iPop is Dead
ere’s another list. It’s kind of tragic, so if you’re of a sensitive disposition, stop reading now.
1. Last night (January 10th) my PC died. I noticed on Monday that the fan was a bit louder than normal, which was annoying, but I didn’t think much of it.
2. Had I thought much of it, I’d have realised that the fan was louder because the damn thing was overheating, for some reason.
3. Think about this for a second. My PC is broken. I’m a music writer. I have dozens of gigabytes of music on my PC. I have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words on my PC. I have a couple of thousand photographs. I am 26; this means I’m of the first generation where a PC really is a personal computer. We’ve had PCs since I was 10. A large chunk of my life, for better or worse, is on that PC.
4. Was on that PC.
5. Researchers at the University of Leicester claim that excessive downloaded leads to a lack of excitement in people’s attitudes towards music.
6. A friend of mine is a filmmaker, short films about racial issues mostly. He’s doing a PhD in film at the university where I work, and has won awards, including for a short film in which I played a Nazi (nice). He’s also an occasional jazz/funk/soul DJ, and we’re both big music fans and often (haha) talk about music together. After I got my iPod two years ago we spent quite a lot of time talking about the nature of storing music, about vinyl, CDs, MP3s, about the tangibility of it. About the destructibility of it. About what one would do if your record collection (“record” collection? yeah, right) vanished, for whatever reason. Fire, flood, theft. Hard drive failure.
7. I knew there was a reason I still loved CDs.
8. John asked me what I’d do if I lost all my music. I said, and I meant it, that I’d give up being a music geek and take up another hobby. I specified fishing, which I have never done but which appeals to me—it’s outdoors with little distraction and plenty of time to oneself. Of course I wouldn’t give up liking (or perhaps loving?) music—but faced with having to try and re-acquire hundreds upon hundreds of CDs (accounting only for the ones I’d want to replace), even if insurance funded the replacements, is a task I don’t think I could face. I’d buy a few back, but most of the rest could go to hell.
9. Just think about it. Online music shopping, and I don’t mean iTunes but rather certain online retailers named after forests who send you CDs and books in the post, have already sucked the fun out of going into real record shops. Five years ago a trip to London was exciting because it meant I could head down Berwick Street and find innumerable examples of music by people I’d heard of tangentially, rare dub albums, obscure postrock, back catalogue things that my local HMV never got close to stocking. Of course you could order stuff direct from the real shop, but that meant a wasted trip and a wait. The instant gratification of online shopping, the vast availability of stuff… I’d love to have a root around the warehouse. Is it a coincidence that magazines like Uncut and Mojo have thrived in an era when slightly obscure 60s and 70s records have been made more available than ever before? Has this increased availability and interest led to more remastering schemes? Recent remasters of Can and Funkadelic back catalogues, pending remasters of Talking Heads, the Columbia Legacy label… I love all this stuff. Finally old music sounds good, sounds full, colourful, and new, on CD. It’s great.
10. But having to carry a basket through a record shop (or fill an online basket) with everything I’d lost…? No way. What’s missing? Unavailable? What would you forget? Do you buy something that’s not been remastered yet or do you live without it in the hope that it will be remastered soon? A trolley-dash through a record shop would have inspired me a few years ago but these days I so often stand in the middle of Virgin and despair at the novelty stationary and badly-matched two-film DVD sets and the amount of… crap… that people are buying, and I may have had a dozen things in my mind that I wanted to get but they don’t have the first four and I can’t remember the rest by the time this existential sickness has subsided.
11. Of course the likelihood of losing your entire CD collection is pretty slim. A burglar would have to be very well organised to shift it, I live well above any potential flood level in my home town, we don’t have gas to start a fire, etcetera… CDs themselves aren’t as indestructible as we were told when they first emerged, but I was the never the kid who broke my toys straight after I’d got them, I always took care of my stuff. Still do—well over a thousand CDs, alphabetically ordered, digipaks kept separate from jewelcases (PiL kept somewhere else again), etcetera…
12. But if you’ve bought, say, a 160 gigabyte external hard drive and ripped all your music to MP3 or Apple lossless or whatever, if you’ve discarded your sleeves and jewelcases or even the actual CDs too…
13. According to people who know better, it’s probably just the power supply or CPU which has blown in my PC, and it should be relatively cheap and easy to replace.
