These Times keep on Changin’…bit by bit

Jerry Lucky Commentary February 2013

Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Today I was taking some client’s through the radio station and was reminded yet again about how change for one generation may not be much of a change for another. We got to one of the production rooms and there was a stack of CD’s sitting on a desk…and I was explaining how these CD’s will be put into the stations “hard-drive” for future use since we don’t play CD’s anymore. One of the younger fellas in the small group made the comments, “who uses CD’s anymore?” And there’s probably more to that thought now than ever before.


As technology continues to march forward the lowly CD, once the darling of the music business because it allowed them to sell us our record collections all over again, does indeed seem destined for the dust-heap. Sadly I might add. Well sadly for me anyway…I still miss the event of bringing home the album and putting on the vinyl and scouring the album cover for notes and clues about the music I was listening to. How old-fashioned is that?


I suppose for someone who’s never experienced that small pleasure, it doesn’t sound like much, but I guess you had to be there. When I use the term “event” I mean it. As is often the case with something like this I feel I must ask myself, am I just being nostalgic? Still when I think deeply about this; why I did that and what it meant to me as far as the enjoyment of the music, I can’t help but feel there is something more to it.


When I got that new album and went through the ritual of tearing the plastic off, putting it on the player and sitting down to listen to the music with as few interruptions as possible made this exercise and “EVENT!” Now, it still held true to a certain extent with CD’s because there was still something physical and even though the printing was ever so tiny, you could still read it. With a digital download, all of that is missing. There is nothing attached to the music experience, just the song itself.


So I can’t help but feel that’s what younger people are missing out on. Music, if there is music in their lives, is no longer an event. It’s just a technical process of doing the download of a song, not even a whole album, just the song and then it’s done, they listen to it, put it on the MP3 player and hit shuffle. That seems so shallow to me. I’m reminded of the old Peggy Lee song, “Is that all there is?”


Hey, much as I love technology and how it can make my life better it did take me some time to get to the point of saying to bands that send me stuff, that a download link was OK. But even with that I like it when the download includes a cover, a bio and liner notes. It just seems more complete. But again I ask am I simply longing for days of yore?


Among all the things that trouble me about single-song downloads is the fact that bands are still making albums and when you only limit yourself to one song, just think of all the musical discovery you’re missing out on. When we bought the album or even the CD, you got all those other songs and there were always some other songs that were pretty good that you would grow to love. Music is not always about first impressions or immediate gratification and yet that’s what a damnable service like iTunes seems to focus on.  


I recently had the discussion in the office with one of my colleagues where me and one other person were trying to discourage her from using the service because it’s not the best way of helping the artist since they actually make less money per track from a service like iTunes than they would either selling the CD or if she were buying directly off the artists website. But she was entirely clueless about that and thought she was doing a good thing using the service.


It was yet another glowing example of how screwed-up the music business has become.


I have learned over the last few years, the best way is to buy direct from the artist, either CD or download. When you go direct to the artist they are usually assured of receiving the largest share of revenue. So if our goal is to support the artist that’s a simple step to take.


I like technology…I’m no Luddite (look it up)…but I’m constantly reminded of a quote from Media philosopher Marshal McLuhan who said back in the sixties, “We shape out tools, and then our tools shape us.” And it’s inevitable that this will happen as it has all through history. Personally I’m more than a little concerned about being shaped by my tools. I want the tools I have at my disposal to serve me, not the other way around.  At least that’s what I think.


Jerry Lucky