steven and sean at pac bell park

psychological cost

My friend Charlie has a piece on the band Enon in the Phoenix New Times, wherein he makes the following comment:

Whatever else you want to say about the Recording Industry Association of America's strategy in suing its target market, at least it has the virtue of restoring the psychological cost of music consumption. Time was, you had to labor long and hard to decide which record to take home. A mistake could ruin your day, week or month. But the process of deliberation and the gap between purchases made the music you liked sound sweeter. The triumphs took the form of albums you bought, hesitantly, for the singles, only to discover that other songs were even better. In destroying this simple pleasure, the rise of file sharing and its legal substitutes has irrevocably changed our feelings about music.
I can't say I agree with Charlie's "no pain, no gain" theory of music appreciation. Well, I think I see where he's coming from ... it's similar to something I mused over awhile back, wondering if I took my kids on too many excursions to the ballpark when they were young. Maybe if you've got 10,000 songs on your hard drive, you don't appreciate that one really good song as much as you would when that one really good song is the only thing you've got.

But let's break down what he's saying here. "You had to labor long and hard to decide which record to take home." When I was a kid, you could play the record in the store before you decided whether or not to buy it; that was part of the long and hard labor. Me, I've always been a sucker for critics' commentary, so part of my long and hard labor is to read the reviews of writers like Charlie that I respect. All I'm saying is that I understand about the long and hard labor. But I don't see how things are different now. I think "I'd like some new tunes" ... I decide to put in some long and hard labor deciding which tunes I'll get ... I download a bunch of stuff and listen to it ... at the end, I find that the one song that first got my attention isn't as good as three other songs on the same album, and with that simple pleasure in mind, I buy the album. How is this bad, or even different, from the long and hard labor of the past?

Ah, here it is: "A mistake could ruin your day, week or month." I remember those days v.well. But I can't say I miss them. Now, you make a mistake, you erase it from your hard drive. When you finally spend your hard-earned money, you have a lot better sense that you're not making a mistake with your purchase. That's a GOOD thing.

Me, I don't want to suffer a psychological cost as a price for enjoying music. I just want to enjoy it. Tools that make enjoyment easier are alright with me.