” music, I equate this with superficial, and I have problems with anything (esp. music) that appeals on the most basic of levels. It’s called fluff (or guilty pleasures, and it should be recognized as such). Sure, “Toxic” is catchy as hell, and I admire the songwriters who composed it, but the song really doesn’t have anything to say. Serious music covers weighty themes - mortality, money/materialism, time, social issues - and should provoke thought and make us question things around us.
Just curious, what would be some examples of mediocrity that came out of the 10 years from 1965 to 1975? (perhaps your opinion will prompt me to reevaluate some favorites from this period) :)
Getting into the meaning of art, and value-judgments about art, is more of a can of worms than I want to open (I would probably have trouble shutting up about it). But, in brief: No, I don’t think “’weighty and serious’ art should be regarded more highly than the not-so-serious art.” I see no reason why playfulness cannot be as artistically valid as a furrowed brow.
I mean, is tragedy superior to comedy? Wagner superior to Debussy? Debussy superior to Duke Ellington? I would be uncomfortable with claiming that one format (albums) is “more artistic” than another (songs). (Is a 12,000-line poem by John Milton superior to a 12-line poem by Emily Dickinson?)
(Those are all rhetorical questions, by the way—the only sensible answer to any of them is, “The question is irrelevant, because that’s not how art works.”)
As for the claim that “serious music covers weighty themes,” that sounds to me like talking about lyrics, which, while it has its place, is not my preferred form of music criticism.
At the end of the day, I don’t think either of us is likely to convince the other—which is fine…and after all, we do agree pretty often on the brackets.
(Oh, and I started to list a few examples of 65-75 mediocrity, but quickly realized I’d probably start a flame war…my bracketology comments about “For What It’s Worth” and “Whiter Shade of Pale” are basically the points I would make, and I’m sure more will come.)
Great topic! It is interesting to see how the cards fall as the music industry goes through a great time of change. On a personal level, I always like to have a physical copy of an album or single- there's something about having music in tangible form that gives me a sense of ownership and a greater connection to the music. That said, I love my iPod and have uploaded nearly all of my collection to it. I worry about the impact of the digital age on the art itself. Music stores are already becoming obsolete, and I fear I may lose the ability to experience the rush of racing to the store to purchase a highly anticipated album on the first day of release. Moreover, I fear that one day albums may not be considered a viably marketable option for artists, and I may lose out. My favorite band The Cure are going to release their next album in 2 formats- one a double album selected by Robert himself, and another single disc release chosen by the record company. Robert has insinuated that there may have actually been some argument about this and said he is going to release the double album at the price of a single album as "that is how strongly [he] feels about it."
As for the great discussion going on about the value of music as art, I live in both worlds. I greatly admire the sanctity and purpose of albums. Moreover, some of my favorite albums of all-time are double or triple albums. However, I also greatly value the immediate punch of the single and don't find it any less worthy of adoration where justified.
I've often thought of the raging war between "serious" music and "fluff", and I find that there is a time and a place for both. As you all probably know by this point, I adore pop music. Madonna, Janet Jackson and Kylie Minogue all place within my top 10 artists. I find a lot of their music uplifting, and I get a lot out of it. Funk is one of my favorite genres, and it is often panned for being little more than rhythmic dancing music. However, music began as a backdrop for dancing in social settings, and I feel that there is nothing more "human" than dancing. As such, I feel that great pop and funk music serves this purpose very well and is just as valid as more serious fodder.
However, there are times when I really want to contemplate my navel, and The Velvet Underground & Nico or Horses become the subject of my obsession for months. While many populists rail against such introverted output, I value it greatly and understand its rightful place in the industry. The problem is that for some reason, music of this form receives the praise it deserves, while "fun", "lightweight" and "danceable" have become pejorative adjectives in the eyes of critics.
I think I've rambled enough now.
All good points schleuse.
I don't think I'm trying to convince anyone; at least, that's not my intention. If anything, I'd really like to be able to understand (and perhaps change) my viewpoint that "serious" music outweighs "playful" and "fun" music. On a broader level, can one artform be more highly regarded than another? Can value judgements really be made when it comes to art? Is all art good art? I suppose that taking an art appreciation class or a philosophy of aesthetics class could broaden my understanding of this area.
