False Economy

The other day I spent a couple of hours and $8.58 (including tax) to download eight songs from the iTunes Music Store. Some of these songs, like “Behind Blue Eyes,” I’ve waited over 30 years to own. Considering that the same day, the three of us walked over to Amy’s and blew over $10.00 on ice cream, I realize my reticent music purchasing habits are false economy. But I’m unlikely to change because part of the fun of shopping for me is the anticipation and the weighing of options. Unfortunately, some of the songs I bought have been on my wish list so long that I figure, “If I’ve done this long without them, do I really need them now?” So far I’ve managed by carrying snatches of tunes in my head.

The truth is I’m unlikely ever to have 5000 songs in my pocket. My old LP collection was probably less than 50 records. My current CD collection takes up less than a shelf of space. I like a few songs and I like them very much. I don’t get tired of listening to them. Never. And the main reason I got the iPod was to listen to Japanese while I do housework or weed and water the garden, not to listen to music.

The iTunes Music Store is poised to change my buying habits because I can buy one song instead of a whole album, and most importantly because the purchase doesn’t take up any physical space. I don’t feel guilty about junking up my house or the planet with nasty plastic discs. The music is so accessible and reasonably priced, I see myself warming to the trend; although, it will be a long time before I buy things I’ve never heard before, like some people I live with.

What did I finally break down and buy? The first five for feeling wistful and the last three for working out. (Although even they have a nostalgic feeling as they remind me of returning to Austin after two years without a car and driving the freeways in my second RX-7 with the music up really loud.)

  • Behind Blue Eyes
  • Sweet Home Alabama
  • Classical Gas
  • Feeling Alright
  • Fame (David Bowie, not the movie)
  • Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)
  • Here We Go, Let’s Rock ‘n Roll
  • Things That Make You Go Hmmmm….

Backdate: Letter Sunday November 15, 1987

“I am listening to, oddly enough, Olias of Sunhillow. Ten years certainly fly by. I hate to think about what I might be doing in ten years. The reason that I’m listening to this record, which I haven’t picked up in years, is because I heard a piece on KUT by Paul Horne which reminded me of it. So I put it on and it seemed familiar and comfortable.

“The trouble with listening to music here is that I still have only your old turntable and one speaker. I do have a portable CD player, but it is hard to work around the house carting it around, especially since the headphone jack is loose. Different tracks of the music appear and disappear and it’s very annoying.

“All my CDs, my newer music, are different than my LPs, but I can’t listen to them. Actually, it’s now not entirely true that my CDs don’t = my LPs. Yesterday I went to Reuben’s record store and bought a CD that I already had on LP – Dark Side of The Moon (Gene and I got that as a wedding present.) And, I bought my very first Beatles record – Sgt. Pepper! I know that I’m a little out of it – about twenty years! – but, hey, I was on a nostalgia kick. This is going to ruin my reputation. Up until now, whenever the babes at work would try to label me as some sort of aging hippie, women’s libber, eco-freak, I could always say, ‘Hey! I don’t even have any Beatle’s records’.”

Update: Christmas 2007

I finally buy “Olias of Sunhillow” for my iPod. I spend about three hours mulling over a list of songs to purchase with the $25 gift certificate that AJM gave me for Christmas. He said he knew the only way to get me to buy more music would be if he already spent the money; that is, via a gift certificate. I also buy some Yes, The Nice, ELP, and Alice Cooper–all stuff I had on LPs but never got on CDs.

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