If physical singles are finally dying out for good, then don’t expect me to send any flowers to the funeral. I don’t care about Record Store Day. I don’t even care if I never own a physical CD or vinyl record ever again. I got rid of 90 per cent of my CD-based record collection last year, leaving behind only the records I’d paid for before becoming a music hack. I don’t miss them.
And here’s why: if you’re seriously bothered about the way your tunes are delivered to you, you’re focusing on totally the wrong aspect of what makes music great.
Let’s get a few things out of the way first: the death of the physical single won’t kill B-sides. Aren’t digital EPs and free pre-album taster downloads their modern equivalent? If artwork is worth seeing, you’ll see it, even if it’s not on the cover of a CD or vinyl record.
Next: you don’t need to own music to enjoy it. I don’t sniff records. Buying a CD or 7” doesn’t make me like a tune any more than if I’d hear it streamed on a blog – great music is great music however you hear it.
If you’re going to release something physically, make it spectacular, an event, something worth owning – an idea Radiohead have clearly come round to with newspaper release of ‘The King Of Limbs’.
Do I miss going to record shops? Nope. The faceless high street stores I could tolerate, but local independents? In my experience, the stereotype is usually true: they’re staffed by socially-inadequate, sniffy twerps. Just ask Day V Lately:
If I was teenager today with meagre wages to blow, I wouldn’t buy CDs (like I did with my minimum wage spoils ten years ago) or waste my weekends in record shops. I’d download Spotify, keep my ear to the blogosphere and spend my dough on tickets to gigs and festivals. I might even have some spare cash for a better guitar, amp or synth. Is it a total coincidence that guitar sales have increased in recent years?
Of course, there’s the eternal conundrum of how you make this modern music consumption model profitable – and Spotify’s disastrous margins suggest that no one’s even close to finding it yet.
But, ultimately, the reason physical singles are being phased out by Mercury – and others will follow soon, if they haven’t already started – is that few people are actually buying them. Bands regularly turn in pathetic physical sales figures, numbers in the low hundreds that would’ve seemed unthinkable in the days of million-selling Number Ones.
Physical singles are a dead horse. The less time and effort is spent on flogging them, the more money labels might have to blow on signing new bands – the ones formed by kids buying guitars, clothes and drugs rather than records.
The View’s official anthem for Record Store Day 2011 – a cover of ‘I Need That Record’ by The Tweeds