Fred Misses the Arrival
Let's say there's a guy named Fred. Fred likes music alot. Before the internet Fred really enjoyed going into Tower Records or independent music shops and flipping through vinyl records. It was a top activity for Fred. When cds came along Fred was fine with em. They were cool. He thought the rainbow reflection thing was awesome. Fred couldn't understand how they fit all that music on a little shiny disc. (Then again Fred never understood vinyl either....even less than cds actually.)
Fred especially liked the anticipation of an album's release date. A single would trickle on the radio and Fred knew it would be a month or so until the album would be on sale. Fred would keep the radio station locked in the hopes that they'd replay the single every hour as promised. Fred would count down the release date and often bought albums the day of (sometimes sneakily a day or two before as independent shops sometimes 'leaked' them.) Fred loved bringing home new music, popping it in, and flipping through the liner notes while listening away. Fred would play it over and over again passing judgment over the whole package. Over time Fred collected hundreds of cds. And Fred was proud of his collection.
Then the internet came along. Fred started building an mp3 collection with napster and the like. Fred liked this activity too. It was like building the most-mega-awesome megamix right on his computer. Fred would play it on shuffle and it was like the best radio station ever. And everything was fine. As much as Fred heard record companies complaining about 'piracy' --Fred felt like it sort of balanced out. Fred started discovering new artists this way. If Fred heard something about a new artist he'd download a song. If he liked the song he'd buy the album. Fred wondered if this sharing thing was actually secretly helping record sales.
But a few years ago things really started changing. Sharing single songs got all messed up. Record companies worked to ruin that experience by loading file sharing communities with bogus ear-squealing files (which only made people want to steal more. did they have to make them so loudly screechy?) Their tactic didn't matter anyway because full albums started were appearing everywhere. Through various channels. Out of the blue. Sometimes months before the official release date-- albums would appear online. The 'release date' for an album was forever blurred and tarnished. Fred tried to resist downloading unreleased albums. Fred tried to block it out and still hold out for the official release date. Wanting the cd in hand when it was officially released. Especially for his favorite artists.
But soon Fred started to slip. The temptation to listen to an album that's not going to be out for months grew to be too big for Fred. Fred got curious. He started acquiring albums before the release date and putting them in his mp3 player. Fred didn't even know if the downloaded album was even in the right order or if it was the 'final' version. Fred couldn't help it. Fred listened anyway. Feeling guilty about it. Tainting the actual music itself. Distracted by the illegalicity. Slightly depressed at the loss of the bigger experience of 'the arrival'. And feeling a bit like a cheat.
Now 'the arrival' of a new album is often as simple as Fred getting an email that says, 'Yo dude! I got the new Beck! Want it?' Fred sighs and says yes. Fred can't help himself. The reality is Fred might even be buying less cds than before because the memory of the release date experience is fading. And the prowess of an extensive cd collection is becoming quaint and dated.
Fred wonders if the record companies should begin to re-market the overall experience of an cd release date. To remind people the pleasure that comes along with actually having a product in your hand on a certain day. With pictures and lyrics inside. To remind people that it's worth waiting for the 'real' thing. So the listening experience isn't tainted with crime and doubt about the order of songs... or even if it's the final mix. Because Fred does miss the bigger impact of the new. And Fred might be particularly susceptible to that sort of marketing push. An artistical purification campaign. (And not like that bs piracy in movies crap when the lighting tech calls you a dick for taking money out of his pocket..) Frame it as if people lose something by stealing....
But then again, people who grew up on the internet never knew what it was like to wait for a cd in the same way people wait for a movie in the summer. So asking people to be honest and not download an album based on a never-experience might be challenging. Plus selling the "honor" system probably isn't the most natural ability for an business like the record industry...
Fred just trying to help.