What music means to me, you and the labels…

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Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The first single I ever bought was ‘Food for Thought’ by UB40, it cost less than a pound, and I must have been about 11 years old. I still own it – although it’s a bit scratched now.

My main musical influences come from my family, naturally. Disco & dance from my sisters, motown & indie from my brothers. But most of all they come from one of my brothers. He’s 4 years older than me and throughout his life he has been a mod, punk, goth, new romantic, futurist and countless other genres too subtle to mention.

Although I did not follow the fashion as much as he, I did follow his music, specifically punk, goth & indie, and this music has stayed with me all my life.

My listening habits however, have changed radically as I’ve moved from year to year throughout my life.

Early on (from 12 to about 14), I bought nothing but singles & albums. I was heavily influenced by advertising, and spent most of my pocket money in this area. Music to me at this point was a commodity that you listened to, liked and then bought. It wasn’t until I suddenly realised that there was no reason to do this that I changed to…

…tapes. From about 14 to 19 I spent a considerable amount of time swapping tapes between friends. I hardly spent any money on music, just the very occasional album. Music to me at this point was more about quantity than quality (in terms of recording), and I amassed a huge collection of taped albums (200+).

This changed again when I left school and went into higher education. My music tastes became much more condensed and due to the arrogance you feel at this age, I exposed my self to a narrow range of music. However my appreciation of good quality music (in terms of recording), grew and I found myself purchasing more LP’s, EP’s, CD’s & singles that at any time in my life, indeed this is where most of my current record collection comes from.

But this didn’t last. On graduating, and finding a job (at around 24), money became very tight. Over the next decade or so, I married, had a family and purchasing music was at the bottom of my very long list. Any music purchases were usually compilations, with a little bit of taped radio.

But then came iTunes (in the UK).

At first my interest was piqued, but I still didn’t have much spare cash, so purchases were few and far between, i.e. zero.

It wasn’t until I bought my first iPod (a 4gb mini), that things started to change, and music started to take the centre stage again, (well a bit to the right of centre).
At first, I transferred all of my CD collection to the iPod, at least the tracks I liked, this maybe filled a third of the iPod. Then after a few months of realising what a difference carrying 300 of my favourite songs around with me meant, I wanted to transfer all the songs I ‘owned’.

I say ‘owned’, but I didn’t really own them as such, some songs were on LP’s and singles, so these were legal, however I had a huge collection of taped songs that I wished to transfer as well, these I certainly did not own.

But I transferred them anyway, filling my iPod almost to the brim, and our story is almost to the present day.

What I am presently doing is, slowly but surely, is buying (when I have the spare cash) all the taped songs I do not own from iTunes. Now, this isn’t because I feel guilty about have illegal songs on my iPod, no. It’s because the songs I transferred from tapes I REALLY like, and I want to own the best quality recording of them (at least better than tapes, I know that iTunes quality is debatable).

iTunes is the most convenient way of doing this, it’s simple, cheap and legal.
So this is my musical journey from child to man, and the record companies should take note of this. Is my journey typical? Yes, I’d like to think it is.

Note that at certain times during my life, I have been a rampant pirate. But this had nothing to do with me being a criminal, or making any money. It was do to with the fact that I love music, and I would do whatever it took to listen to music with the funds that I had available at the time.

Indeed, the music industry, allowing me to easily pirate songs, actually increased my exposure and love of music to such a degree, that I am now, as an adult, and avid music purchaser.

If the music industry, back in the 80’s, had started taking me and my friends to court because we shared tapes, our love of music would have been stifled by the fact that our exposure to music would have been greatly reduced. Therefore, at a later date when we had the funds to purchase music, we would purchase a great deal less, and maybe none at all, spending our money to fund a different interest altogether.

The music industry does not seem to grasp this. They seem to not understand their own industry, or the way which their customers have been exposed to, and bought music in the past, and seem to be resisting the changes that are now taking place, which will radically change the way we all buy music in the future.

They must change, because no matter how hard they try, we will not. This is marketing 101, you have to react to your customers buying habits, if you don’t then you are finished.
Maybe they are finished, they just don’t realise yet. All I know is, is that my children will do exactly as I have done, in terms of purchasing music, no matter what the music industry wants.


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