Why Music Will Never Die.
With a cloud of doom cast over HMV, the future of physical music is in doubt but perhaps many are unnecessarily eager to declare the ownership of music as a thing of past. HMV’s financial issues are not because people stopped buying music, but because they started buying it differently. Perhaps, we could blame the combination of iTunes, illegal downloading and Spotify streaming but deep down, true music lovers know they desire the physical format more.
Paying 79p of virtual credit to download a file will never give the same feeling as owning a CD, vinyl or even a cassette tape. An album and its artwork is best enjoyed as something you can hold, something you can run your finger on, keep pristine in its packaging or blue tack to your walls as a poster (sacrilege!!!). Album artwork is not designed to be a .jpeg; viewing it on a screen is like visiting an art gallery on your iPad – yes, you can enjoy the theme, but you never truly experience it.
The appreciation of artwork, album booklets and sleeve notes is of course only one small element of music ownership. Music, after all, is made for the ears, not the eyes. There are auditory benefits to CDs and vinyl, as well as aesthetic ones. A real music player with decent speakers will add a new dimension to your favourite song, even if you’ve heard an mp3 a thousand times through your laptop’s so-called ‘sound system’. Of course, vinyl takes it to an entire new level. That familiar crackle when your needle first hits the plastic is enough to give any self-respecting muso ‘the chill‘ long before the music has even begun.
Admittedly, the ownership of music is somewhat fetishised. We idealise the physical format’s beauty and omit all of its impracticalities. It’s a fair point that merely a handful of CDs and records will be considered inconvenient in comparison to an unlimited cloud of songs stored online or a lifetime’s worth of music living on a data stick smaller than your forefinger, but it simply isn’t the same. Music buying is not just a commodity, it’s also a culture. Physical releases will not stop if we keep supporting them. Get down to HMV (it just might stay open) and support your local indie record stores if you love music as much as you claim you do.
So put down your wreath for Nipper (although RIP to the real Nipper) and stop tweeting “I’LL MISS CDs WHEN THEY’RE GONE” before we accidentally pronounce a living scene as dead.
Do you still buy physical music?