Yes, I definitely agree with you on "For What It's Worth" and "Whiter Shade of Pale".
(I couldn't resist using "Toxic" for my example. And re: Debussy, touché.)
About the album vs singles discussion, I find it pointless. I'm a fan of both : albums (contrary to Schleuse, my currently under construction top 100 ranks 4 records from 1966-72 at the first 4 places, but I've only rated a very small part of my best albums)and singles (most of all being blues, country, rock'n roll and r&b, and a lot if pre-1965 stuff)
I just think it is sad to put aside entire genres just because they are not album-friendly.
But your point of view, Anthony, if I don't share it, is logical : it is true that it's only with the arrival of albums like Pet Sounds that rock musicians made self-proclaimed "art", in a very classical-white-western-european way.Not that this distinction never existed before : in the beginning of the century, bluesmen and other popular artist were already despised and rejected by tenants of a so called "atistic" music.
To me, rock is mostly a form of popular art, which means that you don't necessarily need any media, any knowledge, any educational background to enjoy it, and sometimes to play it.
it's the contrary of contemporary art, in which the concept is essential if you want to understand the work.
That doesn't mean you can't make art out of it if you want (art-rock, concept albums, etc..)
but to me it's not the real essence of rock, pop , r&b, etc..
I think this music has very few to do with perfection, complexity, technique
it has to do with personal expression, that's what moves me, and no matter if it's Brian Eno or Little Richard
It has to do with sincerity
The other problem with art or not art is that you need somebody to separate the wheat from the chaff
you need some kind of prescription
why not listening with our heart ? art or heart ?
To me the critic, the rock n roll scholar (that's probably what we all want to be) is more a guide that a censor
that's how I see this site
I think learning is not dismissing but on the contrary
trying to open oneself. learning is expanding
that's why I'll never be an elitist
Amen. Preach it, frère nicolas!
I do download tracks from iTunes, but still buy CDs (not as much, but that's cause I'm more selective nowadays). I'm a tradionalist when it comes to music, so I doubt I'll stop buying CDs. Though I probably also will get an iPod at some point. hehe
Two (or three) thoughts about the album vs. song question:
I’ve always thought that I prefer songs as a more immediate way for a listener to appreciate and distinguish a piece of art, but I’ve changed my mind about that and I actually think that the album is the best way for an artist to show us his vision. And I’m going to be more radical about that. The double-sided vinyl LP was the perfect envelope for this “vision”. I’ve always liked the “architecture” of classic rock albums: a strong opener setting the scene, a second song trying to sustain the feeling, a good song at the end of side A creating the need of turning the record, a strong song again opening the second side and a great closer leaving a good taste in your mouth lingering on. Some examples? I can’t think of a better example of a beautifully and cleverly constructed album that my all-time favourite one, “Ziggy Stardust”. Opening with a fade-in of the drum rhythm in “Five Years” and immediately setting an apocalyptic background, growing with the next songs (especially the space-rock anthems “Moonage Daydream” and “Star Man”), creating a ever-growing story about rock stardom on side B (evolving from “Lady Stardust” to “Sufragette City”) and ending theatrically with the melodramatic “Rock’n’Roll Suicide”. The only objection in my opinion is the last song on side A, the Ron Davies cover “It Ain’t Easy”. Changing this song for “Velvet Goldmine” from the same sessions the album could have been unbeatable.
And I’m going even more radical. It’s not iPod and internet downloads who killed the album, the CD killed it before. The 40 minutes vinyl was the perfect amount of music from a same artist (and I’m trying to avoid being nostalgic remembering myself looking the cover art and reading the lyrics in such big size). Since the CDs can contain 70 or 80 minutes of music a lot of records are absurdly long, especially the hip-hop albums (I can’t think of a hip-hop album with the right length).
But I think it’s not only about length. In the last decade or so everyone wants to find his own sound and tries to be true to that. And everyone wants to make a consistent and focused album. As an example, I’ve been listening again some 1997 albums for making my list, and I’ve found “The Boatman’s Call” by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. The songs are terrific (“Into My Arms” is my ever favourite by Cave), the concept is clear (Cave tries to be honest and sincere and avoid the bizarre imagery of his previous work) and the arrangements are spare and soulful. This approach and the mastery of Cave results in a really great album but… too long and without enough variations, resulting at the end a monotonous album (made of awesome songs!).
