Monday, December 28, 2009

That was the worst Christmas EVER!


That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!

Worst Christmas EVER. Those are three words I don't commonly use, nor lightly. And I am sure people have had far worse Christmases. Nobody died, nothing burned down, I am still alive and well. But three things made this past Christmas the worst Christmas ever to me:

1 The weather. This year the winter storm that hit the Midwest really ruined any plans I had to do what I wanted to do. The best I can say is I survived the storm in one piece, with my car still up and running, but that’s about the only best I can say. I could go into a lengthy diatribe into what went wrong for my Christmas this year but I am sure many of you have your own tale to tell and nobody came here to hear that so I will leave all that alone. (In short, it dealt with going to work on both Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day and having to go out in that horrible weather and dealing just about all day with that. I know, I know, things could always be worse. And they could always be better!) Best to just get past this and get ready for next year!

2 This year I just couldn’t get the time to find and buy and download the Christmas music I usually do. I was sick (I already told you all about that) then this weather system hit and so much more... I had no time to search for music on sites like My Space. I found a few songs, but not like I did in past years. And you have no idea how hard that is on a collector…it makes me wonder what music I missed out on! Not to mention the lack of time to check out other Christmas music sites to see what the offered this year and other things. This Christmas was not a good Christmas overall for me.

3 The apparent death of the physical CD. It's one thing that my Christmas was taken from me due to circumstances beyond my control, but the lack of great CD compilations this year really was disheartening.

I knew last year that they said there would be fewer Christmas compilation releases this year and they kept that promise, much to my chagrin. More and more Christmas music I find to buy is available in digital downloads only. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (oh, wait…there is…read on.)

I am just as modern as the next guy…I enjoy MP3s for their portability and apparent universal ease of use. However, there’s something about that physical CD, even if the first thing I do when I get it is rip the songs to MP3. There’s something to be said for having a product to hold…it gives me the sense of accomplishment that my hard earned money went to get me something and I have something to show for it. It’s far more impressive to show people the CDs I have in my collection than to open a digital folder and show them the files I have and tell them, “I downloaded these.” Oh, sure...I could burn those MP3s I paid for to a CD-R. Yeah, CD-Rs don't quite cut it either.

You tell people you downloaded all your music and it cheapens the product you paid good money to get. I don’t know if it’s just the assumption that downloaded=stole...uh, I mean "received" music for free in the minds of many or what but I never get the same response in telling somebody I have digital files that I get when I show them the cool and rare CDs I have. Even the average person knows there's just something about the physical CD that a digital download can NEVER replace.

Not to mention I can often tell stories how I came across the rare and hard to find CDs and what it took to acquire them into my collection but digital downloads? “Oh, I found this at a website and bought it.” Oh, that’s interesting. There are some CDs I own that once I pick the case up and see the cover art I have instant memories of how I came across the CD. Sometimes it’s not just as simple of driving to Best Buy and buying it. Sometimes there’s more involved and I have to say my memory gets fuzzy with the digital downloads. Where did I find that MP3? Shoot if I can remember. Online somewhere, who cares? Cheapened product...

It goes beyond that for me. Having suffered a hard drive crash twice in the past year there is something to be said for having the physical copy. It’s like insurance that you have a back up of those songs. If I lose MP3s I ripped from CDs I own, I rip the MP3s again and get on with my life. If I lose MP3s of digital albums I paid for online, for the most part I am screwed.

In the past decade we saw the apparent death of the CD, and predictors of trends to come predict that it will just get worse in the next decade. I am optimistic. OK, maybe CDs will die but I don’t think it’s just going to be hard drives and Ipods either. I believe that MP3s are like the 45s of the 50’s. Just as 45 records gave birth to high fidelity vinyl records and improved sound quality that, to this day, remains unravialed with digital media (which is why we are seeing a renewed interest in vinyl) I think the sound quality of MP3s will no longer be acceptable in the next decade and will perhaps give birth to a new way to listen to music and still enjoy conveience and portability.

