Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Internet Changed Everything

I've only been a serious music fan since about 1990. Although I waited until I was 14 to start paying real attention to music, I made up for that delay with sheer voracity.
It didn't take long for my interest in music to reach a level that could almost be called obsessive. If there was a music store nearby, I'd always have to go in, even if it was just for a look. If I was in a department store, I'd have to go over to the electronics department, to check out their music selection. I even located a few great "little" stores - the kind that carry the more obscure stuff.
Since then, the whole music market has changed. The Internet has indeed changed everything. For example...

B-sides (singles in general, actually)

Nowadays, if you hear a song that you like, you can just go to Amazon or iTunes and download an MP3 for about a dollar. This wasn't always the case.
Back in the day, a single meant that you could go to your local music store and buy a CD (or cassette) featuring that song and possibly a few others. You forked over less than the cost of an entire album, and you got a handful of good songs.
For collectors such as me, the real plus side of singles was the b-sides. Few people are willing to buy a CD with only one song on it, so additional songs were included on the singles. Often, these songs were alternate versions of the "main" song, live tracks, even new, unreleased tracks. From a marketing standpoint, this was a great idea - it got people who already owned the album to buy the single as well.

The Hunt

Sometimes, albums go out of print. Other times, several different versions of the same album are released (usually in different countries). Then there are the underground acts - bands who have received little or no exposure via mainstream outlets. Their albums can be difficult to track down.
Hunting down these gems was actually pretty fun. Finding the best local stores, making connections with those "in the know"... it was like a bad spy novel.
These days, there are fewer rarities. Only the most underground musicians are still hard to find online, and with the existence of BitTorrents, even these bands' music can be surprisingly easy (if shady) to acquire.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I like the fact that the internet has made it easier to get the music that you want, and only the music that you want. Never again will you need to buy a whole album full of garbage to get one enjoyable song (Remember Right Said Fred? Green Jello?). No longer do I need to know a guy who knows a guy in order to get my hands on, for example, Corpus Delicti.
No, I'm not complaining like a crotchety old man...rather, I'm reminiscing like a wistful old man. Things have changed for the better, but the old times were still pretty fun.


  1. Just becaue the music IS so handy does not mean you cannot still hunt for it properly. There ARE still music stores that pride themselves on having hung on through the years - go find one, and start your hunt. Give them some business and yourself some true moments of joy.

  2. You are very right. In fact, my favorite store from back then is still around. A friend and I are hoping to visit it after work one day, after this silliness with the snow is done.

  3. Most excellent! Nothing like keeping the worthy brick-and-mortars around. There are such BS stores out there that thrive, we have to keep the balance somehow!