We made a lovely trip to Barnes and Noble yesterday, because it's not like the house is full of books we haven't read yet or anything.1
At the checkout line, we found the tiny impulse-buy music display. This was not too hard to pass up, being filled with things like That's What These Damn Kids Today Call Music Volume 6,702
But I took a little closer look, and found Herbie Hancock's
new release, Possibilities
. By all rights, this should be a hell of an album, featuring guests like Annie Lennox, Sting, Joss Stone, Raul Midon, and Angelique Kidjo. It was tough to pass it up, but I did. And I can sum up why in one sentence:
iTunes has spoiled me.
I don't just mean that I've sipped the Cupertino Koolaid, although that's dangerously close to true. I mean that my preferences as a music consumer have changed because of digital music storage, playback, and purchasing.
For starters, I have definitely become a "try before you buy" person. In a related incident, I buy singles now. Time was, I would buy an album for the big single, or just because I like the artist. I can't see myself doing that anymore. I want to hear at least that 30-second snippet of every song before I decide to buy the album. (And I really appreciate it when a brick-and-mortar store has a listening station.) If I'm not sold, I want the freedom to decide which individual songs I buy.
Then there's the physical storage issue. I don't really need to buy more physical CDs. Most of the time, CD booklets are mediocre at best - the art doesn't particularly interest me, I get lyrics much less often than I like, and it's a miracle to actually see liner notes. Let's face it: I'm going to take that CD and put it in my computer anyway, so honestly, if it's my money going down, I'm better off to start digital.
(Sidebar: digital music services should figure out how to do gifts better. I can't give you a particular album from iTunes; the best I can do is give you a gift certificate and instructions. I ought to be able to send someone a particular album, or better still, a mix. Have that ready by Christmas, will you?)
And finally, there's the price issue. If I don't really want the atoms, I shouldn't have to pay for shipping and storing them. Even though iTunes is not $9.99 all the time anymore, I think they're still usually cheaper than buying the physical CD. It's kind of funny: in the early '90s, I believed pretty strongly that a CD shouldn't cost much more than $10, and 10 years later, I can defend that idea again.
Audiophiles will tell me I'm wrong, that AAC is a lossy compression format and I'm not getting the full sound that I would on a CD. I know that they're mathematically right. I also know that I don't own any equipment, including my ears, that can tell the difference. In fact, my lossy music files sound damn good (to me) when I plug in my iMic
and listen to them on the stereo instead of the tinny laptop speakers.
is not on iTunes (yet). There are samples on Hancock's web site, and it sounds like something I want more of. The bookstore (I live in a town where you can say "the" bookstore) is getting out of the commercial CD business, so I'm unlikely to be tempted until the next time we go to The Big City, or Herbie gets the disc on iTunes. We'll see which happens first. 1
And what did I buy, you ask? Learning Unix for OS X Tiger
. It's a real page turner. They're setting Steve Jobs up as the main suspect, but I think Linus Torvalds did it...
P.S.: Yes, I'm a child of the 80s who's humming "Rockit". And I bet some of you are too.