Un-convention Blog

Butterflies Wings and Hurricanes by jaytee11
September 9, 2008, 2:20 pm
Filed under: Discussion

Two things happened recently that have prompted me to write this post.

First off I’ve been reading up on research into the effects of illegal downloading on CD sales (don’t ask me why, it gets me through the day). Some clever folk have even tried to quantify it; if only I’d known that QL,it = γ0 + γ1Pit + γ2Yit + γ3Nit + γ4Mt + γ5QC,it + εit, a few years ago, my I’d have done things different.

Of course people can’t agree on the outcome of such research; there are a lot of variables after all, and besides we all know that 65% of statistics are bullshit anyway. Stances usually align with vested interests; we’ve gone to war on that principal, so at least we can count ourselves lucky no blood has been shed (yet).

So it comes down to sampling and replacement effects, and variation across the demographic (I new that GCSE in Geography would pay off). Are people downloading to explore, and discover, risk free, and with wild abandon, or are they taking what they can get for nothing, stealing from hard working artists, and destroying civilisation as we know it.

Naturally I don’t have a definitive answer, although I know where my suspicions lie, however, it did get me to thinking as to how much simpler it all seemed when I was a lad.

This brings me to the second recent event…………..

Tidying up.

Not very rock ‘n’ roll, but it did lead me to a long lost treasure, up stairs in the back room, where no one goes – four boxes of cassettes. Big boxes too. And in there a snapshot of some of the best and worst music from the last two decades of the 20th Century (well at least until about ‘92 when I finally got a CD player). It was terribly exciting, and I’m going to tell you all about that in a minute, but first off it allowed me to do my own empirical study. Here I had an actual, verifiable, quantifiable sample of a pre Internet, music collection, from a genuine, non-criminally inclined, god fearing, music fan (i.e. me),

This is what’s in the boxes:

177 cassette tapes;

Of which:

a) 79 are bought originals
b) 7 are bought bootlegs
c) 91 are copies

Oh dear. Worse still, the 91 copied cassettes are C90’s – that mean’s the best part of two albums per cassettes.

No more, ‘back in my day…..’, rose tinted glasses view of how it used to be – there it is, I was stealing more than twice as much music as I was buying.

So what’s the moral of this story? – well I haven’t got to that yet, because in amongst those 177 battered old cassette tapes there was one that jumped out at me, that brought memories flooding back, one that changed everything. And yes you’ve guessed it, it was one of the 91, category c, one of the ones that was starving musicians the world over, even then.

I remember the day I got it like it was yesterday; I was at Glenn Kenyon’s house. I’d asked him to do me a copy of Van Halen’s 1984 (I know, strike me down), as six years after it’s release I had finally decided it was time to check out Eddie’s guitar gymnastics, and I knew Glenn would have it. In fact, it was his dad who duly obliged, he was one of them cool ones, who worked abroad for a few weeks, and then was at home for a couple. The best bit is that he would often return from his travels with some exciting contraband – I remember we got the movie ‘Commando’ on VHS weeks before it came out at the cinema – I think he’d picked it up in Saudi – copyright infringement used to be so much more exotic.

So Glenn’s dad copied me ‘1984′ on to a TDK C90, and with Van Halen’s long player weighing in at just over half an hour, he had a whole side spare. He took it upon himself to put on there an album he’d found on his recent travels, a band I’d never heard of called The Black Crowes. I never really got into VH, but I became an instant fan of the Crowes. I guess it was around 1990, and they were doing something much more country / blues sounding than most (stuck in the first, rather than the second, ‘Summer of Love’) – called me old fashioned but it struck a chord. It was also something I didn’t hear much of at the time, certainly not on the radio. I seem to remember a while later seeing a video on something like Raw Power (which Phil Alexander used to present on ITV), probably at 1.30 in the morning, blink and you would have missed it.

And finally we get to the point…

I can’t remember how long it was between that fateful day and the rest of the events, or even any real order to it, but since then, I’ve bought four copies of that first album I got copied off Glenn (one on cassette, and three on CD – I’ve also had two copies burnt for me at various times of the same album), I bought their second album on cassettes, and subsequently twice on CD, the third album twice on CD (because I had my car broken into – so perhaps there’s a thief somewhere who is now also a fan). I was travelling in Australia with one of my best friends when ‘Three Snakes & One Charm’ came out in ’96, so we bought a copy between us (is that illegal??) for our Walkmans – we both bought it on CD when we got home anyway. ‘By Your Side’ was next which I bought, and again had to replace (same car incident). ‘Lions’ (their sixth studio album) was also stolen, and is the only one I haven’t now got at least one physical copy off, although I have downloaded bits of it since (‘I don’t know, I hear you say; ‘these picky modern music fans – don’t they understand the context of an album?’) – the tracks I replaced where from iTunes. I bought ‘The Lost Crowes’ double album on holiday in New York, which is unreleased studio stuff (filed under ‘for fans only’), and the live DVD. Their last album, released this year after a gap of maybe six or seven years, is the first one in ages that I’ve bothered to leave work early for, to make sure I could buy it on the day of release.

