Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Faded Formats

Faded Formats 6 by The original SimonB
Faded Formats 6, a photo by The original SimonB on Flickr.

So last night I finally caved in and paid for my first ever music download (Mr Blue Sky by Jim Bob (you know, him off of Carter) which is to be the theme for a new Radio 4 comedy written by Andrew Collins and starting next week). I'm not sure where I stand on the technological progress line between early adopter and total luddite, but I guess this step has been a long time coming.

I've been a ready purchaser of music for as long as I can remember (starting with a rip off version of the Star Wars soundtrack performed by the Sonic All Stars) but I guess I have been putting this move off for a long time. I like an object when I splash my cash, and this was the first song I have wanted to own that I can't get in a physical format. And it feels a bit odd to have it this way - do I now add it to my database of owned music or not?

It was a wrench for me when I started buying some albums on cassette rather than vinyl. While I had gathered a few that way over the years I can remember precisely the moment that size of medium and non-scratchability outweighed the ease of being able to drop the needle on any given LP track.

October 1986 and a family day trip to London during half term. Before we hit the main objective of the day (a museum visit) we had time to visit the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street. The fact that I would have to carry them around with me for the rest of the day meant I ended up purchasing Emotional by Falco and Crash by the Human League on tape. OK, so they then went in my pockets but it somehow felt wrong. Especially as we then went on to buy a socking great dot-matrix printer around the corner on Tottenham Court Road and took turns carrying that for the rest of the day.

After that the die was cast and a succession of Walkmen were stuffed with tape after tape bought from the shops, rather than ones I'd recorded myself. Even the arrival of our first CD player in the house (and then my own) didn't stop me buying albums on tape despite the limitations of easy access to any given song and dodgy sound quality (well, they were half the price) until my final year at college in the early 90s. Something I regret now as there are stacks of them moldering away in the corner of my study and never being played.

But, if that day 26 years ago heralded the begining of the end of my vinyl purchases, have I now done the same for CDs? Probably not, because if nothing else for as long as they can be picked up on the high street or with the weekly shop I will continue to do just that. And my car stereo has no input jack so I'll need a continual supply of discs for the foreseeable there as well.


John Medd said...

Can't play yer iPod in the car? It's never been easier.

Simon said...

Ah, well then I'd need an iPod as well. All my mobile listening is via my phone (Sony-Ericcson W995) rather than carting two bits of kit around. Although I'm sure you can get generic transmitters that run off the headphone socket too.

Cocktails said...

There is something a bit.. wrong about buying mp3s isn't there? Call me a materialistic consumerist but I like being able to physically handle the things I've paid good money for.

Not so sure about tapes though. I've never been a fan, although having said that, the mix 'playlist' just doesn't compare to the love that goes into a mix tape does it?!

John Medd said...

Cocktails: 'You're a materialistic consumerist.' We all call them 'mix tapes' now, don't we? But at the time they were always compilations.

I'll get my coat.

Simon: You'll be telling me you haven't got Spotify next.

Simon said...

Compilations was my favoured term too. In fact I once did a series for specific car journeys and called them "compile" 1 - 10.

Oh, and I've never dared visit spotify for reasosn of limited bandwidth and there only being 24 hours in a day.

Lee Slator said...

To play your W995 in the car (it does have a standard 3.5mm jack doesn't it?), I'd recommend this:

3.5mm jack FM Transmitter

It works a treat on Mrs. S phone

Simon said...

£6. Sold!