14. This does not ameliorate the blind panic I found myself in last night when the bastard thing broke.
15. I may have lost a lot of MP3s, but most are ripped from CDs that I still own or can borrow easily to re-rip. There are perhaps 20 gigabytes of downloaded stuff there, but frankly only a couple of gigs of that made it onto my iPod and I would have deleted the rest long ago if I could be bothered.
16. “What if I suddenly wake up with an urge to listen to that Cee-Lo album?” I haven’t over the last 18 months so wtf makes me think I might now? It’s hoarding, plain and simple, and it sucks. It’s greedy and small-minded and completist and driven by ego, by a desire to hear more and know more than anyone else. It’s not out of love for music. If you really love it you don’t mind buying it and owning it, paying the person who made it and the people who got it to you. I’m not saying downloading is theft, that’s just as stupid, but if I cook my friends a meal I expect them at least to say thanks.
17. If all your music is on a hard drive, even if it’s backed-up on a separate unit or a stack of DVD-Rs, it’s much more perishable than if you have the CDs or vinyl. And how many people really do keep back-ups of every MP3 they have in a separate location? I’m sure there’ll be comments from some people who do, smug in their enzyme-clean apartments with their MacBooks and their banks of external hard drives full of episodes of Lost and Larry Sanders that they’ve watched once and will never watch again but feel a need to keep for some reason, with their hairless pedigree cats and smoothie makers and protein pills.
18. What this all means is, how much of this music that’s sitting, inaccessible, on my burnt-out PC, do I actually give a fuck about? How much of this iPop that I’ve downloaded because someone somewhere jumped a hoop about it, this stuff that I’ve listened to once and then retagged so it sits flush in my file management system as if retagging actually gave it some added spiritual worth, as if it was as good as listening to and enjoying a song?
19. I’m never going to listen to Annie again.
20. Or Kaiser Chiefs.
21. And there’s the rub, because Kaiser Chiefs don’t exist on my hard drive—I own the actual CD. I’m never going to listen to it again. And I now need to buy a new computer (well I don’t need to, but I’d been planning on replacing it in 2006 anyway, just not January) which I can’t really afford. There’s a lot of shit music, not just on my hard drive but on my shelves, which I am never, ever intending to listen to again.
22. I should get rid of it, right?
23. And wtf is iPop?
24. Annie is iPop, Robyn is iPop, Lightning Bolt are iPop, Cabaret Voltaire are iPop. Marissa Marchant is iPop. Schizo Fun Addict are iPop.
25. Basically anyone you would download but wouldn’t buy is iPop. Even purchased downloads for 79p or 99 cents or whatever, are iPop. If you can’t be bothered to buy a CD, it’s iPop.
26. Even though I own the CD, M.I.A. is the platonic essence of iPop. Why? Massive internet hype and fuck all real-world impact. Even Polar Bear were higher than M.I.A. on a certain website’s hot 100 chart after the Mercury Award finale, and they play jazz.
27. (Very, very bloody well, I might add.)
28. Kaiser Chiefs are iPop too, because I shouldn’t have bothered buying the CD.
29. If M.I.A. had done a tune even 50% as good as “Buffalo Stance” then she might have actually sold some records. iPop is fake pop, pop without the popular, pop without the songs. I quite like Arular in a dispassionate way but there’s a reason she hasn’t had the massive success that some people predicted.
30. Arctic Monkeys? The most iPop poppers that ever iPopped. Even though they now deny it.
31. What I’m saying is…
32. My PC died. I probably haven’t really lost anything. But I could have, very easily. I could have easily not bought a single CD in the last 3 years and instead downloaded everything and kept it on a hard drive. That hard drive could have melted.
33. But the thing is that I’m not actually that bothered about it. It’s NOT a big deal, this potential loss of thousands of songs. Even things like photos and things I’ve written. But especially songs. It’ll take me a few hours to reload CDs onto the hard drive of any new machine I get, but it’s a pleasant job, deciding what I want to carry with me. Most of the things lost forever, unless I start downloading again (which is not likely) are iPop.
34. And iPop, if it’s anything, is disposable.
35. Update. The PC is dead. PSU went and took the motherboard with it. The hard drive was salvageable, but that’s about it. 58gigs of stuff, 51 of that being music. I just deleted 30 gigs of stuff I hadn’t listened to in at least a year straight off the bat. I’ll never look back.
36. I’m thinking about getting a Mac.