Sunday, March 1, 2009

Shrinking Albums

I've recently been getting into records. I'm trying to experience a different way of listening to and appreicating music beyond our downloadable MP3s. It's classic and it's a very cool experience.

I was surprised to see that artists today still put out records (obviously not as many as they put out CDs or digital albums), but they do sell vinyl albums. Rolling Stone even had a section in their end-of-the-year magazine that reported the top vinyl albums of the year (Coldplay's Viva La Vida and Death and All His Friends topped the chart). When I went to the record store, I was shocked to see a Weezer album on the shelf. It does happen.

Records aren't obsolete, but they're dwindling down, especially when they are so large and clunky. What I do miss is the amount of artwork and creativity put into the decorating of the album. I could spend so much time looking through my new record collection, the decorations, lyrics, and other writings on the album (inside and outside), but CDs labels really aren't as intense as these. They come with their little booklets, but these are often just pictures of the band members, nothing too creative that they've inserted there as art.

And really, who is reading those anymore when so many people are downloading the albums instead of purchasing them? And who even recognizes album covers anymore? We can recognize songs, but not artwork and labels.

This whole idea got me thinking too: We seem to be shrinking when it comes to music. First we had records. Then we had tapes. Then we had CDs. Now we have MP3s. How much smaller can you go? I know we will soon advance, but how much smaller can you get?

And don't we lose some of the value of owning the tangible item when we buy digital albums? I like to have my collection, to look through my CDs manually and to browse through them. I like to see the band's decorations on the album and to have a piece of them. These digital albums are just like air; they're on my hard-drive, and I feel like they can be lost easier than in my collection. I don't know if I like where it's going.

Can physical, tangible music items be completely replaced?

I hope not. It's just like the newspaper argument: Newspapers will be replaced by online newspapers. Well, I still think people like to hold the newspaper, to have it with them on the train (despite the fact that people could just read it on their iPhones). I think that even if we continue to progress towards this paperless world, there still is some value in the hard copy. I don't know if we can ever rid ourselves of that, and if we do, it will surely be a later generation that will lose the sentimental value that we place on it today, or that we did in the past.

Some cars are even starting to put in hard-drives into the cars where you have memory and can have music loaded and stored inside the car. Many new cars even come with plugs and hookups for iPods and MP3 players. CDs and tapes are now not needed in cars. Why bother with the excess space?


Where are we headed with music? How can things go from here, especially with where the music business is and where it's heading? Can we ever be free of the tangible music album?

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