Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Your Ear-Ripped Book Review

Finished Ripped, which is a fascinating recap of the move of music from CD’s to mp3’s, from corporate control to artist control, from commercial radio determining the songs heard and the frequency played to individuals creating their own playlists and playing whatever, whenever. Hard to believe that 15 years ago, everything was SoundScan charts and programmed radio and TRL and marketing campaigns. Now almost every artist has a myspace page; tracks are swapped from fan to fan; and some big artists are choosing to release everything on their website.

In high school and college I followed several bands and was exposed to new music via the radio—89X out of Windsor, 92.1 The Edge out of Lansing, and Impact 89 FM at Michigan State. I would hear a new song, fall in love with it and either tape it off the radio (so 20th century) or search out the CD at local music stores. Inevitably, I would love the one song and hate the rest of the album. So my CD collection would grow and grow, but there would tons of dead space and wasted money.

Think of the last album that was great from start to finish. For me, Definitely Maybe from Oasis, The Bends from Radiohead and Baby 81 from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club spring to mind. There are no tracks that you skip. Every song is great and builds to create an amazing 45 to 60 minutes of music. Most albums are a waste, filled with throwaway tracks because the artist has to meet a commitment of x amount of albums in x amount of years. It takes years to build a best of album because, out of 5 records, there might only be 6 or 7 decent tracks. I love Oasis but Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, Heathen Chemistry, and Don’t Believe the Truth have a lot of filler. They could have made an album approaching Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory had they been patient and really selected the choice songs. Of course, people have to eat and some tracks considered core songs I wouldn’t give a second listen to.

Now I find music through podcasts, Pandora and personal recommendations. I still hear a new song, fall in love with it and but find it either on limewire or from CD’s I check out of the library. I have several playlists on my iTunes that are simply labeled singles. Do I know any other song from Phoenix besides Napoleon Says or from The Wrens other than This Boy is Exhausted? No. The only bands that I have been exposed to that I have chased down more than a single track are Deerhunter, Thievery Corporation, Arcade Fire, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Stereophonics.

My core bands are Sloan, U2, Oasis, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Tragically Hip, Moby, and the Dandy Warhols. Years ago I would search for news and concert info about the bands. These days I don’t even pay attention. Oasis breaking up. That’s too bad. Bono brining attention to some new cause. Fine. I don’t need to go to concerts. I would much rather buy the live DVD and watch that. Sloan has got a new album coming out but I’m not counting down the days. Does that mean I like them any less? Maybe. But I’ll always give these bands a chance before all others.

The book makes several arguments for and against downloading music illegally. Have to admit that I have done so. In fact, I think the last CD I bought with my own money was Sloan’s Parallel Play sometime in 2008. I have not resolved the issue about paying or illegally downloading or ripping CD’s. I want to support artists and their product but I don’t want to pay for it. I really should use iTunes, especially for all the single tracks from the myriad bands that I come across. But I don’t. I have gotten better about using the library instead of limewire, but that only solves part of the problem. The artist is not seeing one dime from me. And since I really don’t buy merch or go to shows, I’m not financially supporting them at all. The only real support I give them is word of mouth. If I find a band or song I like I will not stop talking about it. Seems like that only goes so far.

Read the book. It’s a quick read that provides a great trip down memory lane and does provoke some thoughts about the future of music.

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