Wednesday, May 7, 2008
The Emulator effect.
So Nine Inch Nails released an album over the weekend.
As usual you can download it or remix it.
Basically Trent is doing everything right with his recent releases. He's giving us the choice of several high quality digital formats. He's giving us the choice of a simple CD or an elaborate special editions like those he released for Ghosts which Bractune describes as "The greatest special edition box set I've seen. Ever." Trent's allowing us to remix his entire album (not just the single) using huge libraries of high quality digital audio.
So why is it that I feel a little underwhelmed by the whole thing? Why is it that I couldn't even be bothered to listen to the whole album that I downloaded for free?
It could be a number of things. It could be that I'm 31 years old now and don't have the teen angst and anguish over unrequited love that I had back in high school. Hell, Trent even seems to be singing about the loss of angsty intensity in my so far "favorite after a half listen to the new album" song "Discipline".
It could be that I've bought ever single Nine Inch Nails CD since the beginning of time and I'm seriously starting to get a sense of diminishing returns. I mean. If you loved Nine Inch Nails in 95. All that stuff is still there to love now. They haven't pulled a Gwen Stefani and basically butchered and killed everything you liked about the band in an effort to reinvent themselves for the 21st century. Unlike, let's say, Radiohead for the sake of argument, Nine Inch Nails also hasn't really explored to much new with their music in the last 10 years. I mean Ghosts was a "departure", but it was still recognizable as Nine Inch Nails. It wasn't like the difference between Kid A and Pablo Honey.
I think ultimately what's killing my enjoyment of Nine Inch Nails is the same thing that's killing the record industry as a whole. And that is basically the "something for nothing" blues. I understand this first hand working as I do in the software industry. We are facing the same sort of problems. With games moving largely to the Console due to piracy.
But it isn't just piracy. I think it's the fact that the internet has also given us as consumers the ability to plug in and listen on demand to whatever we want, when we want. I sit at work all day and listen to shout cast feeds. These feeds are all divided by genre's so specific I wonder that anyone would take the time to set them up. But rest assured there is a radio station that plays all Commodore 64 SID Chip music. We no longer have to listen all day to the radio to hear the one song we like. We no longer have to buy a whole 15 dollar album for ONE song. If we like it we can buy it for 99c. We can make discs of nothing but random songs that we really like.
And this means the end of herding listeners into genre gettos. Becca listens to all kinds of crazy stuff. From hip hop to metal to Jazz to techno, I mean she's all over the place. And I think increasingly everyone is.
And the slap back effect is that it's hard to devote ones self to being a fan of one band and it's albums because our tendency now is to mash it all up and super consume it all.
I can't remember the last time I had a CD in my car player for longer than a couple of days. It's like I just dont' need to be that dedicated to one CD because the investment for me now is TIME not Money. And practically all I listen to is radio streams at work and podcasts in my car.
It's what I call the emulator effect. Back in the late 90s when emulators started to appear that were finally capable of playing NES games on computers everyone who was into that sort of thing went through the emulator effect. "Shit" you'd think "All these games are only 4k I can download the ENTIRE NES catalog on my Zip Disc". And then you did that. And then you played them all. For about five minutes each. maybe. The thing is, when you are a kid and you buy a 50 dollar game. You play the shit out of that game. YOu love that game. When I was a kid I had Renegade, a game which just came out for Wii's Virtual Console to universally bad reviews. But I remember loving that game. Because I HAD to love that game. I had no choice. I wasn't going to get another game till my birthday so I better play that game till my hands blistered.
But when you have these games for free on an emulator you start to get really picky real fast. Even the greatest games like Mega man and Super Mario Bros don't hold up forever. I think I got about half way through both before I fired up Star Craft again. It's like...what's the point? And I say that being one of the biggest Retro Game fans there is. I can't explain it. But I'd rather pay for a virtual console game than emulate it for free. When I bough Super Mario Bros on Wii Virtual Console I did so knowing that I had the real NES cart in my back room and that I had the rom somewhere that I could have played for free. But I didn't care. For one thing I wanted to give Nintendo the money the deserve, but there's something about playing a game you paid hard earned money for that just makes it more enjoyable...for me at least. That's the emulator effect. When I have Nine Inch Nails album for free in 15 minutes I just don't listen to it as hard as I listened to the With Teeth album that I liked less, but paid for. go figure.
Now don't get me wrong. I still buy CDs. I think the CD is the best format to get music in for the time being (maybe DVD in 5.1).
With a CD I get lossless audio, the ability to port it to whatever platform I choose, and I don't have to worry about data lost or corruption or DRM that switches off my ability to listen to music in a month.
But having said that, the only CDs I buy are mostly of bands I liked before 2000.
Depeche Mode, Portishead, Nine Inch Nails, etc. I do still buy albums for industrial bands I like...but good luck finding even combichrist or VNV at best buy. I've been forced to buy all this crap from the UK since even Amazon is starting to slip. And I will NOT buy mp3s from iTunes or some other low quality DRM filled shit service.
Reznor gets it. he sells his CDs on his site. he gives me formats I want. I'm happy to give him my money. I wish all artists did this.
Now I just need to force myself to not switch win amp back over to Space Station Soma.