# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - May 2007

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 15 / 4 / 2007

Miscellaneous - May 2007


In his regular 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll', Ben Howarth looks at the demise of cassettes and CD singles, and finds in the fourteen years that has been a music fan that the more things have changed the more they have in many ways remained the same

Since I last compiled this column, the Arctic Monkeys have loaded the singles chart with album tracks, courtesy of their huge sales on Itunes, while Curry’s have finally decided to stop selling blank cassettes. Historians of popular culture will mark 2007 as the year when pop went irretrievably digital. So farewell, then, mix tapes and CD singles. Alhough you have left us, we know not yet if anyone cares. But it does make for a convenient peg around which to hang articles like this. I have fond memories of both, and if you bump into me late at night in a central London pub, I may even bore you with them. But the simple reality is this, these supposedly significant changes make little difference to our lives. In his Myspace blog, which I may be the only person in the world to have read (but I did have this article to ‘research’), Steve Lamacq seems forever concerned about the future of the music industry. Although I have great respect for the man, and his endless theorising, I am afraid I can’t share those concerns, and not just because the prospect of ‘industry insiders‘ losing their annual free trip to the SBSW festival isn‘t something that keeps me awake at night. Sure, we now make ‘playlists’ instead of mixes, and our favourite songs no longer come with a highly sought after Bentley Rhythm Ace remix, but essentially the music industry rolls on in the frankly ridiculous way we all know and love. The constant obsessive debate about the ‘implications’ of these irrelevant changes is a sign of an industry that takes itself too seriously (though, if you have ever read the Independent’s Media section, you will see that it isn’t alone in this predicament). No wonder the life of a pop star is so strange. Despite the fact that it is, by turns, considered a vibrant, sexy and even rebellious industry (though recruitment schemes for any London based consultancy would have you believe that of them too), it is actually quite amusing how stupid and pointless most of what happens inside it really is. Yes, making records and playing gigs sounds great. But, sitting in a hotel room and saying the same thing for 15 journalists in one day ? Smiling politely as a less drugged up guest on a Sunday morning TV show says things you don’t really understand ? Posing for photos and trying not to look like you spent all of last night consuming your mini-bar ? Making videos ? For twenty hours ? Playing a poorly promoted provincial festival in the pouring rain ? Does any of this really sound like fun? Do any of these things really help sell records? If the music industry really is in crisis - (and, who knows, perhaps they are telling the truth about this, and its not just part of their elaborate scheme to get the government to amend copyright laws and crack down on Youtube?) - then why doesn’t it get rid of all this nonsense? Its because we’re used to it, and no one really cares enough to change it. Admittedly, every once in a while a pop star gets bored of all the crap and throws a wobbly. If they are already a millionaire, they saddle up for a comeback tour and book a spot on Parkinson. If they are Patrick Wolf, who is the latest in this little club, they make page 4 of the NME news section and are promptly forgotten. We all carry on much the same. A decade ago, I was making mixtapes of songs by Ash, the Manics and Blur. Today, my mobile phone is loaded with songs from the new Bloc Party album, an excellent song by Feist, the latest cheerful single from stroppy old Patrick Wolf, and because I am looking forward to seeing them later this month, lots of songs from Modest Mouse. I still buy CDs. I go to gigs. I refuse to spend almost £5 for a copy of Uncut. I still don’t understand why bands record expensive videos, rather than just recording a gig. I’ve been a fan of pop music for almost exactly 14 years. No one wants to believe it, but nothing much has changed.

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