Monday, 12 July 2010

Submitting to Digital

I’ve finally gone and done it. On Friday, I bought my last CD (arrived today, I am Kloot new album “Sky at Night” – along with the new Janelle Monae and Dark Night Of The Soul albums). And I picked up my final ever PAPER Guardian, with the ever brilliant and to me (previously) essential, “Film and Music” supplement.

This has been a long time coming of course, especially since, in theory anyway – I have been living & breathing digital music since the turn of the century. It’s my job to know about these things, so why haven’t I fully bought in yet as a consumer? Mostly during that time I have been horribly hedged between the two mediums – the physical and the digital.

I’ve become fed up with the physical side of physical – the constant rattling around in the cupboard or shed looking for that old gem I need to hear again, or even finger-searching down the spines of the ‘current play list’ only to open the jewel box (yuk) and find the CD is of course, in the car or somewhere or just plain gone. Plus it’s taking up too much space. As for my 'newspaper', too much of it goes unread and straight-to-recycling, which just seems ridiculous.

Mostly though, it all just seems so out-of-step with the times, technologically and environmentally.
So that’s me. I’ve officially ‘Gone Digital’.

I do however, harbour several anxieties about this decision. As I pour over the cover of Sky At Night, (fascinated to find Guy Garvey and Craig Potter of Elbow are co-producers) I’m already missing the tactile experience of having ‘record cover’ in hand while the music’s on. I’m doubtful that the digital metadata industry can deliver anything like the simple pleasures of this experience.

Also – since physical media plays a big part in my music discovery process (particularly aforementioned Guardian ‘Film & Music’) – I’m concerned I’ll actually start to miss some key album reviews. I love the Guardian iPhone App, but I’m not sure if the App has the complete content that the paper supplement has. Somewhat ironically, since digital has a reputation as a great discovery platform, I’ve never experienced it as such – not as a passionate and active music obsessive.

I’m also concerned about the system of managing my music digitally. My CD shelves are not particularly well ordered, but like a mechanic with his tools, I have a photographic memory of where I left each CD. I know which pile my previous I Am Kloot albums sit in. My CDs are taking up too much space for sure, but at least I know they are there, because I can see them. By quickly scanning any one of the ‘most recent’ piles I can easily remind myself I still need to listen to Paul Weller or Joanna Newsome. But I recently realised just how many downloaded albums I’ve yet to listen to – some from last year. I’d literally forgotten about these, buried as they are into my iTunes library.

I love how smoothly Amazon downloads now embed straight to that library, but almost preferred the old way, when I could at least check my Amazon (or 7 Digital) folders to look at recent or not so recent, purchases. I’d like iTunes to make the ‘recently added’ list both more accessible and more present either online or on the device.

Nevertheless, I’m still going digital. It has to be one way or the other. I will just have to get over my digital discovery issues (with the great help of Spotify, MFlow, the Genius bar and of course, my beloved US indie goldmine ‘Daytrotter’.com).

I’ll do my best to get over my physical needs too, since I’m literally running out of shelf & cupboard space. I’ll undertake to make an effort to improve my digital file management.  I’m still nervous that my digital music collection will evaporate somewhere, but perhaps I’ll put my faith in the cloud (if I can get over my ‘ownership’ issues) or a digital locker service, as it looks like I’ll have a good choice of those next year.

However, this all leaves me with one overriding issue and that’s listening. Actually taking the time to enjoy what I’ve worked hard to discover, access, acquire and manage. I just love playing music back through my (pride and joy) Bowers & Wilkins 806’s. They sound great.

Also, the recently acquired new family Renault came with an integral Bose sound system which rocks. Both have iPod docks, but both have CD trays too. Somehow – the CD – once I’ve got it to hand – goes into the tray with – well – with a more satisfying feeling – than plugging the iPod into the dock. It also encourages me to become more familiar with that particular record, not snack like a junkie on the 6000 tracks in my device. 

Mmm, perhaps I’m not quite through the hedge yet, but still on the fence.

Apologies for not posting much lately. I've been busy, working on some great music industry projects, looking after my kids, and sitting in the sun for five-minute spells of peace & quiet (when I could probably be twittering). The JB blog will be out for the rest of the summer, but you might want to read my post on Google & music on the midemnet blog and also look out for some pieces in the various trusted Music Industry publications over the coming months...all exciting stuff. JB will resume as & when...