Rebooted Music – Buy, Buy and Buy Again?

Many CDs

Many CDs

Sometime in the early 2000s I bought an REM album, in a record store, and on the sticker on the case I saw the words “DELUXE EDITION” and made the mistake of not inspecting it closely. It turned out that the rest of the (much smaller) words on the sticker said “also available as a”. Hmm.

Since then I generally check if an album has a deluxe version at release but generally I don’t tend to buy albums until they’ve been out for a while, which is helpful these days.

The reason being the trend of artists (or perhaps the labels more accurately) releasing a deluxe version six months or more after the first release and expecting fans to buy the whole album again. Some bands do it right, releasing an EP after the main album and reissuing the original packaged with the extra tracks for those who are catching up but more often than not they don’t.

One noteable current example that is being commented on regularly on the radio station I listen to is Ed Sheeran’s “X” which I bought when it first came out, it’s now also available as a deluxe version and a deluxe-deluxe (Wembley) version too, with different extra tracks.  The same was true with both Ellie Goulding albums I have, there are many others I’m sure.

Our modern methods of listening to and buying music kind of makes this a moot point these days, you could just buy the extra tracks from Amazon, Google Play or iTunes, often for less than the deluxe CD but if you want to have the actual album in your hands it can get a bit pricey.

Once you’ve enjoyed an album it’s nice to be able to get just a little bit more but doing it that way, while benefiting the labels, is just going to be bad for the artists as even if the reissue isn’t their choice it’s them who often get tagged as being cynical money-grabbers.

Finding the Tracks, Lyrically Speaking

Headphones

Headphones (Photo credit: 96dpi)

“Out of a doorway the tentacles stretch of a song that I know and the world moves in slo-mo straight to my head like the first cigarette of the day.”  Elbow, Bones of You.

Earlier, out of nowhere, I remembered a song that I always associate with reading Rendezvous with Rama in the 90s because the music seemed strangely appropriate to the setting of the book.  It was in the charts at the time and was on the radio regularly but back then I didn’t buy music as I didn’t even have a CD player.  I’ve always thought it was a great song but had lost track of who it was by.

Time to find out, I thought, in these days of MP3 downloads I should have this in my collection.  Searching for “State of Mind” on Amazon wasn’t specific enough and brought up too many recent songs, then I thought that somewhere amongst all the lyrics sites one must have the words to this song.  Off to Google I went: “lyrics “I realise the state of mind that you have found me”” (the first line) returned one solitary result – and the details “Goldie – State of Mind”.  Aha.

Thirty seconds later and the MP3 single was downloading having cost me 59p.  A minute later I’m enjoying 7 minutes of blissful music.

I know the music industry took a while to accept music downloads but being able to rediscover old favourites and enjoy them again via either a snippet of lyrics or a sample of audio is one more amazing thing that the great database of the internet gives us.

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An Object Choice

NYC - MoMA: Philip Johnson Architecture and De...

NYC – MoMA: Philip Johnson Architecture and Design Galleries – Digital Compact Disc (Photo credit: wallyg)

I have always generally stuck to buying CDs for music except for some recent digital download-only EPs and singles but the other day I was made to wonder why.

I’d been looking at an album that was available as a normal version and a deluxe version.  The deluxe had just three more songs but cost £17 as opposed to the normal version that had dropped to £5.  I thought I’d just go without the extra tracks and bought the £5 one.  All fine except that I’d noticed that there was a link to “download the MP3 version for £4.99” on the deluxe edition yet I’d still bought the physical CD of the normal version for 1p more.  At first I was fine with this but then began to feel confused, I felt a bit daft for buying the CD when by downloading I could have had more for the same money – was the plastic and paper really worth it?

I could have cancelled the CD, downloaded the MP3 but I still didn’t.  I’m still at the stage where I only feel that I have a copy of the music (or book) that I can keep forever if I have a physical copy – for me it’s not even about the cover artwork or the booklet as I hardly ever look at these.  But this experience, the doubt, showed me that even I’m accepting that the future of media is becoming more digital, increasingly virtual, that with digital booklets having the actual CD is less important than the music itself.

In many ways it’s better this way, content you effectively license can be accessed anywhere you can log into your account, a copy can be downloaded to your computer if necessary and even burned onto an old-fashioned disk.  Should the worst happen you don’t lose your collection.  It’s also more convenient to buy and store.

I’m still not so sold on ebooks though, I still like a paper book I can safely read in the bath but I suppose it’s only a matter of time before the waterproof Kindle Touch.

And as for my MP3 quandary, it turned out that the download wasn’t even the deluxe version after all so the decision was entirely virtual, ironically.

The Joys and Perils of the MP3 Shuffle

mixtape

mixtape (Photo credit: miss_rogue)

Before digital music you’d select your evening’s musical entertainment based on your mood, selecting an appropriate album or maybe even a mixtape.  If you’re unfamiliar with what a mixtape is ask a grown-up, and by the way you’re making me feel old.

Anyway, for the last decade we’ve been increasingly able to digitally store our hundreds of albums in one place and play them at our convenience without once having to get up and change the disc though up until very recently the devices that could store literally everything you have were expensive.  Now though things have changed, personally I have my entire 6,300 track collection taking up one-third of my Google Play Music store even if it did take a couple of weeks, on-and-off to upload.

Modern MP3 players now have decent, large displays, and of course phones and tablets have music player apps so you can idly scroll though lists of albums and tracks and then feel the unbridled joy of seeing a track you haven’t heard for ages and instantly enjoying it.  Having your entire collection there at your fingertips can rekindle your love of the music and bring back, Proust-like, memories of summers listening endlessly to a favourite album.

Then, if you’re brave, there’s the ability to not just shuffle tracks on an album or a playlist or the limited selection on a device, a selection carefully, er, selected for a particular mood or whatever stage in your life you’re at, but your entire musical history.  It has been said that MP3 players have a mystical ability to choose appropriate music for your situation, my car stereo has done that to me many times – played a song that has reminded me of lost love or given me hope when I’m down, and when it has thousands of tracks, all personal to you, to choose from anything can happen.

You sit down to listen to some tunes, your device plays some great songs, many you’d forgotten about, you feel fantastic.  Then it happens, the first bars of a song play and before you can hit “skip” you’ve got tears pouring down your face as the song so intimately linked to a person or event, to feelings of loss and grief come flooding back.  I’ll be honest it happens to me, “My Immortal” by Evanescence does it to me every time.  Sometimes though even this can be cathartic, reminding you of the good times too.