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Critic's Notebook: With Spotify and its ilk, there's no 'my' in music anymore

Streaming and download services offer a whole new way to keep and share one's recording collection. But why is it so hard to toss all those LPs, 45s, CDs and MP3s?

May 10, 2012|By Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times Pop Music Critic

Yet the gaping hole in both services is context and interest in educating listeners, one reason why, as the resounding success of Record Store Day has proved, good shops with smart clerks will continue to play an essential role. For example, the way in which Spotify documents the dates of its releases is incredibly annoying; if you're interested in the chronology of Pulp's album releases, you'll find that the service confuses release dates with reissue dates; "Different Class" is listed as being released in 2006, not 1995, which is when it actually came out. This is a service-wide concern, as is the seeming disinterest in liner notes, album credits and virtual booklets — the minutiae that make buying an album so engaging. Why not offer as much information as there is available across the Web?

And then there's that irrational voice in your head that is worried about getting rid of anything, the one that if you don't keep in check will land you on an episode of "Hoarders." After all, a certain comfort remains in having your vinyl surrounding you, safely there for your perusal and consumption. If Newt Gingrich is right that a magnet bomb or whatever exploding over Los Angeles could disable Internet access and erase every hard drive in the city, most would be in big trouble, musically. With my vinyl, at least I'd still be able to put on my copy of "Paul's Boutique," spin it manually on my turntable and if I listen real closely, be able to hear the music as the needle moves through the grooves.

So the vinyl I'll keep, even if some of it gets dumped as interests shift. But the discs I'll continue whittling every few months as I do, as I get used to my Universal-issued "The Best of Chuck Berry" CD sounding no better than the Spotify version or the one that's available to me via Match. The sound files on the hard drive aren't going anywhere, because they aren't taking up space. Maybe someday in the distant future, a hard-drive digger will find my 2 terrabytes of choice tunes from the '00s there, reboot them and commence unpacking them. Then perhaps their true value will reveal itself.

randall.roberts@latimes.com

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