This is the year that I hope to stop buying brand-new CDs. Even if you don’t consider the media they contain, the boxes alone are an environmental nightmare. So far the only recycling use I’ve found for them is a pencil K. gave me as a stocking-filler this Christmas (it was a long, narrow stocking without a heel).
An old mucker of mine wrote recently about how in 2008, music is our oyster, and I think she has a point. As the music industry flails stupidly, shifting its great bulk from units to gigs, audio is becoming on several levels cheap and frequently free (if not freely chosen): alongside the enormous wealth of secondhand music, services like Last.fm are beyond the stage of early adoption now and work as well as a Flash-based radio station ought.
YouTube and MySpace, while no longer the poster children of a new technological boom, have between them levelled the playing field as much as, oh, a single album by an established Oxfordshire rock group. Amazon pulled all of the major labels in its wake as it moved towards a new-year present of DRM-free download purchases: even Sony, which seemed determined at the last minute to make the system unuseable, has had to capitulate.
(As an aside, John Harris has a point too: but he’s really talking about a different issue, which intersects with Jude’s but is nonetheless tangential. Pop as in popular culture has developed a taste for nostalgia so powerful that all it seems to do these days is remember, which is why today’s TV is surprisingly similar to that of five years ago while harking back to that of twenty. The power of forgetting, of irreverence and wilfully disruptive discovery, is also discussed by Momus in an essay on the Stockhausen stutter.)
So, this will be the year that I go fully digital: I, who work in web technologies and know ten programming languages and should have tried this long ago! But it’s only now that all of this isn’t merely possible, but easy. I now have a Last.fm account; I bought my first download with In Rainbows; I’ve caught up on ripping the remainder of my CDs, hopefully in time for the ridiculous laws on the matter to change. I may even—briefly—lift my embargo on Amazon to try their service just the once. But I’d only do that because I can’t walk into my local independent instead and fill a USB stick up there with songs. Yet.