November 11, 2003
A Music Fan's Dirty Little Secret

I had a bad scare today when my portable cassette player took a dive to the sidewalk. It had been acting strange lately and I assumed this was its final act of desperation. (It was unconscious for a few minutes, but by this afternoon it was back to its old self.) A narrow escape, but now I am thinking about the inevitable. Frankly, in today's world I not looking forward to going into an electronics store and enduring the smirks and the upsells as I buy a cassette player.

I am loyal to my cassette player not because I am morally opposed to MP3s or Napster or music downloading, or because I am a Luddite who hates CDs. It's just that over the last 20 years I've acquired a bunch of cassettes that I hardly ever get to listen to anywhere else. For me it's still a cheap, portable, and convenient medium. But somehow in the last five years the world has moved on, and because I have not moved with it, the market has made me a dinosaur.

This is not the first time it's happened. I've only been buying CDs for about 10 years; until then, I couldn't afford them. Vinyl was a lot cheaper and didn't require me to buy new equipment. But it was only a matter of time; earlier this year experts were saying that the death of the CD was at hand . All will now be digital, and I should get on the bandwagon.

Or should I? Will this mean that I have to a) ante up for yet another gadget; b) pay for digital music that I may or may not already own (according to the ideas of the RIAA, anyway) or c) spend hours ripping and downloading all the CDs I already own? This doesn't even begin to address the problem of the other media I've invested in, like vinyl and cassette, much of which is unavailable on CD or MP3. And so it goes.

Most average people probably don't care and accept this as the price of progress. But for serious music enthusiasts, it's a constant source of irritation. And as a consumer, I'm infuriated by market-driven planned obsolescence that the public continues to feed like gerbils on a wheel.

So, to no one's surprise, the revolution has started without me. Frankly, I don't have the time or the money or the inclination to change my habits at the will of the market. I'm busy doing other stuff besides being a consumer.

But everyone has their limits. Me, I don't want to ride on the train in martyred silence. So if you see me running furtively into your local electronics store in sunglasses and a hat, take pity on me. I'm just a beleaguered music fan, trying to get by.

Of course the irony is that many of us are listening to recycled music, courtesy of hip hip samples or Moby or a variety of DJs. Here's an entertaining article about how musicians generate meaning as part of a "resurgence of interest in old and outmoded media."

Posted at November 11, 2003 06:38 PM

Amen - While have been in the compact disc market for a little while longer, I still get frustrated that some really great music is not available on CD and I don't have the time or inclination to search the web for MP3 format music options. And since my turntable broke a few years ago, I am still waiting for the day that Rhino or K-Tel will release some great artists like Crass, Big Boy's or Subhumans on CD. I also really miss some of the great regional punk compilations that are not available anymore except when found on vinyl at the half priced book store. If CD's go by the wayside one day, I will have no option but to move closer to our local college for better radio reception.

Please tell E. hello for me.

Posted by: Bob Dobalina on November 13, 2003 09:33 AM

Another annoyance (for me): portable cassette players almost always came with a radio. iPods, CD players et al do not, and I do not know why. I like radio, and don't see why we lost that feature when we "upgraded".

Posted by: brian on November 13, 2003 10:22 AM

Chicago kep' a callin; for Bob Dobelina, Mr. Bob Dobelina

Mister mister mister mister Bob Dobelina

Posted by: mike whybark on November 14, 2003 09:08 PM

For the record... Touch n Go did two Big Boys CD compilations. Crass reissues should be available on CD from Go-Kart in NY. Unfortunately for Go-Kart, Crass fans always seem to listen on ancient cassette dubs borrowed from long-lost roommates, and he'd probably have made more money selling patches (joke stolen from band-mate). He also did Conflict reissues, but I'm not even convinced that anyone has those albums on cassette dub. Those patches would probably sell well too. Crass just played in Tompkins Square Park last night but I found out about it today, too late. There was a flyer for the show announcing a Celebration of the US-Iraqi war with a picture of a dead Hussein son (Udei?). Among Crass-related bands, the Rudimentary Peni albums are now on CD thanks to Southern UK, but I don't think anyone has displayed the sheer fiscal irresponsibility needed to reissue the Flux of Pink Indians albums.

Posted by: Steve S. on November 16, 2003 09:01 PM
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