Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Downloading

Today, Jackson Browne releases Solo Acoustic, Vol. 2. This series features live performances from across his entire catalogue, unaccompanied except from himself on piano or guitar. The performances lend an intimacy to the songs; you feel as if he's singing only for you. For Jackson fans, they're no-brainers even if you haveho. If you aren't a fan but are interested, For Everyman and Late For The Sky are good places to start. If you're not a fan, Solo Acoustic won't convert you.

Browne introduces many of the songs with lengthy chats. If you're a fan, you'll appreciate the back stories of these songs. Some reviews, however, complain that the introductions detract from the CDs over repeated listenings because what you really want to hear is the music and not the oral history. On the surface, that's fair enough, except that it fails to account for the utility of iTunes or whatever whatever computerized means you have of downloading .mp3 files either from a CD or from a server. (Agreed, not everyone has access to iTunes. Yet.) It's a simple enough matter to download Solo Acoustic and then create a play list without the spoken word intros.

Which is just one of the things I like about iTunes. When I was in high school back in the early Seventies, a record album cost about $4. For your money, you got 36-38 minutes of music on a piece of vinyl easily subject to damage. Compare that to today, where I can download an album for $10 and usually get close to an hour of music.  It turns out that that's a relative bargain: Typically, it takes $21.35 in today's dollars to buy what would have cost $4.00 in 1970, but downloading an album costs $10. (There's a calculator driven by the Consumer Price Index here.) And that doesn't account for the additional music: I'd guess that the average release today last from 50-60 minutes.

Much to the dismay of Big Music, downloading has exerted tremendous  downward pressure on the price of music. Many people don't bother to pay at all, of course, and even those of us who do like its economy of space as well as of dollars. Software like iTunes allows us to manage our music in ways we could only dream of in the days of albums. At the least, creating a play list was a time-intensive matter of transferring music to a cassette tape one song at a time. Now, its a matter of choosing a command from a menu. 

Sure, there are drawbacks to downloading. I don't download classical music or jazz, two genres where the fidelity of CDs makes a difference to me. Downloads rarely come with digital booklets that -- among other things -- credit all of the musicians on an album. But all things considered -- the relative cheapness, the easy storage, the utility -- downloading is a boon to music consumers. It's only a matter of time before the fidelity catches up, anyway.

Get one while they last: Volvo made only 107 of these babies. What are you waiting for?...With Fidel Castro having resigned, will Congress move to lift the wildly successful trade embargo on Cuba?

3 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

We don't know if Castro left on his own, is alive or dead. Raul represents a different trend. He is friendly to the Chinese model.

Fidel didn't like what happened in Eastern Europe. Raul is different.

You're correct about jazz and classical music.

Kathy said...

Asking Cuba to first improve their poor record on human rights before agreeing to lift the trade embargo is a double-standard. If we applied that criteria evenly, we wouldn't be trading with China, Saudia Arabia and dozens of other countries.

K. said...

It's counterproductive, too. Cuba is 90 miles away. Shouldn't we want to expose them to democracy?