The Needle and Damage Done
Live versus recorded, streaming vs. physical, CD vs vinyl – it’s all about your music, for what it’s worth.
Joni Mitchell and Neil Young took down their catalogues from Spotify this week, galvanising issues of corporate responsibility and free speech, while bringing into focus some of the conundrums faced by 21st century music fans.
At DaddyPop we founded largely on the back of the (some would say) sad sight of folk ditching their 80’s and 90’s CD collections. This happened in much the same way their parents had taken their stacks of vinyl to the local charity shop or recycling as they entered the brave new world and infinite choice offered by Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and Tidal.
As music fans we love streaming as much as anyone. It has offered endless choice and freedom to discover, enjoy and share a breathtaking range of great music, curated playlists and once-forgotten gems. On balance however it has served ‘old’ music (especially established bands and artists such as Neil and Joni) far better than the ‘New Kids (not quite yet) On The Block’.
I fondly remember cycling into York with my best friend on a Saturday morning to pick up the latest 45rpm single and anxiously playing it for the first time on our Mum and Dad’s ‘Stereogram’. My brother and I lovingly built and exchanged compilation cassettes (read: playlists) to share previously unheard ‘finds’ which became part of the Ragged Glory we shared.
For music collectors of older generations, ‘owning’ the medium was a particular part of the fans experience. This has in turn morphed into a whole new tribe of vinyl geeks for whom the artifact is part of the art. Casual convenience, it seems, does not always trump curation and the sensory rush of dropping the needle.
I have always cherished Joni and Neil’s work and feel for anyone who has, however briefly, been cut off from their weekly fix of ‘Shakey’ and Big YellowTaxi. But streaming is, after all, not ownership any more than taking the train to work gives you the right to own the carriage and take ride ad-infinitum. The analogue and digital grooves on our shelves seem, however fleetingly, to have had the upper hand this week. Smugly we realise that no multinational ‘content distribution’ can break into our homes and legally remove our listening at a moment’s notice. Rust never slept so well.
As we emerge from COVID we need to support the live music scene more than ever – especially for the new artists who, unlike Neil, Bob, Joni and Bruce, do not have large back catalogues of passive income to rely on. (Second-hand music won’t pay for the tour bus either, so we pay forward 5% of our profit to youthmusic.org.uk).
While the price of new Vinyl increases, we notice more of our customers buying mixed batches of pre-loved records, CDs and cassettes. It seems each and every medium, old and new, has its unique place.
Andrew is founder of York-based www.daddypop.co.uk, helping people rediscover and collect the music they love.