I’ve seen them live at least a dozen times, and also went to see Rich Robinson (he’s the one that didn’t marry Kate Hudson) on his solo tour. A friend of mine bought me a copy of Mark Ford’s solo album (the second, and for me still the best of the Crowes ever changing lead guitarists) – which I love and have subsequently bought someone else.

Better still, I was talking to a guy a few months ago, who came out with the fateful line, “If you like the Black Crowes your gonna love……..” often not the case, but in this instance it was the Deadstring Brothers, and I did. I went to see them twice on their last tour of the UK, and bought two albums. I took my mate Bob to the second gig, and he bought one of there albums too. I knew he’d like them ‘cos he’s a Crowes fan as well – he heard the same tape off Glenn 18 years ago, and could probably tell a similar tale, probably better.

Granted, the more cynical among you might well point out that the Crowes went on to be a pretty big band, and at some point our paths would have crossed anyway. Maybe so, maybe not, perhaps part of the initial thrill was finding something early enough to feel it was special; if it hadn’t been them, maybe I’d have invested a similar amount of money, time and effort into someone else (which of course I did, numerous times, but more often than not from a similar starting point). The point is I had to hear it to know that I liked it; I wasn’t going to just walk into a shop, and buy it by chance.

So what is the moral of the story?

Perhaps it’s that QL,it = γ0 + γ1Pit + γ2Yit + γ3Nit + γ4Mt + γ5QC,it + εit.
Perhaps is something about Butterflies wings and Hurricanes.
Perhaps its that we all need a Glenn’s dad in whatever form that takes, god knows if it wasn’t for him I’d have spent an awful lot less of my hard earned cash following that band round, yet somehow I’d have been a whole lot poorer.


Posted by JayTee11


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Just a little thought on the cassette point. Even though the majority of the cassettes were copies, you would have purchased the cassettes for a couple of quid for a pack. The format has a ‘value’ as such, even though it is a small amount, and if you want to use this format, there is a bit of effort involved when you copy a tape.

Even though you are listening to a ‘copy’, you have invested, some money and time into this, therefore giving the music you’ve illegally aquired more personal value and sentiment. That’s why you’ve still got em!

Downloading simply is not the same. There is no real time or effort involved, hence the music is seen as being less valuable, especially with the computer generation.

Thoughts please…

Comment by Dan

The effort part of putting a tape together is a really interesting point. For a kick off you had to physically get your hands on either an original, or a copy, and then for the most part had to duplicate it in real time (I never trusted high speed dubbing – seemed like witch craft) – so I guess that made the decision to steal it much more considered!! Presumably, if the process was easier and quicker, there would have been substantially more than 91 copies – although if memory serves, often part of the decision when making a copy was what to ‘tape over’, because more often than not something old would have to be sacrificed for the latest thing – as you pointed out, more storage space cost money!

It also got me to thinking about the amount of effort needed to put a mix tape together. For a kick off you had to physically collate all the music you wanted to use, then think about the order, cue everything up, and for the connoisseurs, figure out if there was enough space left at the end of the side to squeeze in one more track. It could easily take a full afternoon to fill a 90 minute cassette, and then hand write all the track names and artists in your neatest / smallest hand writing……..you’re absolutely right – in fact some of the compilations friends had made me have considerably more ‘value’ to me than a lot of the original cassettes I found. Unlike sharing a playlist, or finding out ‘what people like me like’, someone had taken the time to put something together that they wanted to share on a very individual basis.

Comment by jaytee11

We agree with your comments. Lots of bands in the 60s, loads of parties to go to so what better way to dance the night away. Good luck with your conference.

Comment by BeeTee

…I’ve decided to do our next release on double cassette with a 20 page booklet.

Comment by Dan

..oh, and just one copy! so if you want it you’ll have to spend an hour copying it. (dont forget your dolby button)

Comment by Dan

Normal, CrO2 or Metal?

Comment by jaytee11

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