Tomorrow sees the world celebrate “Record Store Day” which is a global movement to put a focus on the importance of buying physical artefacts from independent record stores. This is both a beautiful and ugly example of the modern world we live in. To focus on the latter for one second, it is ugly because much like the other celebrated isolation of days like “Valentine’s Day” it shows that a lot of us only have the capacity to commit to something once a year in that “novelty” kind of way and once it passes it is business as usual and the bad behaviour (in this case digital downloading) is favoured. That is a minor personal gripe that simply illustrates my consistent frustration with human beings and that bandwagon stench that they bathe in to try and give their personality brand some kind of respectable dimension. The real joy of “Record Store Day” for the true believers is the fact that we get to purchase a lot of amazing records from artists we love. Whether it is just another day of physical purchasing for you or a once a year sign of faith doesn’t really matter, the point is music is celebrated and the record store is supported.
I love buying records from the record store and life has reached a point where I actually budget each pay to ensure that I can buy some new CDs or Vinyl. Some fortnights I can spend well over $200 on physical product with a minimum of $100 always spent. Music for me is not some little hobby that I do for fun or to impress my peers or piss off my parents, it is a way of life that has been swirling inside my DNA since I brought my first cassette tape in 1991 (Bryan Adams “Waking Up The Neighbours). When I got turned on to Seattle via Pearl Jam in 1994 the art of purchasing music as a physical product and visiting my local record stores became a ritual that inspires more happiness than any human being could ever offer.
I feel pretty alienated from the world, I have a hard time connecting to most people and I’m consistently lead down blind alleys with various human beings the older I get. My alienation can be summarised by the sheer disappointment of being misunderstood by pretty much everyone I meet and although I always have the best intentions to navigate the diverse range of human opinion and connection I tend to become exhausted with the competitive nature of it all. My pain poker face is well rehearsed and I keep any of those aches for when I express myself with Galapogos. I let the world in let them get a glimpse and then build the wall, a wall that is vital to re-establishing my trust with planet earth.
It’s during these times of isolation inside that emotional wall that the Record Store and the ritual of purchasing music on CD and Vinyl become important. You see, when I get to just roam a Record Store with no agenda other than expanding my collection, my taste and my historical understanding of sound I am the happiest you’ll ever see me. There only a few human beings who have the capacity to participate in the journey with me (Dutney, Bohn and Zorzan) because a lot of the time it is a journey I like to undertake alone with no agenda of time or price. To just browse and take the risk or to find something you’ve needed to finalise a collection or a rare album that is either out of print or extremely hard to find in physical form. I just can’t get that buzz from looking at a computer screen and clicking on a download button allowing the transfer of data to my hard drive. There is no discovery or joy in that process at all. It is a very weak handshake and tends to be very insincere. I can’t hold that album in my hand, I can’t read the inlay card, I can’t study the artwork and I can’t display it with pride on my CD or Vinyl racks. The illegal download issue is too big to discuss right here right now but to deprive any artist payment by stealing their data from the internet is just plain wrong and only illustrates your lack of respect for music as an art form. If music is offered to you for free via the internet by the artist, take it, but if you acquire it for free just because you think it is your “right” then you seriously need to analyse your moral compass and understanding of theft and deviancy.
I don’t care how much I have to pay to hear music from any artist I chose to like. I love music so much that I’ll put that money in to buying that physical product. I’ve spent lots of money acquiring certain music collections through the years but for me the act of handing over money is not a concern because that music is so important to me that I need to own it and I refuse to resort to digital thievery in order to consume a piece of music. You can’t put a price on music and for me personally that means that whatever it is worth, I’ll pay it, because I know that it is an investment in that artist and music in general. I’d love to get into that whole “what is music worth” debate but that is something I will discuss in next week’s editorial, today is about favouring the physical artefact over the digital download.
Beyond being entertainment and an art form music is also a historical document that helps us trace our evolution as a species. A lot of significant cultural changes have been well documented in the timeline of music released by a range of different artists. That history has been allowed to live on through the physical artefact known as the CD and Vinyl medium. They don’t call it a “record” for nothing. That piece of vinyl (or cassette tape or CD) is a piece of history recorded and whether it only resonates with you or whether it resonates with millions of people doesn’t really matter, the point is it represents a piece of our culture. The technology provided by the advancement of computers and the internet should have allowed it to make it easier to catalogue and store this information not destroy the physical artefact known as the Record. Like every good idea though, it has a brilliant theory attached to it but once you introduce it to the diverse minds of the public it gets distorted and taken into a direction not originally intended. The IPOD should have provided you convenience not a reason to boycott buying Tapes, CDs or Vinyl.
Either way you consume music the fact that you are consuming music is a good thing and I’ll never discourage that. I guess I believe in a different kind of consumption to the modern world and prefer to pay whatever price is attached to it when I visit the record store. Music is something I plan to invest in for the rest of my life so it makes sense for me to pay for everything I consume regardless of its appeal to the modern world.
I guess I need to find a point to all of this. I think I’ll leave on this note – the joy of music is not limited to the physical or the digital. Whatever vehicle you choose to get you there is a positive thing but when you consider the idea of what an artist or what music is worth to you it makes sense to view the purchasing of music as an investment in art. If you choose digital (paid or unpaid) you only have to sit behind a computer screen or your smart phone or tablet visit a search engine and click download. It requires no effort and has more in common with the sloth and laziness than anything else. You speak to no one, don’t get to experience human connection and if you took a risk and it didn’t pay off, all you have to do is press delete. When you visit the record store you have to leave your house and get out of your surroundings. You get to go into a place where other people have gathered to consume new music. You get to connect with other humans and discuss music and you support the independent record store. I know which one I prefer and I think if the world really believed in equality it would see the value in combining the two mediums – digital for storage of data and the convenience of carrying your collection on a MP3 device, the physical a way to support art, artists, record stores and the future of music – so that we all get to contribute to the healthy advancement of music.
So Fuck Data, make record store day every day. You may think it’s modern and in the spirit of individuality to download (paid or unpaid) but when everyone else is doing it you have to ask yourself are you just part of societies herd being free to do what they tell you to do.
Don’t take that wrong (said Bill)
Dan Newton xo