Monday, April 9, 2012

File Sharing--Good Riddance

Disclaimer: A lot happened while I took my lengthy hiatus from unsolicited Interhole music criticism and random philosophical waxing.  This is a piece that I meant to write a month or so ago, after the great Mediafire purges were executed, thus putting an end to our way of online Interbung piracy for almost two days.  I know that Mediafire is still up and running, and like you, I'm likely to use it again to find out just how much the newest Black Dahlia Murder album sounds like the old Black Dahlia Murder albums, to which the answer is always "exactly."


Well, it's finally happened, ladies and gentlemen (I don't know who I'm kidding with that crack about ladies.  No ladies read this stupid blog).  Our fair government, whose wisdom and foresight gave us outstanding institutions like the Department of Motor Vehicles and our public school system, has finally brought about the end of a way of life for us creepy Interhole lurkers.  They swooped in with cudgels and chains and LITERALLY BEAT OUR LIFESTYLE TO DEATH.  It seems that Mediafire has been the subject of a Great Purge, having all pirated and shared music deleted from the site, dealing our scene a death blow and rendering the internet only useful for finding the most disgusting and degrading kinds of pornography imaginable.  It's like the 90's again!  Only our modems are now superpowered, and we can find out in the blink of an eye how disappointed we are with any given celebrity's sextape.  Such an Orwellian concept as a Great Purge seemed impossible in our lifetime, but it seems that our insane government, hell bent on capitalism and arguing rather than adequately educating our young people (or any number of useful services they're actually supposed to be providing) have decided that YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO DOWNLOAD TRAGEDY'S DEMO TAPE WITHOUT PAYING FOR IT.

Does that terrify you?  Are you frightened that you can't just go download the new Decapitated album?  Well, don't be.

I'm here to tell you that file sharing was a plague on our scene, and as for its demise, I have this to say in eulogy: "Good riddance."

I've spent the last couple of months in a musical funk.  It's a major reason why I haven't been updating this blog recently.  I simply haven't been listening to anything new.  Perhaps, in my advancing age, I'm becoming curmudgeonly, my cantankerous nature beginning to take a hold of my life in places where there used to be good-natured teenage frivolity and super lame power metal jamz that my friends and I still bust out when we've crossed the line from "night with bros and beers" to "a bunch of guys decided that having their wives on speaking terms is overrated, so let's get hammered."  And my increasingly visible Angry Old Man persona has taken umbrage with the latest trends in music, from the amazing Technicolor designs utilized by bands whose main fanbases are goofy pubescent boys with giant plugs in their ear lobes and taste in music that is as disingenuous (and irony based) as a reality television wedding to anything involving skinny jeans.

And I always wonder if anybody whose build isn't "Third-World disheveled" realizes that they can't wear skinny jeans?  But I've had delusions about myself, too (which explains why I used to wear sideways baseball caps and the baggiest khaki pants available in order to look like a Real Skateboarder.  Oh the early 90's), so I won't throw stones.

Aside from the obvious Old Man trapping of "not understanding what's cool and hip these days" (read: black metal, doom, any version of noise, and generally anything that college students or younger listen to), I contend that the file sharing revolution that we experienced in the last couple of years was, in fact, a detriment to our scene at large.  I believe that file sharing supports and promotes entitlement among people, our scene, and young people especially.  Think about it: when something is perfectly free and can be accessed infinitely for the price of finding a connection to the Interhole at your local Starbucks or by hitting up a Homeless Hotspot, why should you not just have everything?  Why should you not just have any random album that has been posted in the handy form of a .RAR file, waiting to be unzipped like a slutty woman's leather pants?  I've seen it too many times, when I'm hanging out with someone and the question gets asked.

"Have you heard the new [band] album yet?  It's really good."

"I haven't heard it.  Hold on; we'll listen to it right now.  [Frantic typing at keyboard] You know, I've been thinking of shaving my pubic hair, just getting rid of the whole fucking mess...oh, here it is.  The new [band] album."

Then we're listening to the album.  Sounds good, but the ugly side comes around when the album can't be found immediately or if the file that was shared was corrupted or incomplete.  Then the last sentence goes:

"...I've been thinking of shaving my pubic hair, just getting rid of the whole fucking me...what the fuck?  WHAT THE FUCK?!?  WHY ISN'T THIS ALBUM AVAILABLE?  I WANT TO LISTEN TO IT NOW?!?"