That’s the problem of many albums today, the uniformity of styles, arrangements and lyrical themes. As more examples, the other 4 albums that made my Top 5 (you can read my Top 100 in the “AM Forum Top 100 albums” that Jacek compiled) are double albums. “White Album”, “Blonde on Blonde”, “London Calling” and “OK Computer” (well, the last one could be a double in vinyl era). But these albums had something in common. The artists were pushing up its own limits, they were founding unexplored new territories and developing new ideas (at least for them). These were nicely varied albums, with “Sexy Sadie” sitting closely with “Helter Skelter” (or “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” with “Just Like a Woman”, or “Lost in the Supermarket” with “Working for the Clampdown”, etc.). The differences, the variations (without losing the focus and the personality) is what made the albums entertaining, evocative and ultimately "good"e enough.
Umm, I'm afraid that I wrote a lot more than two or three thoughts, sorry...
I don't even have a computer. I'm not going to shell out 5 grand just to shell out another another $300+ for an ipod just to shell out more money to subscribe to itunes just to shell out more money to download a song. We're totally being played here. 1,500 songs is really not impressive to me. My box sets can take up that many songs. Plus who wants to pay $1 for a Guided by Voices song that's a minute and a half when you can buy their 32 song best of cd for $8?
To be fair Tim, there are quite a few inaccuries in your post. I mean, come on--$5000 for a computer? Have you been looking at mainframes? And an 80 gig Ipod, while costing around $350 USD, can hold 20,000 songs, or roughly 1,600 albums at 12 songs per album. A $250 Ipod holds about 7,500 songs.
There's no charge to "subscribe" to Itunes and, while songs are $1 each, you can buy complete albums for generally less than the cost of a CD. In the case of Guided By Voices: Human Amusements at Hourly, it's $10 for the complete album, though if you bought an individual track it would be $1. The CD is $12 on Amazon. So, you'd save $2 by downloading it. Also, keep in mind, you could upload all your CDs to your Ipod too.
OK, I'm gonna stop now; I'm starting to sound like I own stock in Apple. I don't. I wish I did
So itunes DOES NOT charge you to upload music? See computers themselves, you can probably get used for a good price at any library or school, it's just internet access and credit card fees can run you into some pretty steep debt. I guess gift cards can make things a little easier. But nothings easier than paying $8 cash at Tower records for that Guided by Voices best of. It gets you out of the house. Nothing beats the mom and pop record store experience. I guess movies like "High Fidelity" and "Empire Record" are pretty much obsolete. Now it would be like reliving the past. The good old days! I really miss my record stores :-(
A few thoughts:
1. I used to have a big thing with CDs, but once you get an iPod they really do become useless. I usually plug my iPod into my car or stereo so pretty much all the music I hear is from MP3 - furthermore, I like burning a disc more than using the case, at least for the purposes of my car :) I've wrecked and rebought lots of CDs, while a CD-R is barely a quarter. If you get an iPod and start buying music digitally, I think within a month or so you'll begin to lose your attachment to the 'physical' aspect and just focus on the music.
2. iTunes is a pretty bad model if you ask me. They offer music in one format - 128 kbps AAC, and there are limits as to how many CDs you can burn or iPods you can put the file on, plus you can't transfer it to another computer. eMusic is cheaper, has a good selection, and no such restrictions. AllofMP3 is cheaper still, but in a legal gray area, however offers lots of compression options, and has a great selection.
3. Music "piracy" or whatever the RIAA calls it nowadays ("cold blooded theivery that kills all the music you like and will land you in jail 100% of the time") is rampant BECAUSE of this - first off, people DO like iTunes, but hate these restrictions, since they can be annoying even if you're not sharing the track. Secondly, online MP3s can be found in really great quality (which iTunes doesn't have), and thirdly, the SELECTION. I've had to 'pirate' so many albums that are tough to find outside of the $50 import price/$150 ebay price. If I could get a digital copy of "Murdered by the Music" by Yukihiro Takahashi for $10, I would have done it!
