Magazine article The Spectator

Fifty-Quid Guy

Magazine article The Spectator

Fifty-Quid Guy

Article excerpt

An unusually fat cheque has just come through the post, so like most males of my age and temperament I am thinking, 'To iPod or not to iPod?' Yes, yes, I know, you already have one for the kids and one for yourself and a spare one just in case, each with your entire CD collection downloaded on to it for instant retrieval at all times.

Unfortunately, although I am as gadget-crazed as the next man, a combination of mild poverty and fantastic inertia has previously prevented me from investing in one of these intriguing little items. I don't really need it. I don't really want it. But on some sorry, subconscious level I know that I am going to get it. And now this cheque has arrived, glistening and gleaming in the cool winter sunlight and making me drool rather unbecomingly, I no longer have any excuse. The ways we listen to music are forever changing.

As Mark Lawson recently pointed out somewhere, pop fans of a certain age still regard compact discs as rather new and a bit exciting, even though they have been most people's medium of choice for nearly 20 years. To young people, of course, CDs are as new and exciting as the 78. For several years now the record industry has been panicking about what it calls 'illegal downloads', but, if you have the time and the inclination, I can imagine it would be immense fun to surf the Web looking for obscure Radiohead remixes to nab at no cost.

Twenty years ago they bleated that 'Home taping is killing music' - possibly the most pitiful slogan of all time, after the V&A's 'An ace caff with quite a nice museum attached'. The technology moves on, but nothing really changes. Teenagers still have lots of time and no money, and they will go to almost any lengths to avoid giving what money they have to record companies. I can sympathise. I loathe being asked to pay Virgin Megastore £16.49 for a new, non-chart CD - a price fixed purely to rip off unsuspecting shoppers who haven't the energy or nous to shop around. Astoundingly, the major supermarkets are now the pop fan's friend. By pricing chart CDs at £9.99 they are viciously undercutting the dedicated music retailers, and putting one or two of them out of business. …

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