Cambridge of Palms Out Sounds is probably pissed off at me right about now, because I called him at 4 in the morning simply to ask him if he thought it would be ethical of us, as a music blog, to post joints from the new Jay-Z album immediately. After ceremoniously uttering some not so affectionate words, he basically concurred with my current sentiment- that being, these leaks are fucking up my experience as a fan. Straight up.
At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I have to cosign on those feelings. The transition to a purely digital music marketplace has its advantages, most of them stemming from the major labels’ hegemony being flipped by things like MP3 blogs and P2P networks, and at this point fighting the flow is ignorant at best, and self-martyring at worst. The paradigm shift is happening because it’s rad — because we can trade the shit around and buy it on the cheap, we can load it onto tiny-ass little players and carry it in our pockets, some kid in Norway can put you onto the illest hip-hop mixtape, and yeah, part of the killer-ness of the digital world is being able to stick it to the suits who are trying to hold us down.
But there are going to be some parts of the pre-digital media market that I’ll be sad to see fade away. Album art, already hurting from being downsized from twelve inches to five-and-a-quarter inches, becomes mostly meaningless when it’s a couple of square inches lurking at the bottom of your iTunes window. The OCD-soothing record-rat fun times of sorting and alphabetizing your collection is now all automated. And yeah, there are no big release dates anymore. There was something about the delayed gratification of counting off the days before a record drops that trying to nab a You Send It file before it gets yanked by the RIAA can’t provide. Not to get all Boomer-y nostalgic, but copping a record — or CD, or tape, or whatever — on the day it came out and knowing that every other person in the world who’s been sitting around for weeks waiting for this thing to drop is in their room or their car, soaking the music in and having their own little Christmas over it, all at the same time as you, was kinda good. It felt like — Jesus, when did I turn into Lawrence Kasdan? — like you were sharing in something bigger than you. Which is always what I’ve felt music should be.
On the other hand, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with cocky crate-diggers trying to battle-nerd me over first-pressing limited-edition whatevers, bands you’ve never heard of can make their living off of music by selling it straight to the people that want it, and I can download “Tonight You Belong to Me” from the sound track to The Jerk when I’m drunk at 3 AM and I totally need it. That’s a hard thing to say no to.