The Decline of the Tactile Music Experience

It starts with the impulse, the want. The desire to purchase music. The spark may come from a magazine, a memory, or wherever it is these miniature divine jolts come from[1]. Ooh-must-get-now.

And today there are two options for the cessation of this particular mania: download digitally or purchase physically.

For myself, the end result is currently the same. The music will live in my iPod and be played occasionally via iTunes. And yet, I find myself being drawn to Virgin Megastore[2] to seek out the packaged goods. There is a joy attached to the experience of purchasing the object. But this is music we’re dealing with. Sound. Shouldn’t the sound be the most important thing here? Shouldn’t the physical be largely irrelevant?

I feel like it should. I feel like 60 years or so ago, record companies got Americans hooked on a drug of sorts. The buying of a shiny shrink-wrapped disc is now an end to itself. We just don’t get the same jolt from clicking “Buy” on iTunes, although we do get the ameliorating bonus of instant gratification, so future generations likely will not suffer our 60-year affliction. I’ve even heard rumors that Virgin Megastore, the last great music retailer, may be ready to close up shop. Perhaps I should revel in some pre-retail-music-apocalypse excursions. Lord knows I did when Tower Records closed.

Maybe I should enjoy it while it lasts. It’s a cultural experience that is not long for this world. Sure, dusty specialty vinyl and used CD stores will be around for a long time before they metamorphose into antique malls and flea markets. By then I imagine I’ll be 70, telling my grandkids about “record stores” while admonishing them to take off their cybernetic implants and stop pronouncing OMG and LOL as if they were actual words. I won’t even bother to mention longboxes.

1.) The amygdala?
2.) Please understand this is only a place I go when I need to find something specific that I know they will have. The vast majority of my CD shopping is still adventure-based and/or bargain-oriented. Usually at Downtown Music Gallery, Ear Wax, or the various record shops in the Village.

One thought on “The Decline of the Tactile Music Experience”

  1. much the same way i feel about physical photographs and books… images and words on a screen just don’t do it for me the same way….

    But, jewel cases and shrink wrap are plastic, and plastic is bad for a variety of reasons… so perhaps this loss isn’t all bad after all…

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