The Friday Morning Listen: Sweet – The Best of Sweet (1993)

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If I have anything to say about technology in this space, it’s usually negative. People who know me are aware of the contradiction: I’ve made my living writing software and spend a lot of time on the Internet, and yet consider myself something of a Luddite. This is because I’m not much of a gadget person. I mean, it took me years to get my first cell phone and the only reason I gave in was to deal with the contractors who were working on my house (and who seemed to be able to miss every single appointment).

Other areas of technology I have little interest in: gaming consoles, e-books readers (Kindle, Nook, ptuie!), web-enabled refrigerators that can tell me when it’s time to order more goat cheese, and those GPS navigation doohickies. Most of the time, I don’t even write this column using a computer. It starts off life as a clean sheet of paper in a Bienfang notepad, with ultra-messy longhand text written with a Staedtler lead-holder. (Why couldn’t they just call them “mechanical pencils”?)

So what the hell got into me last night with the Spotify thing? Well, I’m definitely attracted to the idea of a service that allows you to play any particular song at any particular time. Up until now, I had sort of ignored just about everything to do with this topic, including the arguments about which service (Mog, Pandora, Rhapsody, Napster, iTunes…) was better. So with the kickoff of Spotify availability in the United States, I thought I’d give it a try. The price seemed reasonable (I took the 10 dollar option, which allows streaming, sync to phone, and higher quality sound) and I figured I could always cancel if it wasn’t for me.

When researching this, I read a bunch of reviews and related commentary. Hooboy, the commentary was depressing. I managed to find expressions of the far ends of the opinion spectrum regarding digital music. In a respected financial paper, there was an article that talked about how the labels “had to do something” because they lost money every time somebody illegally downloaded a song. There were also a lot of comments at the other extreme, absolutely rejecting the use of ads in the free version of Spotify. They seems almost incensed that advertising would be on their computer, rejecting the software out of hand in favor of other, truly free packages. Both ends of the debate are full of it. The Wall St. opportunity cost model is just rubbish. On the other hand, I can’t deal with this idea that everything must be free, as if the software, networking hardware, software infrastructure, web interfaces, and mobile applications cost nothing to develop. Crazy.

As far as the idea that Spotify is “revolutionary”? I don’t know about that either. For me, being able to find a particular song will be extremely useful in the writing process. Sometimes there are related songs that I want to check out. If I don’t have the track or can’t find it in my collection of stacks of piles, it’s Spotify to the rescue.

Also, I’m pretty sure this is going to make me buy a bunch more CDs. I’ve already checked out several albums both old (Golden Earring) and new (Bon Iver) that have been on my list for a while. What? Physical media? Yeah, when I do “real” listening, it never involves a computer. There’s a CD player (or turntable), a tubed pre-amp, and tubed power amps. I know it’s “old school” to care about good sound but that’s the way I’m wired.

Several months ago, I woke up and had the urge to hear Sweet’s Love Is Like Oxygen. I don’t know where the urge came from but I couldn’t (easily) do anything about it. Now I can.

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