4. I really hope that digital music puts the power in the hands of the ARTIST and not the record label! They Might Be Giants and Underworld, two of my favorite bands, have started to sell their material online, at good prices, keeping the majority of the money paid. If you buy a CD in the store the artist will see MAYBE $1 of it (if it's a famous one...most get something like $.10 per sale), whereas if they had sold it direct through their website THEY get the lion's share, which is what they deserve. The RIAA is ridiculously corrupt and I hope they really get hurt by this. Furthermore it allows the artist to release music in whatever form they want. Underworld is selling 30 minute releases with hundreds of photos, with the music being in just one track. Bands that write great singles but don't want to write the filler to flesh out a CD don't have to anymore. Musicians can become self-sufficient and unreliant on a corrupt music industry to support them and distribute their material - the musicians win, the customer wins, only one who loses is the RIAA, who unfortunately have more of a 'say' in this than anyone... :(
But hey! If you like music, try getting an iPod! (maybe just a used one on eBay!) It's worth the money!
$5,000 for a computer? What kind you lookin' at? You can get a fine one for $700 or so (maybe even less).
Yeah but you still have to pay for monthly internet access.
You can get a computer that can play music just fine for $300-400 and still have it work decent. For $2500 you can get the best computer money can buy. (Obviously you can go higher, but that's just not worth it. Never) That's with 250GB for the $300-400 and 1TB for the $2500. Including speakers with superior sound to your iPod.
Lets add to that the internet costs (which you cannot access with your iPod either, so I don't see why this is really a point) of $30-$40 (maybe even less) per month. We come to ~2000$ for 5 years. That gives us a total of $2300-$2400 for superior sound, more diskspace, and I'm not even talking about everything else a computer can do.
I personally have a high-end PC because I play a lot of videogames and I have a phone with a walkman function (I don't hear any difference in comparison to an iPod) and an 8GB memory stick. I can replace the music on there within a few minutes with my computer.
Can you guys give me some tips on how to get high-quality cover art for albums online? It was mentioned earlier how easy it was, and if I could have album art to look at for digital albums, it would a close approximation of the “traditional” CD buying/listening experience for me.
Just did a little search, http://www.allcdcovers.com/ looks ok to me. They had the 3 new album I checked and 2 obscure ones I looked up.
Cover art: If you have i-Tunes, you can click on "Get Cover Art" and you will usually get a nice picture - even for some CDs that are not available on i-Tunes (including tracks that you upload from discs or get from other on-line sources).
If this doesn't work, you can always try to search on Google images.
Itunes is the best in terms of quality, but sometimes Itunes asigns the wrong album cover and sometimes doesn't have an album cover. A good place to go is All Music Guide and cut and paste. You can pretty much get anything from there, but the quality isn't nearly as good. You can also go to Amazon.com and click on the album art and copy and paste. I haven't tried it, but I think the quality might be a little better than AMG.
Do you have to pay a monthly fee for Emusic?
You do have to pay a monthly fee for eMusic, so make sure to cancel your membership if you don't want it anymore. I accidently forgot and paid $20 over two months. You get 50 free downloads I think when you sign up, however you have to give a CC# to subscribe. You can cancel after you download the 50 and get no charges though ;)
Is there a divice where you can directly download music from your cd player to your ipod? That's so logical I'm suprised I don't see anyone trying to do it. It saves you tons of money and it would be easy to do.
You'd need an mp3-rip program, there's quite a few out there, basically it just rips the CD into mp3's which you can put on your iPod. If that's what you mean. :)
Itunes of course - just import the cds...
But that's exactly what I'm trying to avoid. What I want is to not have to rely on a computer to get my cds on my ipod. I simply want to download music direstly from my portable player to the ipod. No computers, nothing but the cd player itself.
You'd need to make your iPod be able to run a rip-program, because there's quite a distinct difference between the music on a CD/DVD and the music on your iPod. (assuming a legally bought CD/DVD)
Obviously an iPod is not made to do so, and neither is any mp3player as far as I know, that's what a computer is for.