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Vox on...Buying Music

Spend, listen, learn.

If there's one thing that strikes a chord with the righteous nerve, it's our memory. Or lack thereof. Are we really doomed to forever forget, and in turn create our own destiny of downfall?

It goes way beyond what we could learn from history repeating itself. Look at all that we have known, media wise, and then think about where we are heading. Really? Are you sure about all these free news outlets, illegally streamed Hollywood blockbusters, and stolen albums? I can have them all? Or have we finally lost the plot completely?

From where we're sitting, in a low-lit room at the end of another long day spent drowning in a disastrous sea of MP3s, the answer to the last question is yes. But, as a forthcoming conference in Manchester states: the music industry is booming, it's the record equivalent dying.

For those confused by this proposition, basically we're now overrun with acts, artists, DJs and producers. There's more music getting made than ever before, by default meaning that more quality is being created. It's just near impossible to see beneath the surface quagmire.

Without labels and management, there will be no releases. Without PRs, journalists won't know what's going on from reliable sources, and without the press, people will be left foraging forums for information. More so, these are businesses. That means livelihoods are at stake far removed from the imagined world of champagne and cocaine on a Monday brunch break, followed by sex in the back of a Bentley.

There is room for free content, and God knows the ivory tower constructed by many magazines and newspapers was ready for reduction. But that's the point- plurality is key to everything we enjoy. In short, without choice, there really is nothing. And without paying foreign correspondents it would be a much less understood world.

Apple's Steve Jobs improvises a Karate Kid-esque 'crane' move on Google's CEO Eric Schmidt (or is it Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson?)

Thankfully the tables appear to be turning. Google and Apple both recently announced plans to start allowing publishers to charge for online content, and potentially provided a saving grace for print in the process. The main problem being that if a few titles opt in, the idea will be undermined. Who will pay for access to the New York Times for international news content if, say, The Guardian continues to cost nothing? This needs to be a wholesale decision.

Those now reaching for the trackpad to redirect their browsers should stop for a second. Of course, we're all fully aware of the online-age-old adage “the internet should be free”. But you already pay for a connection, so is it not time to cough up for a fraction of the content accessed? It wasn't too long ago when people didn't blink at the price of a newspaper. A decade later and it's any wonder the format hasn't vanished altogether.

Back on more sonic notes, and if someone enjoys listening to tunes, surely they would see the sense in giving something back. Few own LPs, CDs or even paid for playlists. Buying poor quality downloads isn't a nice feeling, but if we all agreed a monthly subscription for 320kbps files (i.e. ‘club quality'), then surely everyone wins. It's still going to cost a fraction of vinyl, yet the people responsible for investing time and money will see some stable returns. And that's just one suggestion.

This is a record shop. Arguably the most important electronic music record shop in the world, Hardwax in Berlin. People buy records here.

This isn't to say there's not a healthy bit of readjustment being done. As with print, the colossal organisations that once had music by the throat are the ones really struggling right now. Take a closer look and there's a cottage industry bursting at the seams with potential. Lower costs, and more realistic expectations of growth mean less borrowing, and better job security. But without an income to rely on, the blood supply will be cut, meaning it would only be a matter of time before total collapse.

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