In a world completely transformed by electronics and technology, music—numbering among numerous other industries—has taken on a popular new medium: the digital realm. Similar revolutions have caused many problems for companies like the former bookstore, Borders, and now record stores are facing similar fates, such as the closing of Virgin in New York City. It seems the downfall of these stores will be at the feet of large digital music distributors such as iTunes, Spotify and YouTube. Some say they have destroyed music and what it’s all about, others think that this new format is brilliant. I side with those in favor of hard copies, while appreciating everything digital copies have to offer. One thing is certain: there are countless pros and cons when it comes to the battle of digital copies versus hard copies.
Digital copies are more accessible. Songs and albums can now be purchased with simply a click and then transferred to a portable device with just one more. I can’t tell you how many people I see on a day-to-day basis with headphones in their ears. Mp3 players and iPods are some of the most popular and most bragged about birthday and holiday presents. It seems like everyone has them these days. Not to mention all of the free music to be found on YouTube and Spotify. You can stream your favorite songs straight from your computer without having to pay anything.
However, with all of these conveniences you have to question how much you really own the music you’re listening to. Hard copies of albums are tangible. You can hold them and possess them as soon as you buy them. Digital copies aren’t always so stable. Sometimes they’re lost due to a glitch in mechanics, sometimes there’s no way to transfer them to another computer and iTunes does actually limit the number of devices on which you can add a song to seven. When you have a record or a CD, you are the only person who could really be responsible for you losing it—when it’s just a file on your computer, it’s subject to many more outer forces that may be out of your control.
A big component of record stores that I really enjoy is the atmosphere and memories they create. If I own the hard copy of an album, chances are I remember when and where I bought it. There’s something about flipping through all of those cases in all of those labeled rows that really makes the music inside of them kind of special, as if it holds a memory in addition to all of its tracks. If I buy it from iTunes, I’m much less likely to remember that experience because it really wasn’t much of one at all.
This isn’t entirely a critique of music in its digital form. I myself partake in many of the websites and companies that distribute music over the internet, and I do support many of them and their intentions. However, if I had to choose between a hard copy and a digital copy of an album, I would get the hard copy any day.
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