A New Age or a Disappointing Loss?
When did You Last Go to a Record Shop?
The chances are that the answer to this question is that you don’t even remember, and you only have to look at the recent situation with music shop company HMV to find that you are not alone. It seems that the practice of actually going out and buying albums, singles or any kind of music in a physical sense is if not entirely dead then certainly on a fatal decline. It is not difficult to find plenty of people who defend this fact either, with the large majority who walk straight past the few remaining music shops tending to gaze upon them as if they were relics of a bygone era.
An Archaic Concept – The Argument for Downloads
These people who do view record shops and the process of buying physical albums as a thing of the past or an archaic concept if you will, do have a pretty solid set of arguments and it would be remiss not to air them here. First and foremost, the major argument is that downloading music is a lot cheaper and in the current economic climate this is often the absolute bottom line for the majority of people.
Beyond cost there is also the important aspect of utility to consider, in that most people now listen to music through MP3 or digital devices and as such purchasing the music already in the relevant format seems far more logical to many than to buy it as a physical album or single and then have to convert or upload it.
Despite these logical and sound practical arguments however, the issue of how music should and will be bought in the modern era is not actually that cut and dried. This is the case as there are a multitude of arguments that support the practice of actually physically purchasing music as opposed to solely downloading, and these spread across a variety of areas.
A Matter of Connection and Belonging
To start, when considering the relative merits of the different ways in which to purchase music it is important to understand and remember that music, along with all other art forms, does stretch to the realms of psychology and wellbeing. It is with this in mind that it becomes relevant to consider how being part of a musical ‘fandom’ feeds into the psychology of belonging, in that aligning oneself with a particular group who share a specific musical taste allows a person to feel part of something large, important and inclusive.
With this in mind then, it is crucial to realise that the purchasing of physical music and other memorabilia associated with your passion is a great way in which to strengthen this feeling of connectivity. This is the case as the physical items have been designed and created by those artists which you, as a fan, so admire and as such there is a transfer of real emotion and effort from them to you, which serves to strengthen the link between an artist and their fans and solidify the bond of inclusivity among their fans.
Part of this emotional connection can be created and maintained by the album cover artwork, which is another crucial way in which artists and bands attempt to impart their vision and worldview to their fans. This is a point which is often overlooked by people who assume that album cases or record sleeves are simple packaging and do not realise that hours of work and thought go into ensuring that the artwork reflects the artist and the specific nature of the album. Thus, it is clear to see that this artwork is designed to achieve the same effect as other memorabilia of bands and artists; to unite their fan base and give them common purpose and emotional connectivity.
Album Artwork Has its Own Value
Album artwork therefore, as well as being aesthetically pleasing and giving you an extra insight into the psyche and motivations of the artist via a different art form, also has merit and value itself due to the creativity and effort which goes into creating it.
You only have to look at the example of album art expert Richard Evans to see just how much love dedication, work and inspiration have gone into the creation of these iconic pieces of art. Evans has worked in the area for decades creating sleeve designs for hundreds of different artists but is best known for his work with rock band The Who. He has now gone even further in his love for his art form by also writing a book on the phenomena of album artwork highlighting the most iconic pieces of this type and the inspirations behind them.
A New Age or a Disappointing Loss?
This is a complex and nuanced question therefore, and in general can only be answered on an individual basis, dependent on what forms the most important aspect of the process of purchasing music for each person. If this is purely seen as a financial transaction then downloads will surely continue their relentless conquest of the music world, but if music means more than just money, and you have to hope that it still does, then surely physical albums and records will always hang on, one way or another.