It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s all-right

It’s been a hectic month ‘round these parts.  Mixtape made its NYCC announcement, and the good news was there are no other books like Mixtape out there.  That’s also the bad news.  We’re in for an uphill climb with it, but we’ll reach the summit in the end.  The nice thing about the Comic-Con experience was that people seemed to be genuinely interested in the book because it’s not like everything else out there.  How that will translate into sales is anybody’s guess, but we have a few tricks up our sleeve here in Mixtape country that we’ll break soon,

They say you can’t portray music in a comic book – I say they (whoever “they” is) are wrong – if you can have Hulk punch some guy through a wall and hear the sound of the masonry shattering, the bricks crumbling and feel the ground shake, you can do music.  You can, because there’s an emotional connection these different formats share.  For me the two have been entwined all my life.  Any time I’d be visiting friends or family in some town or city, inevitably I would venture to the main drag (or “downtown”) to seek out two stores every town had; a record shop, and a comic book store.  I was perpetually broke as a result, as money spent in both (and later, the gasoline that got my car there and back) went so quickly I might as well have been renting it.  So much of my youth is tied to both comics and music that listening to an album or digging through my comics collection unleashes memories that usually stay locked away – where I was when I first read or listened to the book or album.

I doubt any of us can recall exactly what they were doing on Nov 2, 1991 with any degree of certainty.  It was a Saturday, so if you were of high school age like me, you might very well have been at work, or at home getting homework done.  In the evening, it’s likely I went out, either to hang with friends in town, driving with others to Kingston to see a movie, or just cruising aimlessly, as is the way with teenagers in a small town.  But I can’t be certain.

One thing I am certain of, however, was that by early November I would have been counting down the days until November 19, when U2 was set to unleash Achtung Baby on the world.  I won’t go into detail about my experiences waiting for (and listening to) that album, given I already went into detail here and here.  That’s not what this is all about.  This isn’t even about the 20th Anniversary Achtung Baby set that was released yesterday.  No, this is about something different entirely.

If, in November 1991, I received a letter from my future self telling me that in 20 years I’d be able to order the 2-disc set from my computer and have it delivered to me, I’d scoff.  If I then said I have the option to listen to the entire album on my computer, through a streaming service, I’d wonder what the hell a “streaming service” was.

But, there I was yesterday, logged into Spotify , listening to the 2-disc anniversary set of Achtung Baby, comprising the album and 14 bonus tracks (b-sides, remixes, etc).  If I had Spotify linked to a smart-phone, I could listen to the stream anywhere I wanted to.

Think of that.

Think of how much technology has changed entertainment over the last five years, let alone twenty.  Spotify has allowed me to listen to complete albums from artists I’ve heard of, and heard bits of, but never listened to all the way through.  All this has cost me is the time to listen to some ads between songs.  Nothing major – maybe every three or four tracks — if I throw down for a full subscription I don’t get the ads, and can listen to music on any mobile device I want to.  Same with Hulu, which has taken up a good chunk of my TV viewing.  With my computer linked to my HDTV with an HDMI cable, it’s almost as good as regular TV.  Plus, I get to watch what I want when I want to watch it. It’s certainly convenient.

But convenience isn’t everything, and it does not trump quality.  The fact I can stream Achtung Baby doesn’t mean I cancelled my order for the 2-disc CD set.  Hulu is great if I missed a show, but if given the choice of watching a streaming video or broadcast quality Hi-Definition, I go for the latter every time.  With music, I like having the best sound possible, and for me, the best possible is the CD in my stereo, with me listening through a good set of earphones.

Netflix is something else I get a lot of use from, and pay for the privilege.  I’ve noticed that since becoming a subscriber, my DVD purchases have dropped considerably, though they still continue.  If anything, Netflix has made me more selective about what I buy, and watching a movie I somewhat enjoyed in theaters (or never saw to begin with), I find once is enough.  But that hasn’t stopped me from nabbing the sparkling Criterion Collection’s run of Powell-Pressburger classics, or rub my hands with glee as I await the arrival of Island of Lost Souls, The Killing and Peeping Tom.

The best streaming video is still VHS quality.  The best streaming audio or MP3 is like listening to your car radio circa 1993.  And while Spotify has enabled me to listen to many albums, I’ve bought a good chunk of what I’ve listened to subsequent to that – Ziggy Stardust, Horses, Unknown Pleasures, and so on.  Some would argue that David Bowie, Mick Jagger or Bono can do without my money, but that’s the tricky thing about having principals – they require you to stand by them when it isn’t convenient.  Yeah, Bono’s a rich guy and can probably absorb the hit — but what of the people who work for him?  What about the guy working the ever diminishing record shop making eight bucks an hour?  It goes on from there.  The comic shop.  The publisher.  The illustrator.

Apparently there’s a rumor that the CD is going bye-bye, that the record industry is dropping the format by the end of 2012 and will be moving to a “download only” format, effectively killing the album as we know it.  I find that hard to believe, for while sales of CDs are down, they still earn enough of a profit.  And with sites like Spotify perpetuating themselves (some legal, many not), can’t accept that the industry and its artists would be so quick to drop something that still turns a profit.  There remains an emotional connection to music that an MP3 can’t make – who’s going to get all nostalgic for “the time I downloaded that audio file that I had to back up to CD anyway because my computer met its planned obsolescence and burned out”?

Music is memory, and it’s the linchpin of Mixtape.  Please visit the FB page and become a fan for more images, info, contests and that sense of community that music and comics share.



2 thoughts on “It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s all-right

  1. “Rumours” about CD demise? Well I doubt they will be gone by the end of 2012, but certainly I believe they are on the way out. As in the days with the store was the Vinyl Vendor, I still deal mostly with a student crowd, and they DO NOT by CD format. I am back to stocking lots of vinyl, which to me was always a more tangible format, and only get the occasional CD order, and mostly to people 40 and over.

  2. Vinyl, huh? What’s old is new again I see. While the CD will not be as missed, I think we do miss something by not having that shared experience we once got from buying physical media. Then again I probably sound like an old fart.

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