Good times bad times

I took home a copy of Mega Man 9 and a debug Xbox 360 last night so I could savor the game over a long weekend…and when I booted it up this afternoon, I saw the Red Ring of Death. I think this confirms the theory that the RROD only appears at the absolute moment you least want it to.

But it all worked out, because I ended up returning to the office to grab a replacement system and found that UPS had made a delivery while I was away: the complete Led Zeppelin studio recordings box set. I’m trying not to spend money at the moment, but Amazon had this set as its random super-cheap item of the day and I figured there is no way I will ever again find the band’s complete works for $6 an album. Even if I disregard the existence of In Through the Out Door and Presence (like any sentient being should), that’s still only eight bucks per. And best of all, it’s strictly studio, which means no interminable drum solos. There are no down sides, really.

I was sort of surprised to realize when I ordered the set that I don’t actually have a single Zeppelin tune in my 60GB music library. Not a one! Then I remembered that my brother and I owned the band’s old “best of” box set, back in the days when box sets were new and awesome…and music came on cassettes. (It’s been a while, see, because I’m old.) I guess once we phased out our tape collection, I never quite got around to replacing the box set with individual albums. But hey, it’s been 15 years. I suppose it’s time.

I really do miss box sets, though. Back in the days before music was a commodity to be swapped for free on the Internet, those sets were dense treasure boxes full of music by bands I sometimes didn’t really even know — an opportunity to discover something new and amazing through total immersion. But they were pricey enough that they had to be enjoyed sparingly. I realize this makes me sound like a stupid old fart, but I really think the ease of filing sharing does a disservice to music appreciation. It has nothing to do with legal or moral issues, though; what I’m talking about is the sense of commitment that investing in an album or compilation was for me when I in high school. Music was relatively expensive in those days, so I had to pick and choose my selections carefully. Sometimes I didn’t really get my money’s worth — but when I did, when I bought an album unheard based on an intriguing title or artwork or a desire to learn more about a given band and discovered something unexpectedly phenomenal, that music stuck with me forever.

Someone, please tell me that this sense of risk and reward still exists in the realm of music appreciation, or I will be forced to recognize what a fossilized old fart I am and be sad.

23 thoughts on “Good times bad times

  1. I agree. As music becomes more commodified it becomes more disposable. When you buy an album you LISTEN to it. At least a few times before you disregard it. Whereas even legal downloads, you may listen once, or not even in its entirity before moving on. There is also something ephemeral about having the liner notes

  2. I totally agree, and the same goes for movies and games. I’ve really tried to stop pirating altogether because I honestly enjoy the great things more when I’ve invested money in them.

  3. Agreed with chud on liner notes. Don’t know why, but I just like reading those things. The other reason I’m not totally comfortable reason with digital download yet is the fact that almost no one does lossless rips. Until then, I’m perfectly happy getting discs and ripping them myself to whatever quality I want.

  4. It’s a double-edged sword: in the ‘old days,’ music really was more of a hobby, and the folks who pursued that hobby were necessarily truer patrons of the art. Nowadays, everybody and his grandma has an iPod; the increased listenership probably lowers the average quality of music that’s produced (since pop music sells), but it also gives many more people the opportunity to try their hands at music-making. So I guess your preference depends on how elitist you are.

  5. Just come live here in Australia.. we all have download limits (anything from 2GB to 150GB) so downloading something is still something to pause and consider the possible cost.

    Of course, an mp3 is relatively tiny, so it still doesn’t matter. So maybe you should go back to dial-up for purchasing music..

  6. I’ve got a few questions about Megaman 9 for the Xbox Live Arcade version – how does the save system work? Does it require you to restart from the beginning once you lose all your lives? Does it allow you to save? Can you redo levels after you have completed the game, like a Game+ mode?

  7. There is definitely a direct correlation between the excitement of product X and the cost of acquiring it. When something loses value (monetary or otherwise) the enjoyment is equally diminished in some way. Not that raising prices on consumer goods makes them “better,” simply the experience of purchasing that product has more meaning in some way.

    When I worked in a movie theater, I saw movies for free constantly. It changed the way I looked at movies because I didn’t have to consider many factors when deciding what to watch. I sat through all of Excess Baggage simply because I liked Christopher Walken and that was reason enough to endure two hours of a vapid Alicia Silverstone (well past her 15 minutes) “romantic” “comedy.”

    When it comes to games, I think the same logic applies to cheat codes or game-breaking gliches. The quickest way I can lose interest in any game is to abandon the struggle of acquiring whatever-it-is the game offers you. That’s not to say I didn’t still play the shit of Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin after I exploited the mission glitch to make myself a maxed-Gold Ring wearing millionaire, but I could feel the loss of tension.

  8. I still buy CD’s in 2008. I’m a (wayward) sound engineer, so the notion of acquiring digital files that are pre-wrapped in lossy compression really bothers me. Don’t get me wrong, MP3 and AAC files sound great when they’re made from a modern encoder at a decent bitrate, but their weaknesses get unmasked when you decompress them and try to work with them. If you start from lossless or uncompressed, be it FLAC or Apple Lossless or CD audio, you can make an AAC file and a Vorbis file and they’ll both sound great; but if you start with one of those three files and try to convert it into one of the others, the second file will sound like ass.

    That’s why I never understood why audiophiles like to make 320kbps MP3’s. They don’t sound discernibly better than a file at around 200kbps (if the encoder is good). You get the same negative of being locked in by lossy compression, plus the added hit of the files taking up too much space.

