Imogen Heap, Mason Blocks and Technological Anacrhonisms

November 4, 2005

I like titles that have three things in them. Bear with me.

Remember that 12-disc Pioneer CD changer I found in the trunk of my new (used) car? The one I was going to sell on Craig’s List? Sold it. Had it up there for all of 2 hours, “$75 OBO,” before I got an email with a phone number. I called the number and the guy said he would take it. He took my number and said he’d meet up with me on Saturday. I guess he has his own reasons for wanting such a thing. Myself, I can’t see why one would want a mason-block-sized thing in one’s trunk that holds an dozen albums when one can have a pocket-sized thing on your dashboard that holds a thousand of them instead. Maybe it’s just me, but the car CD changer seems like an idea whose time has come and gone.

Speaking of anachronisms, I bought a new album off iTunes: Imogen Heap’s Speak For Yourself. I like it a lot so far. Frou Frou fans will not be disappointed. It’s got a similar feel, even if it lacks something of the stunning aural textures and brilliant arrangements of Guy Sigsworth. Heap’s style and unique voice still really work for me. (I have Headlock locked in my own head now!) But where’s the technological anachronism in a terrific new electronic pop album? It’s in the way I bought it. Or, rather when I bought it. You see although this album just became available to me in the United states, it has been available in Europe for weeks.

One of the things I like best about buying music online is that I can browse and sample different music so easily. All the barriers are gone. I can start with a familiar artist or genre, link off to see what other fans bought, end up sampling music of a style totally unfamiliar to me by artists I’ve never heard of. And some of this stuff I like. Some of it I buy. My friends think I’m so hip, introducing them to fantastic music that they’ve never heard of. Now you know my secret. And I figured that this new way of finding and buying music would have another wonderful side-effect: it would de-regionalize music. Think about it. Artists who have only a small appeal outside of their immediate region don’t have their work promoted in far off markets, nor do record stores devote precious shelf space to their works. It takes too much money to promote such things in markets where the interest is low. Consequently, nobody ever gets exposed to it unless they happen to live in that area.

Internet-based distribution, however, blows this wide open. Or it should. Once you have a the music digitized and available for download in Germany, for example, how hard is it to allow me to have access to that link in the United States? How much more money does that cost you? Not much, I figure. It should be worth doing even if you only think you’ll sell a few hundred records in the States. The internet serves the skinny tail of the interest curve yet again. But apparently, this isn’t actually happening with music downloads. The music is still regionalized.

Why does Europe get Imogen Heap in August while I have to wait until November? Her music was on a server somewhere getting happily downloaded by a bunch of Brits while all this Yankee clicked was air. There’s no reason for it except that someone is still hanging on to the music distribution schemes born of a previous era.


No comments yet

  1. It annoys the holey f*ck out of me that I can switch regions in the iTMS, and see all these songs I want, that aren’t for sale in the US, but when I click the ‘buy’ link, it complains that I don’t have a regionally appropriate credit card. Pre-digital days, a case could be made for having to ship albums here, or press them here, and hence waiting. But when I am actually able to access the actual song file, but not download it simply because of where I live?

    Anywhere else, that would be considered a broken service.

  2. I was going to quote you, Patrick, as you were the person to tell me that her album was available overseas while we waited, but it took so long to finally get here that I’ve since misplaced your email. (Incidentally, you can say “fuck” here at SFdn, it’s allowed.)

  3. Alice Goward

  4. Chewing

  5. cheap cruises

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