The Deconstruction of Digital Downloads

There are several basic elements that originally went into a great recorded sound. First a microphone to capture the sound. Secondly the console or mixer the sound was plugged into. Lastly, The sound source itself: trumpet, drums, the human voice, et cetera. As technology advanced so did the quality of the mechanical elements surrounding music. Microphones became more advanced and so did the consoles. A recording console is equivalent to an audio interface (AI) which acts as a place to plug in and translate the sound into data that is then pushed into a computer.

#DeconstructionOfDigitalYeah that may be a lot of information for the average person. However when we start talking about art it must be understood that all industry is effected by technology. There has always been a relationship with art to medium. A painter and a paintbrush. A blacksmith and a hammer. A Silversmith and wax.

Behind the technology is humanity- or one could also say; in front of technology is humanity. We are creators of things. Ideas, bricks, mortar, roads, cars, records, CD’s and recordings of all kind. When something was created it was easy to determine how to market it. You sold what you created.

To restate the obvious: If I make a t-shirt, I sell the t-shirt. Now, we all know how easy it is to make a t shirt. I’ve gone into a store and chosen the design and color of a shirt and watched as the design was pressed onto the shirt. Done. Sometimes it is a more involved a process, but in the end t-shirts are mass produced just like paper cups. They are made for the average of you. A summary of what you and I and everyone else is size wise. However, beyond that there are hundreds of thousands,if not millions, of different designs on the shirts. Music can be manufactured in the same way. There can be times when a particular sound, instrument, or style is popular. In response to this trend the Music Manufacturers spit out designs based upon the trend. Keep Calm and … well think. Really think about it. What you wear is mostly mass produced. What you listen to on the radio… is for the most part the same.

Let’s peek in on a pretend conversation that may never happen:

Kat: “O-M-G”

Kay: “What?!”

Kat: “I Love your t-shirt… where can I get one?”

Kay: “Oh, I just got this at the Shirt Store. It’s from this new indie shirt company. They only sell Indie shirts.”

Kat: “It’s so cool! How much..”

Kay: “It was only $10.”

Kat: “Well, I don’t buy shirts anymore- I just go online and download them for free.”

If this were a word problem the question would be this- “If the store sells shirts for ten dollars and the rent is $100 how many shirts must Kat download so the store can pay their rent?”

I have downloaded free/illegal music tracks. I have gotten a CD copy from a friend. It may be that most of us have done such a thing and maybe still are. Technology does allow us to consume music in amazing ways. To listen to what we want when we want to without having to even switch the record or carry around huge piles of CD’s.

What’s the difference between a Digital download and a T-shirt? Your t-shirt is a physical commodity it creates jobs for every step between the idea of the shirt and you wearing it. You own the shirt. There is even a secondary market for old unwanted T-shirts.

Unfortunately money makes the market. Where you spend your money is why a store exists. If you and others stop shopping there- the store will probably close because of the loss of business. When you pay and then download a song you never purchased a physical commodity. You purchased the right to listen to it on the device of your choosing whenever you want. You could download it onto a CD if your service allows it. Then you would have a physical copy. However if you sell that CD you are breaking the law.

If you buy Adele’s new album at Target you could actually turn around and sell it. You own it. If you make copies of the CD and sell the copies you’d be breaking the law. Now all this seems rather obvious. Or does it? What’s the difference between a Digital Download and a CD? A Digital Download doesn’t create much pollution right? Well that is not true. Going paperless is cheap for the companies involved because it bypasses the cost of mailing and printing on paper, but forests are still in danger because of the energy consumption increase. Information about that is a search away.

Similarly not manufacturing CD’s may remove the pollution of manufacturing CD’s and CD players however it also means that we must manufacture the digital devices used such as satellites, smartphones, tablets, iPods et cetera. Most people owned three CD players at best. We go through cell phones more frequently than many people went through Walkmans. Those phones often end up useless because of advancing technology. They become trash or a donation. Some people recycle them; some people don’t. I am still in possession of CD’s I owned in 1996. I have an original iPod full of music that I cannot transfer to any other device because of how the Digital marketplace built itself. What’s the difference between a CD and a Digital Download? What’s the difference to you? It really is in your hands.

Photo Credit: I Am Icecream.