Saturday, 2 May 2009

Easy to spot

I've been using Spotify lately, for listening to music online. It's not dissimilar on the face of it to iTunes, except that you don't (as yet, at least) download any music, it's just there and accessible to listen to online. So as long as your internet connection is active, you can listen to the music as readily as if it were your own copy.

I enjoy it, I've found it a good way to catch up with stuff I've not heard for years (there's a conspicuous amount of "alternative" stuff from the early-mid 80s on my playlist) and also to listen to new music or to albums which I've never heard but always meant to listen to at some point.

For instance, last night and today I've been listening to a couple of albums by Bong Ra, which has inspired me to order a copy of his most recent disc. I'd still rather physically own such things rather than as a download or just having streaming access to it online, and I've never had a problem with paying for it.

So it's all good stuff, an ideal and free (the "cost," unless you pay a monthly subscription, is to put up with hearing a couple of adverts every 30 mins or so) way of listening.

When I first signed up, I found myself searching for all sorts of tracks I'd not heard, in some cases, for 20-25 years or longer, and it was fantastic. Ok, how about The Bushes Scream While My Daddy Prunes by The Very Things? Yep, that's there - and straight onto my playlist. Truck Train Tractor by The Pastels? Check. White Punks On Dope? Check. Bananarama's version of Nathan Jones? No I'm not being ironic, I genuinely love their version.

Song From The Bottom Of A Well by Kevin Ayers? Oh yes.

And so on and so forth.

But then I had to stop listening to them. It had been all too easy, there's something which feels a little vulgar about the lack of effort in tracking down the above, along with a whole heap of others: some obscure, some not so obscure. There remains a wealth of music which is still not available on there and perhaps never will be, but still there's been a sense of the kind of instant gratification which is increasingly prevalent.

I could start waxing nostalgic about record shops, the best ones being veritable Aladdin's Caves, but I've already done that. But reading an interview with Keith Richards the other day, in particular the part where he describes searching for hard-to-get blues records - swapping and borrowing, building a record collection and all the rest - it seemed to underline why the ease of access I'm describing seems to carry with it a sense of disappointment or dissatisfaction for me.

It may be just the sense of placing more value in something that one has invested a lot of time and effort (and money) in searching after. The feeling of having a prized artefact. Maybe I'm a little too precious about it, but after the initial delight of rediscovering so many long-lost tunes, I'm left with a sense of - well, I've done that, what do I do now?


Zhoen said...

I think I'll check it out anyway. I can understand the let down of the too-easy, though.

You might enjoy Coverville.

trousers said...

Oh it's definitely worth checking out for all the other reasons I mentioned, and for which it's really rather good. It's just that for all that, there are certain things which it just cannot replace...which I suppose is obvious really.

Thanks too for the link, I shall explore.

bikerted said...

I'm with you their Trousers. The internet can make us lazy in our quest to find the evasive thing we are looking for. I've been searching bookshops up and down the country for one title to no avail. The joy on finding it will be immense. One shopowner suggested the internet but he could not understand the need of the hunt.

Have you heard the good news that Selectadisc is going to reopen?

trousers said...

Hi bikerted, there's been a few times when I've purposely gone hunting around the shops for something, for the same reasons. I've bought novels written by a couple of fellow bloggers, and I wouldn't have been happy just ordering them off the net, I knew it would be far more exciting waiting for them to appear in the bookshops in town.

That's excellent news about Selectadisc - and that's cheered me up! I'll probably be in Nottingham at some point in May so I'll be looking to see whether its reopened.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think things have got too easy - you used to have to wait till stuff was on telly to see it again, now you buy the DVD or download it or whatever. Same with music, I can effortlessly find anything, the fun of the search has gone.

trousers said...

Indeed zhisou. I tend to think I've lost any snobbery relating to music (see my point about Nanarama), but I wonder if I might - rather sadly - find some perverse badge of honour when it comes to music that I'm searching after and cannot instantly or quickly find online.

In the end I wouldn't want to labour the point too much with all this: good music (according to taste) is good music regardless of the means of access...but I worry that the value of it can be lost when the access is so potentially instant and cost-free.

Lady in red said...

my youngest son was listening to music on the pc a few days ago when suddenly I heard short advert which confused me. But he explained that it was just something he has to ut up with to get his music for free on this site that is similar to but better than itune.

I was just reading your post when my eldest son came in the room I asked him if this was what they are now using and yes it is. They think it is really good.

Perhaps I shall give it a go as I would like to recreate my vinyl collection that I can no longer play as I don't have the right equipment.

Anonymous said...

You're right Trousers, but I used to love the thrill of scouring old record stores for rare vinyl, the excitement of getting home to listen to it, fantastic.

I didn't much care for the disappointment when it was a load of crap and you've wasted 5 quid, but I guess that's the good bit now - plus musicians are forced to play live to stay rich now that it's so easy to steal their stuff. It's not all bad.

Reading the Signs said...

I too discovered spotify recently and have been digging out tunes I thought never to have heard again - a bit like I've done with youtube. I know just what you mean about it being, somehow, insubstantial compared to having an actual record or something to hold in one's hands. But I'm also more than satisfied not to be saddled for life with Reparata and the Delrons and Picketywitch.

trousers said...

Ah yes, zhisou, there was the downside: all that excitement, and then getting home and finding that - apart from a couple of tracks maybe - the album was a dud. But that was (in retrospect) all part of it, and why you'd be swapping recommendations with friends and so on.

Lady in Red, yes it'll be very handy if you haven't got the means to play records anymore. I reckon people of your son's age are likely to get into it too but without the kind of reservations that I've mentioned.

signs, I think not having to be saddled for life with Reparata and the Delrons and Picketywitch is quite a pervasive argument in Spotify's favour :)

I too did a lot of trawling around on youtube prior to this, too, to dig out long-lost tunes, videos etc - somehow it didn't bring to mind what I've talked about in the post and above. Maybe in part because there's something far more random about youtube. Also (though I'm hardly an audiophile) the sound quality on there is different enough for it never to seem like a real replacement, to me.

Merkin said...

T-man, you are far too young to appreciate Kevin Ayers. Hehehehehe.

First time I ever took a toke was at a Caravan concert at the Union at Glasgow Uni.

Was busy. We had to order double rounds coz of the queues.

To my shame, at one point - having scoobied my allotment - I picked up a pint that was lying there.

The owner of the pint came back and I plead innocence.

He said 'so you are drinking one pint of heavy and one pint of lager'.

I stuck to my story with a vehemence that would have done Our Bruno proud and nothing further happened.

The dope was good and I got a kiss, or two, off a Miss Scotland contestant.

On the way home I had a bright idea about art - Tracy Emins was sooo seventies.

I took home a waste paper bin off a lamp-post complete with rubbish and planted it on my mantlepiece.

My mother was horrifed but left me to it (until I went away for a Summer job and the pig stye was cleared).

Good gear, that's all I can say.

Kevin Ayers, Gong, Canterbury.

I wasn't there and, if I had been, I wouldn't have remembered it.

trousers said...

Nah merk, if I'm too young to appreciate Kevin Ayers then I'm too young to appreciate Can, Faust, Roxy, Velvets, Stones etc etc. I know you're not being serious though :)

Nice, hazy recollections.