Normally, I love the Lefsetz Letter and often agree with what Bob has to say, but he is really starting to tick me off with his Streaming vs. Ownership argument.
He calls those of us who defend physical ownership as “those who haven’t experienced the future.” That is loaded bullshit.
Those of us who defend physical ownership are people who understand that music isn’t all about the future, but about the nostalgia past music possesses. Lefsetz is taking a moneyed position, and sure the future of big money very well may be in streaming, and not in physical pressing. BUT if there was no money in pressing vinyl, why did Radiohead publish IN RAINBOWS on vinyl? Why does J Dilla post-humously publish on vinyl? Would these artists still publish CDs? Would indies publish CDs if it was a loss?
Maybe the revenue stream is diminishing and labels are investing too much in physical production, but there are loyal purchasers who purchase physical music. I am one of them. I hate buying DRM encrypted stuff and I would rather go out of my way to get the physical item. People count on me to know and have the hot shit when it comes out (if not beforehand) and I didn’t buy Eminem’s RELAPSE digitally. I bought it physically, at Best Buy, because my favorite local mom and pop or corporate record shops (Starbucks’ Hear Music, where you at?) have mostly closed and I didn’t pre-order it and I didn’t want to wait several days for it to come in the mail.
If you go entirely digital and no new physical pressings, what happens to all those vinyl DJs? What happens to the people that like to possess something physical, even if it is just a disc with digital information? Why can’t labels start selling flash drives with music and extra content? Can’t the fucking industry thinking of a way to keep physical production viable, profitable and hip!?!?!?! AHEM – FLASH DRIVES! KEYCHAIN FLASH DRIVES! CREDIT CARD SIZED FOLD OUT FLASH DRIVES THAT LOOK LIKE BUSINESS CARDS! ALL SORTS OF FLASH DRIVES! (Not only are they useful because they can store information too, but you can make them look different very easily)
Nothing can replace the physical possession of music. True music heads know what I am talking about. If it goes all digital, people won’t have the knowledge of culling through crates or looking at massive stacks of CDs and seeing some wacky artwork. It is not like you go to a party and pick up the hosts i-pod and scroll through the whole thing. BUT, you come to my parties and you see all my CDs stacked by the wall, and my autographed CDs on display, and my favorite pieces of vinyl. We talk music BECAUSE you see music. The industry can’t let that die EVEN IF it is not as profitable as it used to be.
Lefsetz opines that physical production won’t die, but it won’t be a profitable medium at all. He says that you have to get iphones/Sonos or Spotify to truly experience this revolution, and I have to tell you, I have a Blackberry and I stream on Pandora. Does that mean I am not experiencing the revolution? I’m witnessing it, I’m just not being fooled into thinking that only streaming is acceptable for a true music head like myself. My friends think I am a fucking music encyclopedia. I can tell you what half the songs you are hearing are before your i-phone can figure it out. BUT, I wouldn’t have that knowledge if I only streamed music, and I wouldn’t have that knowledge about new music if I didn’t continue to buy it and seek it out and own it physically so I can read the liner notes, etc.
Maybe I am not experiencing the same revolution as Lefsetz, but I am here and I am on the battlefield with the people creating the music. I don’t think they want to see physical production die. When the musicians of today are 90 years old and their kids have some unimaginable gadget that we can’t even think of yet, will they want to show them an old, non-functional computer and say “my music used to play on things like these all over the world” or would they rather hold up a CD, a piece of vinyl, or a fucking flash drive – something that has a logo, that has character, that can be grasped – and say “millions of people used to listen to this.” I think most musicians would rather have the latter.
If you’re a fan – when you’re telling your children or your grandchildren or whomever about the music you used to love, the best concert you ever saw, etc., don’t you also want to be able to hold something in your hands and share it? If there aren’t CDs and vinyl, there aren’t CDs and vinyl to be autographed. There aren’t those physical pieces that end up capturing and meaning so much more than just the music that is contained within them. They come to signify a time in your life, an event, an experience, a culture, your musical identity.
Your musical identity shouldn’t be on some companies server that could shut down at anytime. Your musical identity needs to be where you can access it, no matter what happens. If the server goes down, if the electricity goes out – those of you who stream are screwed. Those of you whose i-pods and i-phones are juiced, only have a few hours. Me, on the other hand, I may have my streaming music, I may have i-pods too, but I’ve still got a discman with batteries in the drawer just in case shit happens.
That’s my two cents. If you want to hear Lefsetz’s, go to http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/.