Then, all of a sudden, you realize you've set a dumpster on fire and spray painted "Ron Paul 2012" on the side of a cop car.  Hours have passed!  "What have I done?!?" you think, launching into a soliloquy about how if the new whatever album were only available, the wanton destruction you just perpetrated would have been avoided completely.

The point is, I get annoyed when people think that they're entitled to hear whatever they want whenever they want.  It took me a long time, but I consider it about the same as hearing someone talk about how they're "supposed" to have a great job or a future of power, and it usually comes down to not being denied luxury things, and because they're white and have been told about how special they are all their lives.  But the secret is, they're not special.  I'm not special.  The more I think about it, the more I want to just say that you and I aren't supposed to have anything nice, unless your parents are super rich.  Then you can have all sorts of amazing things for free.

Looking back, that whole section of my argument made very little sense.  But I'm not going to edit it, because this whole shitstorm of an article has taken me forever to complete.

I know what you're saying, too.  You're saying "But with file sharing, you get to listen to whatever you want to whenever you want, and that's a good thing.  Why you gotta be so duuuuuuumb?"  Of course, not long ago I was inclined to agree with your statement of why I'm so duuuuuuumb.  "What do I want to listen to today?" I would ask myself.  Then I'd download anything I wanted off the Interbung and have a listen.  I listened to so much stuff, it made me feel like a real important hotshot music guy, being able to formulate shallow and vacuous opinions about the music that I was superficially enjoying before tossing to the side in favor of more, more, MORE new stuff.  Then I started noticing that all of the stuff I was listening to, though largely enjoyable, was rendering it perfectly impossible for me to remember any detail about virtually anything I listened to.  I think my biggest (read: single legitimate) gripe with file sharing is that it makes music not only endlessly available to everybody, but by extension also endlessly disposable.

I remember when I was about nine years old, I had amassed a small chunk of savings from my meager allowance.  I managed to avoid spending all of my money on Push Up Pops from the unscrupulous ice cream man who used to circulate my neighborhood, especially on allowance day, when he would make two or three passes and take all of the money from the swarm of kids that the annoying "Pop Goes the Weasel" song he had on his loudspeakers would attract.  But I managed some fiscal self control (for the first and probably only time), and managed to get a nice little chunk of money for the sole purpose of buying the new Bad Religion album, which at the time was Stranger than Fiction.  A friend of mine had happened upon it, and I became so entranced by it that nothing would do except that I also have it for myself.  We went to the Sam Goody in the mall one fine Saturday, where I discovered that I didn't have enough money for Stranger than Fiction on compact disc, so I bought it on audio cassette.

It was the most important purchase I ever made.  And the first piece of music I ever bought.

I listened to that tape until cassette players became obsolete and so hard to find that it didn't even matter that, one horrible day, I extracted the cassette from my ancient boombox and it turned to dust and fell through my fingers.  My screams and weeping filled the rooms of my childhood house until my mom told me to stop, she was getting ready for a date and needed me to vacuum the whole house.

The point is this: with music downloading, it's increasingly less common for people to find a piece of music that gets appreciated in the way that it should be.  I'm as guilty of it as anybody, and it's only been until recently, when I decided that I was done getting my piracy on, that I started revisiting music that I remember liking but that I can't remember what I liked about it.  There have been a lot of hidden gems in the mix (Hayaino Daisuki, KEN Mode, Zozobra) that I remember thinking well of but managed to not have any real recollection of.  And for every great piece that I find, I have probably three different albums that were so startling in mediocrity (or generally shittiness) that they will remain in my iTunes until my computer finally collapses like a dying star, and I won't miss any of it for even a second.

If you're like me, you tell everybody about how big a deal music is to you, and you wear goofy shirts that people always make stilted comments on.  Piracy has opened the world to us, while at the same time robbing our music, and our scene, of the opportunity for us to get truly and intimately acquainted with our "favorite" albums.  I'd like to go back to a world where people know the ins and outs of their favorite (or current favorite) albums the way I still know Bad Religion's Stranger than Fiction (which I bought on limited edition red vinyl a few years ago so I could finally stop mourning my dumb tape).

So here's a question: when is the last time an album changed your life?  Did you download it?  What does it take for you to really notice an album rather than just throwing it on the "Things I've Listened To" pile?

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