Digital vs. Physical Music Collections: A Rant Of Sorts
Why are some albums on iTunes only available in certain regions or certain iTunes “stores”? How frustrating! I’m on the hunt for the very awesome debut record from Miles Kane, The Colour Of The Trap. You might remember him from his partnership with Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner as The Last Shadow Puppets. His record has been out in the UK since May of last year. Sure, I can stream it on Grooveshark, or torrent it, but I’m old-school. I like to properly buy my music (generally). I like collecting music and, until not long ago, the packaging that said music came in.
Recently (okay, it was almost two and a half years ago), I made the switch from CDs to a digital catalogue. At first, I was staunchly against it. I had spent the better part of twenty years acquiring music on CD. I prided myself on my huge collection of music and that it was all alphabetized by artist and organized chronologically by release date (hey, when you were wallowing in self pity while listening to Pornography by The Cure, I was doing the same, but I was organizing my “record” collection at the same time). I’ve always been a fan of buying a record (the word “record” will hereby refer to CDs. It just sounds better) and ripping the wrapping off of it, and listening to it while thumbing through the liner notes. I even like the smell of brand new liner notes. It’s all part of the experience. What can I say, I’m a music geek and I celebrate it!
When my wife and I were expecting our first child, I had originally planned to just move the record collection from the spare bedroom in our apartment to the living room in preparation for our son’s arrival. Long story short, that didn’t happen. The record collection as I knew it was being shelved (or more specifically, boxed up).
Fast forward two years and I’ve adjusted to digital life, for the most part. Of course, there are certain aspects of a physical collection that I miss; the foremost being the experience of actually buying music. There really is nothing like walking into a record store (or even better, a used record store) and thumbing through CDs and vinyl for that missing piece of the collection or rare single from yesteryear, while tunes play on the store’s stereo. When I was younger, my friends knew I loved these aspects of “the hunt” and when the movie adaptation of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity came out, they were convinced I was going to end up like John Cusack’s character later in life (or Joe from Empire Records) and own a record store. That hasn’t happened…yet.
I have far less time these days to spend hours upon hours searching through music store bins. For that reason, I have come to, for lack of a better word, enjoy shopping for music online. I also like that I can buy the one song from some long forgotten one hit wonder. But it frustrates me to no end that when I want to spend money and support an artist, their catalogue (or parts of it) aren’t available in my country. If I can order a hard copy and they’ll send it to me from wherever, why isn’t it the same for digital purchases?
I understand why there’s a Record Store Day. It’s for those people that still enjoy “the hunt” as I like to call it. It’s for people that like to physically buy a piece of history. It’s for people that like to buy albums because they like the album cover, having never heard a note of the music held within it. Let’s face it, a record store is a cool place to hang out! It’s a sort of home away from home and it’s always welcoming, regardless of how fucked up you might be.
While I’ve physically moved my music collection in a different direction, there will always be a part of me that loves a physical, tactile item, be it 180 gram vinyl or a CD. One day I’ll have the room again (and the time) to proudly display my collection. Naturally, I’ll have a few pieces to buy to replace my digital copies. A small price to pay for auditory bliss.
Thanks for reading.