Tuesday, September 19, 2006

iPods are silly, says Elton

According to his recent appearance on the Tonight Show, Elton John says iPods are "silly.

"I don't have a silly iPod. I like to go buy the whole artist's work. If I'm going to watch My Name is Earl [in reference to the fact that the show's star, Jason Lee, was sitting next to him], I'm not going to just go and watch one program, I'm going to watch the DVD of the first series, and I'm going to watch the whole thing together."

As the article rightly points out, many, if not most iPod users will in fact download entire albums, and, as an iPod owner myself, I can safely say that I still favour buying a CD, artwork, tangible object and all, and ripping it to my iPod. Regardless of any nostalgic feelings I might have for the CD as art-object, or the integrity of the artist's art, I do this for a) the quality; b) the fact that I have a physical version of the music outside of my very crashable and information-destroying computer.

Integrity brings me on to my next point, and one which Elton John perhaps chooses to ignore. His comment presupposes that an artist's work is always worth buying in whole. People would be sure to download entire albums if they wanted to, i.e. if they believe the content justified it. But if all of the people downloading an artist's work were to be downloading only one or two songs from an album of 10-15 tracks, this would imply the album is more filler than killer. Perhaps this consumer freedom is great for the consumer? For once, the consumer can decide what she buys, and yes, this is a good thing. It means that we are no longer forced to part with more money than our musical tastes dictate. All of a sudden, this does not seem so silly.

If John is worried about artists' incomes, the point is similarly moot. People are put off the idea of buying an entire album they won't like. but one song they love for less than £1 / $1? That's far more palitable, and it's money in the pockets of the artist where it wouldn't have been before.

However, I believe John's attitude to be nothing more than snobbery based on traditional nostalgia, and a lack of faith in the music-loving public. His association of a music player with its owner's unwillingness to appreciate a hollistic approach to music or an artist is bafflingly wrong.

Still, when someone as pointedly unsilly as Elton John says something's silly, it probably is...


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