Later, this summer, Rough Trade will be launching a new online retail platform that, amongst other things, shall sell the MP3 format alongside CD and vinyl. It may even offer some streaming at some stage.
This isn’t an admission of retail cognitive dissonance. Up until recently, there’s been little point in us selling downloads for the sake of it; the market is defined and dominated by a computing firm that brilliantly uses music as a “content driver” for their hardware. So, why have we changed our minds? Paradoxically, we believe that if done correctly, selling download files will help generate more physical format sales. This isn’t as mad as it sounds, for the trend in music sales has already begun to support this instinct, with vinyl sales rising significantly over the past year, in what’s now increasingly being termed as a post-digital age.
As we know, recorded music formats (including streaming) each have their own particular attributes and differing values to the individual. The values of instant access, infinite choice with no ownership responsibilities are irresistible to some, whilst the value of lavish documentation, stirring sound quality and permanence are irreplaceable to others. But as we shed our technology-smitten naivety, these values become less mutually exclusive.
Indeed, for many people with a healthily balanced diet of music formats, embracing more than one format of music has always been best practice, never substituting one entirely for another. However, partly exacerbated by the deficit in credible “multi-format” retail options to-date, partly fuelled by a particularly acute era of technology consumerism, there are always those who overzealously adopt the latest as the greatest. In this instance, we’re talking about an ultra-pro-digital contingent, identifiable by their corporate-sponsored intolerance to inconvenience, duly medicated by continual mass technology updates.
These time-poor souls gorge on cheap, plentiful, easily accessed digital music (often symptomatic of a more serious digital content gluttony problem), blindly forgoing the essential cultural nutrients and rich multi-faceted ingredients that can only be found in digesting the “music dietary fibre” of physical formats.
It’s physical-free music diets, where relationships with recorded music are conducted solely through a hard drive — in what could be termed as “compulsive listening disorder” (CLD) — which we’re especially keen to reach with our forthcoming digital-physical offer. Someone suffering from CLD typically engages in frequent episodes of uncontrolled listening, downloading and streaming, often consuming music past the point of knowing what they’re listening to. Their obsession is demonstrated in that they spend excessive amounts of time devoted to digital content in general.
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