The music industry seems to spend quite a bit of time being confused about the fact that music appears to have lost its value as a tangible good to be sold. CDs still remain popular within popular culture but they're more of a legacy product in my experience. We use CDs in our cars and in various other cases where it's more convenient to have a turn-key solution but for day to day stuff how many people do you see toting discmans?

Here's a photo I took in HMV in central Cardiff recently:



I did see one person wander in but she looked twice my age and relatively disinterested.

The point being that music as a tangible thing is, for want of a more elegant expression, done. It maintains a presence in some niches, certainly, but for mass consumption?

When I built my first computer, around the turn of the century, I have been ripping music from CDs. They became inconvenient vessels of music and no more valuable than a pretty coaster. Tapes on the other hand I still hold onto and cherish. Their audio quality is fairly pathetic but there's something very, well, real about them.

I'm not trying to suggest I want to see them return; their problems aren't worth their advantages. What I miss about them is the way they were a product owned by the people. Home taping is killing music? Daft. Home taping made sharing music a hobby in and of itself!

I rather like the film High Fidelity (go watch it, I'll wait). Mix tapes for quite a large part of the narrative structure. My generation and the one after it basically missed that. Tapes were old hat by the time I was in double digits.

What I'm fantasising about is a hard wearing, tangible format. Rewritable, linearly recordable, cheap. It's all well and good sharing a few GB of files on a flash disk but who is going to listen to all of that?

A linear format though will play from beginning to end as a complete experience. A CD can do that but the easily skipped nature of it means that it's harder to ensure it's experienced in the way intended. Discs also don't exactly stand up to long term use and are usually single use in terms of recording.

Amusingly the format I'm imagining would probably need a casing that was much larger than needed. Red Dwarf joked about VHS tapes taking over from disc based formats in the future as they're just too damn big to misplace!

I'm still mulling over this technology but it should surely be feasible to create something cheap and cost effective? XML would probably factor in somewhere too...


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