Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rock ‘N’ Roll Over? [Part II]

Courtesy: Gunjan Dharmik 
Anyone who knows me, is aware of how big a music fan I am! And by music I mean classic Rock ‘N’ Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal minus Death Metal.  One of my favorite things to do while growing up, was to keep visiting the nearest record stores, during my school and college days.  What made it so special was to see so many posters of artists from around the globe, look at the latest albums that were out, browse through the endless rows of classic albums and hope against hope that I might be able to find those crucial albums that I was looking for.  Though I really wish Flipkart or Amazon were available to me back then.  It would have saved me countless hours of searching.  But wait! Wasn't that one of the joys of being a fellow rock n roll legionnaire?

Courtesy: Prapti Doshi Moorthy
Another thing I loved to do was to talk to friends, who had access to those beloved foreign music magazines [i.e. Rolling Stone] and could tell me about when a new record was going to be released by one of my favorite bands such as Def Leppard, Iron Maiden and Megadeth.  Plus, there was also MTV! Yes that MTV, which played great music and gave us the latest news on global artists, till of course Bollywood took it over followed by strange reality shows you see nowadays.  I loved waiting for an album, running each week to the nearest store to see if it had arrived, re-reading every magazine interview I could lay my eyes on, where the artists spoke about song titles, stories behind them and shared album artwork! Bliss for people like me! Then by the late 90’s, the internet showed up, which gave me the latest news and helped me engage, learn and know more about the bands I had grown to love, while also discovering newer bands from the pantheon of rock gods.

My Photograph
But therein lies the tragedy. I was close to graduating from school when the now famous, back then infamous, Napster broke out onto the scene and gave us starved fans an opportunity to sample free music from the artists we’d heard about and were eager to listen to.  For a music fan it was heaven. For the music artist it was hell. Loss of revenue by declining album sales made one of my favorite bands “Metallica” want to sue the pants of Napster and their kind. Plus, since then, music fans over the years have cared less and less for albums and just prefer singles.  There’s no desire to look at an album as a milestone or chapter in theirs and their music group’s life journey.  Hence, given this state of affairs, most rock artists are looking at releasing only a song or two every few months now and not making physical albums anymore, as it’s no longer proving lucrative. 

The early 2000's saw the end of an era begin and over the past year I can see the last embers burning out. The icing on the cake is that a month ago I tried to look for a new stereo.  All the major retail outlets I visited responded as if I had asked them for something completely alien or unknown.  At one store one the sales guys told me that no company makes regular stereo systems anymore.  He added that “Why would they?  I mean no one buys CD’s anymore and everyone’s listening to digital tunes on their iPods!”

Further to this, I recently visited Hong Kong and I couldn't see a single record store around nor in my original hometown of Bangalore, which is still, thankfully, the rock capital of India.  I went to all my old spots and found every record store had closed down.  All that remains as far as I've seen are the tiny CD collections in Landmark and Crossword stores, which aren't music stores in any form.  As far as I can tell, the last iconic music store in Mumbai is Rhythm house near Colaba causeway.  Pretty much everyone now, prefers to download the latest or old classics tunes online or buy them off Flipkart

So, in short, no more record stores, no more physical album releases and no more MTV.  I can almost hear Don McLean’s voice echoing somewhere singing The Day the Music Died…

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But, there’s a light still shining in this void.  The music tours still happen and more people are today into music than ever before thanks to YouTube, iTunes and Spotify. Plus, these online channels have made rare tunes widely available once again and I have noticed that I prefer listening to most of my old records on them now. 

So, when I finally look at things, I can see that a musical way of life that existed for nearly 60 years has perhaps, when I think about it, not ended but evolved into something new that I need to adapt to.  It’s a different universe of sound that’s beckoning me.  Perhaps it’s time that I learn to “Roll” with the times and accept it for what it is without any sadness.  Or as my “Rock” icon Joe Elliott would probably say “The Rock ‘N’ Roll Way Over?  No Chance! Rock on kid, Rock on!!!” Next Take please!

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  1. Times have definitely changed! In most ways it is for the better, but there are disadvantages as well.

    For example, when buying music, browsing iTunes is much much faster and easier than taking time out and going to a store and browsing. True, you don't get anything physical in the end, but it's something that I at least don't really miss. I do miss the higher quality tracks on an audio CD, something which all these online stores are lacking in. But then again, albums on iTunes and similar are a lot cheaper than a CD, so I don't feel so bad.

    Yeah, all-in-one stereos are outdated now. They were outdated in other parts of the world much earlier. People either use component systems which allow a great deal of choice and flexibility or just use portable media players and docks. I personally prefer a component system any day! One of my long term future plans is to have a stacked up rack of an amplifier, DAC, CD player, online radio player and massive floor standing speakers! Can't for the life of me stand earphones...the consumer grade stuff is all crap (yes, even iPod earphones), too tinny and flat sounding for my tastes. If I have to listen to music on the move I use full size professional grade studio headphones. :)

  2. Interesting post, Rohan. I for one is a person who like to listen to albums and still try to buy them whenever I can. But the times they are a changin' as another big songwrite once sang. It's always hard to be in the middle of changes, like it for musicians today or many other fields where the digital world has changed the rules so to speak, but it also opens up possibilities as you say in the last paragraph. If we take a positive attitude I think we might just still enjoy all the beauty that lies in music.

  3. I hear you Munchow! Let the spirit of true music continue! :-)