Friday, April 17, 2015

Digital Killed the Video Star


In a not so distant land, in a time not that long ago, was a world that was technology challenged. It was a world without remote controls. It was a world with 13 channels on TV, no computer and no internet. It was a world without CD's which are already becoming obsolete. A world where often you had to wait and listen to the radio, so you could make a very lousy recording of your favorite songs on the radio, and you hoped the DJ did not talk too much over the intro of the song.

One day along came something called MTV, Music Television. It was awesome. It was 24 hours of music videos. These days you would be hard pressed to find a music video on MTV. It was a thrill to see the debut of a new song from one of your favorite artists. The first song ever played was a song called Video Killed the Radio Star (which I revised to make my point) by a band called the Buggles. If you are reading this, trust me, I played it for you already.

If you were lucky enough to have some money, you would head to a "record" store. You might have 10 dollars if lucky, then you could decide what album you wanted to buy. If you didn't have enough to buy an album for $7.99, you could buy what was called a 45, or a single. Later cassette tapes entered the picture, it was much of the same. You can even go back further to something called 8-tracks which were really primitive by todays standards.

I was thinking about this, I was going to pick you up from pre-k. Now any song you wish is at your fingertips. You download it, if honest you pay the 99 cents or 1.29 or you try to get them free but risk viruses and criminal penalties.

In a way it is great. In a way it is not so great. You will never know the thrill of saving up your 10 dollars and have to make the decision of which album to buy. You will never get the thrill of opening a new album, smelling the smell of a new album, and reading the liner notes. Some of the best times of my youth were buying a new album, going to my bedroom and listening to the new album from my favorite bands and singers, and reading along with the lyrics as they sang the songs on the record.

I am guilty of falling into the trap these days. You download single songs. I find current artist that I like that I hear, and I download just the songs I like.

As always, there is a sacrifice you make with progress. That sacrifice is the art of making an album. The cover art, making 10-15 songs that went together. Sitting down and listening to a whole album of songs by one artist that would come together and make sense. It was a great way to spend 45-60 minutes, losing yourself in the music.

Some artist did concept albums, which all songs lead to a bigger story. Some artists would make an album of unrelated songs and somehow tie it together with the last song. Making an album was an art, putting together a series of songs that kept peoples interest. Now it is just about making hit records. Using the same old tired 3 chord progression that makes a hit record so you can get your song heard on the radio.

Don't get me wrong, there is some good to the digital age. There are artists out there if you search hard enough. One thing it does, it makes it easier for artists who might not get a big record deal to get their music heard. Most of them are much better than what you hear on the radio. You  just have to search for such bands.

There are many things that I grew up with, that you will never get the chance to experience. Buying a new album. cassette, or cd is among the top. It was such a thrill to have a copy of your favorite songs, bands, albums. It was something tangible, something you could hold in your hands. Something you could look at, something that had a distinct smell. Now you have an digital file. You can put it on a cd, you can put it on an Ipod or some other MP3 player, but that will never compare to bringing your favorite record, tape, or cd home from the record store, opening it up, and spending an hour just taking it all in.