Agony Shorthand

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I had my first bout of existential angst since the “Audio Galaxy” days a couple evenings ago while wandering the floor at AMOEBA MUSIC in San Francisco, looking for CDs to exchange my credit slip for. I found myself in the “girl group” section (as I so often do), and later roaming the “psychedelic” section digging for obscure fuzz-drenched acidheads, and in both areas I asked myself a momentous question that reverberated to the core of my entire being. Why, I recall myself asking, am I spending $15.98 on Volume 3 of the “Dream Babes” series, when I have just found that “Endless Mike” has plopped it up on his site for the low low price of $0.00?? Why do I need to buy the “Acid Dreams Testament” comp CD for $17, when CHOCOREVE posted the whole thing for free back in January, and where it still remains for the taking to this day? For these treasures and more you can thank the wildfire spread of record-collecting bloggers who use Rapidshare and programs like it to post entire CDs in the time it takes to write a single paragraph, tops. Rapidshare compresses a 78-minute CD into a digestible and easily-downloadable folder (much like a Zip file) that can be extracted in seconds by using a free program like 7-ZIP. Figuring all this out took me some time & digging, and was only made possible by readers of Agony Shorthand emailing me their preferred methods for getting items off of Chocoreve. But the spread of Rapidshare and the multiplying of the blogs who use it and technology like it represents a tipping point in my mind, one more profound and far-reaching than the growth of simple file-sharing programs like Soulseek or the Torrent sites.

It was an easier dilemma (for me) when swiping music from those. Typically, my M.O. is to search on Soulseek for a particular artist I’ve read about, download a couple songs, and if I truly dig it, go out and buy the record or the CD. If it’s good-to-great, but not something I want to spend my money on, sometimes I’ll “forego” purchasing it and just download the whole thing, and roast it up on my CD-burner. In some ways, it’s even easier to do this from a Rapidshare site, since the files seem to stay up for months and months (Chocoreve appear to have never deleted a single album they’ve posted). Here’s the estimated cost outlay for such a transaction – let’s say using the “Girls Will Be Girls Volume 1” I snagged from Endless Mike last week:

1. One blank CD-R – 16 cents
2. 1 sheet of paper – 1 cent
3. A small amount of colored and B&W ink to print the sleeve – 20 cents
4. A plastic poly sleeve (ordered from Bags Unlimited) to put the sleeve and CD-R in – 10 cents

Total outlay: 47 cents
Total actual physical time spent downloading, burning to CD-R, creating sleeve – 15 minutes

This compares favorably at least to the 15 minutes or far more that it might take to actually shop for said CD - not to mention the wait time had I ordered it online. Do you think cool specialty labels like ACE, CHARLEY, NORTON, REVENANT etc. are getting nervous? I sure would be. When it was major labels and large indies who were getting screwed, it was easier to rationalize the out-and-out theft. When the small boutique labels find their bread & butter posted & then downloaded by the 500 people left in the world who might care about such a CD, thus eliminating them as potential purchasers of said product – well, you do the math. Now was I really going to buy “Girls Will Be Girls Volume 1” anyway? Not sure, but I could see it happening, but now, 47 cents later, I don’t need to. My whole collection is filled with these sort of middling CD-Rs that people burned me or that I burned myself, a percentage of which are actually replacements for something I would otherwise have paid for. Yet as I scanned the aforementioned sections at Amoeba, I saw all sorts of CDs that I knew were out there for the taking right now on the Rapidshare sites, and I guess it gave me pause. The Future of the Music Dork in the Digital Age is coming way faster than I anticipated.