    Also, I like liner notes, and I get a shamefully materialistic satisfaction in adding a disc to my shelf. My shelf is a physical manifestation of my listening tastes and experiences, so buying more plastic is actually an act of self-expression… right? Sigh.

  9. The problem with digital downloads – legal or not – is the death of the ‘album.’ When CDs are finally stopped being produced, and we’re all listening to mp3s, the sense of an album will be gone. Used to be, you buy a CD because you liked a song. Then you listen to rest of the CD and like/dislike it.

    Now, we hear a song that we like, and DL it. And that’s it.

    Obviously, this applies to pop music more than anything else, and it’s not like there’s a ton of good pop people will be missing anyway…. but still! The principle.

    I’m actually not big on owning CDs anymore, simply because they take up too much space, but if I choose to steal from the internets, then I steal the whole album! The artist would prefer it that way.

  10. This is the exact reason I don’t buy singles off iTunes. I still want the full album, and I want it as a physical disc so I have to really LISTEN to it.

  11. You guys have saved Christmas.

    feitclub, youve pretty much just described how I feel about video games, which is a large reason I’ve sold off everything I don’t absolutely love and will only buy games I truly want from now on.

  12. The biggest problem with the pick your own adventure nature of downloading a single song off iTunes really only lends itself to songs that are complete wholes. The idea of an album as a cohesive whole is changed.

    The Mars Volta’s albums have always been this way. Single compositions spread over four or five tracks. You lose that if you only pick up one or two of them.

  13. I’ve largely stopped buying CDs now that I have a subscription music service, but it hasn’t changed how I listen to music at a fundamental level–I still get complete albums and put them into rotation for at least a couple weeks before looking for more. The big difference is that I can listen to a lot more music now, with a lot more variety. I think there is some loss of value when I don’t have the risk of paying per album, but it’s allowed me to discover a ton of great music I’d never have considered otherwise, so I think it’s a net gain.

  14. I concur JP! I have subscription music service, and while I find it to be great, like getting all the new albums of any given week, I rarely find myself listening to all if any of them… Where as when I buy a record at the store (yes, I mostly buy Vinyl, sometimes a CD like Dig! Lazarus Dig!) I listen to it in its entirety multiple times and it grows on you, you feel more part of the experience for some reason… That’s why I refuse to “buy” (subscription service not included!) Digital Audio Files… (I have the same problem with the Downloadable games from Sony on PSN, unless it’s a $10 arcade game… but the full price games? Forget it! I want my fancy Blu-ray w/ Packaging!)

  15. As long as the vastly underated Zep III gets some listening, then the purchase was well worth it. Tangerine.

  16. Even though I am technically a part of the whole e-generation I still buy music on CD. Maybe it has something to do with listening to my dads old LPs when I was younger, but I like to have something physical and concrete or else it does not really feel like a collection to me. Plus its cool to have like 500 CDs lined up on a book case rather than 10000 songs on your computer.

    Anyways, the way I build my collection and discover new groups is by using a combination of friends,, and Obviously I get music seuggestions from those close to me, but I love to use allmusic to read about different bands and their best albums from their careers. I can then use seeqpod to sample a song or two from albums and groups I think I might like, and then I just go ahead and by the album. Despite this filter, I still wind up with a crappy CD here and there, but it preserves that sense of discovery.

    *Also, I would like to note that there are still lots of awesome Box sets still worth buying. Nuggets, Bootleg Series 1-3, American Anthology of Folk, Back to Mono, and Arkology are all basically essential if you are a fan of their respective time periods, genres, or artists.

  17. A while back, a friend and I had a discussion about pirating games, on the DS in particular. Among other things, I brought up the point that actually purchasing games makes you appreciate them more. That appreciation then leads to a fuller experience with the games. I predicted that with the ease of downloading ROMs onto a flash card, one would never really dig into any individual games.

    Months later, we were talking about the games we had played on the DS. I had a list of a handful I had played through to completion. He had a much longer list of games sampled, but none completed. It didn’t surprise me to find out he didn’t really get into any of the games.

    This principle applies to music and most others things as well. Providing compensation tends to lead to deeper appreciation.

  18. chuckx, that’s how I was with my hacked PSP. Games started getting less fulfilling – I didn’t feel as obligated to finish it, since the game came at no personal expense (well, except for a letter from the ESA – let me tell you, that gave me a reason to enjoy that Justice League game, which I wouldn’t have otherwise). Unless you pay for it, or have the authorities breathe down your neck for stealing it, it’s just not as satisfying, I suppose.

    The same holds true for music, to a certain extent – but not really movies, for some reason.

  19. About I was wandering around a music store , and I really wanted to find a new band/artist/whatever to listen to. I decided to myself I would only buy something which I in no way recognized, thereby forcing myself into something new and unheard of.
    I am also a student who just decided that I’d much rather pursue a different degree from the one I am just completing, so suddenly the money I have for entertainment pretty much disappeared.
    That story aside, the fact that I’m 21 and can fully understand what you’re talking about in your post (especially in regards to the effect file sharing has on music appreciation) should tell you NOT to feel like an old fart.

  20. Am I the only one who pirates shit and still buys it? I pirate CD’s weeks before they come out to have the songs for my I-tunes playlist, and I buy the physical CD so I can put it in one of my stereos. That way I have the music whenever I want it.

    I’ve got Zep’s entire discography on my laptop, but I still own most of their “real” CD’s.

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