In another admission that I occasionally arrive late at a party, I've just downloaded my first LP from iTunes.
Now, this admission might surprise you, coming as it does from a self-confessed iPod lover, lifelong music fan and general early-adopting geek. So what took me so long?
Well, historically I've always been a lover of music in the sense best described in Lost In Music or High Fidelity. I've always appreciated the tactile nature of CDs and vinyl, the act of browsing round a real record shop with their rarities and their unique smells (although from past conversations it seems I'm the only person I know who believes record shops to have a particular smell). I enjoy looking through the sleevenotes, and at the cover art (especially on decent 12" singles like the old Smiths singles on Rough Trade). I even like looking for messages inscribed inbetween the run-out grooves on records. Most importantly, I like being able to proudly display the CDs and records on shelves for visitors to see - it's an image thing :-)
Now, compare all that to the experience of an MP3 (or AAC) file, sitting on my hard drive or iPod. Visitors to my house aren't likely to boot my PC, guess my login, launch iTunes, and pass comment on my impressive collection of binary digits, are they? And browsing through the Library, though efficient, doesn't have the same mystique as browsing through actual records. I remember hearing a smoker on TV saying that they didn't actually enjoy smoking, but they were addicted to the act of flipping open a packet of fags, taking one out, tapping the end, lighting up, and taking a drag. Well, I used to get the same buzz from slipping a record out of its outer and inner packaging, dropping it onto the platter, setting the turntable going, dropping the needle, and sitting back to hear the comforting crackle fade and the music start. You just can't get that same experience from double-clicking on a filename!
Yet, having said all that, I've just done it. I've bought an album on iTunes, and it was effortless and easy, and kinda pleasant. The thing that finally sucked me in was that the album I wanted (Belle & Sebastian playing "If You're Feeling Sinister" live at the Barbican) is only available on iTunes - needless to say, this is a very cunning marketing ploy from Apple, especially as they sent me an email promoting the fact, and donated the profits to the DEC earthquake relief fund.
Will this be the first purchase of many? Am I hooked? Perhaps. Now I've done it once, sacrificed my principles about the physicality of music ownership, well, that's the thin end of the wedge. At the end of the day, I'm a busy chap, and MP3 is simply a more convenient way for me to listen to my music collection. Besides, I'm married and pushing thirty, and no longer feel that my record collection defines my persona in the way it did a decade or so ago. Which is probably a very good thing...