How the tables have turned

Beyond just the analog/digital debate: Buying music just isn't what it used to be.

I woke up this morning unaware that I was about to have an awesome day. I flipped open my computer and the first thing I saw was a Facebook post from one of my favourite bands of all time, the Dropkick Murphys, saying their new album was out. Huzzah!

But then I was struck by a confusing thought: should I go for the instant gratification of an iTunes purchase? Or should I order the hard copy and wait days for its arrival?

I have almost every album put out by the Dropkick Murphys in hard copy. Each time one comes out, I lovingly struggle with the plastic shrink wrap, open the case and spin the CD around a few times. Then I pull out the album art and flip through each page slowly, reading every lyric, noting every scribble that contains a mention of this band I love so much. Then the CD goes on, and I listen to it over and over.

Since digital music began, over the last few years I’ve had a policy when it comes to hard copy vs. digital. Terrible pop music that I listen to in secret is digital, music that I love from indie to punk rock is hard copy. That way, so long as I keep my iPod to myself, no one needs to know that I have a huge weakness for Britney Spears. Actually, I’m not even ashamed of that. I’m a ’90s girl, cut me some slack.

But this morning, as I pondered the Dropkick Murphys, I stared at my shelf full of dusty CD cases. Did I really need another? What was I going to do with another empty case after the disc takes up residence in my massive and more portable binder? Perhaps I could fashion a wall hanging out of my leftover CD cases. That seems to be the only solution

And so I ordered the digital copy — continuing the decline of hand-held music in 2013. I already regret my choice. I don’t even know what the album looks like, however I do know that “The Boys Are Back” is an excellent song. I also realized that it reminded me of their earlier stuff, like “Good Rats” off of “Sing Loud Sing Proud” which introduced me to these Boston punk rockers when I was just 12 years old. And as a 12-year-old so-called punk rocker myself, having a physical copy of that album was very important to me.

This all started a debate in our newsroom about how digital music has basically ruined the collecting of records. No longer can you take friends into your basement to peruse your collection of LPs, vinyl or CDs. Now you open up a folder on your computer’s desktop and say “Check this out!” and your friend can flip through the tiny print.

Do kids even do that anymore? I remember my CD collection being a huge point of pride when I was a teenager, but thinking back there was another issue that digital music has improved. I brought that giant binder of CDs with me to every gathering and I was always so proud when a CD of mine was selected to be played at a party. But over the years albums were lifted out of it, never to be returned.

Isn’t it funny that digital music, which in its infant years was accused of being a rip off or theft of music, has in turn prevented the theft of my own copies of said music? Lars Ulrich, your head must be spinning.

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