More and more, it seems that the digital traces we leave of ourselves — photos, songs, preferences, friends, likes and dislikes, resumes, recipes — are existing in a place other than our own hard drives. To me, it makes perfect sense that the next step for the average online music fan is a site like lala.com, which Apple is rumored to have bought. For a very small fee per song (i.e. 10 cents) you have unlimited access to that song. The only hitch (and it’s a big one) is that you have to log on to lala.com to hear it. That means no copy on your hard drive, no song in your iPod. It is now in the “cloud.” But with the increasingly full-featured music players being brought onto the market, that most likely won’t be an issue… soon, you’ll just log on to your iTunes account with your iPod or the like, and stream away. Of course, a downloadable option is currently available at lala.com, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that one day goes away.
It makes great sense storage-wise not to have to worry about how much hard drive/iPod space you have left for your music, and eco-wise this approach seems poised to obliterate the entire CD-manufacturing industry, with its attendant plastics, paper, chemicals, shipping etc.
I can feel good about these developments because I already own thousands of CD’s and vinyl records. It’s as if I’ve hoarded this manna-music for years, knowing that the day will come when the product won’t be quite as filling, quite as immersive an experience. No gatefold covers upon which to gaze while listening to the tunes; not even a skimpy hard-to-get-back-in-place CD booklet insert. It’ll all be up in the cloud, giving us an awe-inspiring selection 24/7, but I’m not the first to admit that the prospect has taken some of the romance out of being a music fan.
Of course, it should all be about the moment when you close your eyes and listen – a great song is a great song is a great song, no matter the delivery system. But still…
And where does this all end? Could all your stuff be wiped out in some kind of massive domino-effect server crash? Does that make anyone nervous?
Ah, the simple pleasures of flipping on a vinyl LP and enjoying the music that needs no buffering, no compression, no wait time. It’s a welcomed respite from my fascination with lala and 8tracks and the like.