MP3s compress the sound and if you have a high enough quality MP3 you don’t really notice the loss in quality, but if you get a chance to hear uncompressed music you notice the improved quality. With Blu-Rays replacing DVDs we have discs with uncompressed sound replacing discs with compressed MP3s. Would I notice the lack of sound quality on a DVD by itself? No…DVD sounds great and served its purpose of superior home entertainment for more than a decade for a reason. Until you put the Blu-Ray in the player and hear the difference then suddenly it’s crystal clear which is superior.

A part of me hopes for the death of MP3s in the next decade. While they will still have a place and won’t go away, with improved storage capabilities in our digital media we can have room for uncompressed music files. And with the renewed interest in vinyl and people hearing uncompressed sound on Blu-Ray disc I think it's only a matter of time before people realize these digital albums they are downloading sound like crap and they are NOT getting their money's worth. And perhaps…just perhaps…a new format will come around that will showcase this “new” uncompressed digital sound for music like Blu-Ray did for movies and we will enjoy a resurgence in physical copies and in enjoying uncompressed music.

At least I can always hope.

For now, digital albums do not give me the opportunity to listen to that music uncompressed and there is a greater chance if I lose the files I lost the music for good. Even backing it up can be unreliable. I know somebody who had all their MP3s backed up on an external hard drive, they were moving, they dropped the external drive in the process, the drive broke and all that music was lost for good. Like I said previously, with my CDs even if my backed up MP3s get corrupted or lost, I still have the original discs. It makes me reluctant to throw my hard earned money at these so-called Christmas albums available only for download because I am not getting the full audio experience I would from a physical copy. Even if I choose to rip the songs from that physical copy to MP3 at least I can still enjoy the full audio fidelity of those songs when I want to.

(Is it ironic that I would be commenting on the lack of sound quality in MP3s on a MP3 blog? Perhaps so…but my hope is that my MP3s inspire you to go out and purchase the music featured here and listen to it uncompressed!)

I am honored and humbled to see some new numbers on my followers list. I promise to be back soon with more Christmas music. I know I said that before, but this time I mean it. Now I got all this out of my system, it's time to get back to the music.

And I hope what I have to say about digital downloads hits home with some of you. I know there are people who read this blog who prefer the physical copy of music. And for those of you who don't...well, I hope I gave you some food for thought.

6 comments:

stubbysfears said...

The mp3 IS being replaced. Sort of. By other digital formats that compress less, like FLAC (which my system doesn't recognize).

Sadly, for a multitude of reasons (including ecology concerns), hard copy is all but dead and Dr. Johnny Fever will be pulling the plug for good any day now. Oh, sure, they'll make a few collector's discs (vinyl, CD, whatever) to momentarily placate the older collector like myself. They'll make fewer and fewer and charge more and more. We've now gotten over the ridge and the future looks pretty clear from here.

It's a terrible sucky thing, but nothing's going to change it at this point.

I'll give you one big reason it sucks. My computer died a few weeks ago. All that download music I paid for or downloaded free...hundreds of hours of it...it's gone, most likely never to be replaced.

Back up? Psssh. Like anybody really does that. I've worked for businesses that employ thousands of people and they don't back up their stuff. What makes you think the average guy downloading a few free Christmas tunes is going to back stuff up?

Sure, you'd have a CD player eat the occasional disc or you'd accidentally break a vinyl record now and then, but (short of a fire or other disaster) you aren't likely to lose your entire hard copy collection in one seemingly random moment of fate.

Like anything else, they've traded quality for other concerns (price, portability, etc). And very few people will ever notice or care.

Wings said...

I hope, next year, you have the Merriest Christmas of all!

sumogrrl said...

You are so right! The physical feels more real, sounds more real, and truly IS more real when the digital version goes to that big hard-drive-crash-yard in the sky.

Hope you find more great sounds to have and HOLD in the new year!

And thanks for the great stuff!

Diane

Scott Carr said...

Amen, brother. I hope that you got some Christmas music in the mail -- even if some of it arrived after the fact this year + that next year will be much better!

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Anonymous said...

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