500 Million downloads…and those are only the legal ones:
Legal music downloads in America and much of Europe more than tripled in the first half of 2005, according to a report released Thursday by the international recording industry.
The report, from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, came just three days after Apple Computer Inc. announced that downloads from its iTunes online music store had topped 500 million.
After I read this, I checked my iPod to see how many total songs I have on it (3397) and how many of those I downloaded (27). Because I have a fairly extensive CD collection (I prowl the used CD stores every week) I haven’t availed myself of iTunes as much as apparently everyone else has. I’ve limited myself to the hard-to-find (Life In The Air Age (Live) – BeBop Deluxe) and the no-need-for-the-whole-CD song (Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-A-Lot…see norbiz about this one). In fact, of the 27 tunes, 12 are from the purchase on one album (Everyone Deserves Music – Michael Franti & Spearhead) which I knew I wouldn’t find used. Eleven of them are ones I downloaded Saturday night because I was bored, which would explain Funk #49 by the James Gang.
There is a case to made that using iTunes is a good thing since the reality is that most CD’s these days have about four good songs maximum on them and spending $4 on those four is better than spending $12 to $14 new (or $6-8 used) for a CD full of filler. The downside is the loss of musical community that comes from hanging out at the record shop and maybe finding or hearing something new. iPods already let us tune out the outside world (for which, I will admit, I am most grateful) but there is something special about spending a couple of hours going through the stacks and finding a gem or something that you had forgotten but always wanted to try or hearing something that the shop employees (who are way cooler than you) are playing while they stand at the counter and make fun of you behind your back.
There is also the Bowling Alone factor that maintains that we are less of a community because our leisurely pursuits have become more solitary, making us more disconnected from the world. But I’m more concerned about people becoming disconnected from any type of music that doesn’t fit into a particular niche or genre. Listen to alternative? Try some old fashioned soul. Listen to hip-hop? Add some jazz to your diet. Listen to easy-listening? Kill yourself. Okay. You don’t have to kill yourself, but at least try something that has a beat that is faster than your heartbeat. Go on. It won’t kill you.
Me? I love the used CD store. At prices as low as $2 I’ve found bands like Hem, For Squirrels, God Lives Underwater, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (first CD) that I never would have heard on the radio and definitely never would have found on iTunes. The time spent looking to find them was cheap for what I found.
…and if anyone has an mp3 of Zebrahead’s cover of the Spice Girls Wannabe…drop me a line.
That one is a bitch to find.
(Added) Courtesy of The Chemist, we present Wannabe for your listening pleasure