Phil Gif­ford tracks the music de­liv­ery rev­o­lu­tion.

Vinyl may be mak­ing a come­back, but those CDS of yours are (al­most) his­tory.

North & South - - Contents - PHIL GIF­FORD

They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast. Seven hun­dred lit­tle records, all rock, rhythm and jazz. “You Never Can Tell” by Chuck Berry

AS AMAZ­ING as it seems, if that song – re­leased in 1964 and fea­tured in Pulp Fic­tion’s fa­mous dance scene – was writ­ten today, the young mar­ried cou­ple in Berry’s imag­i­na­tion might still be danc­ing to records.

Vinyl is mak­ing a brave lit­tle come­back. But Berry was a ra­zor-sharp ob­server of so­ci­etal norms, and if he were alive today, it’s much, much more likely he’d write, “They had a hi-tech iphone, boy, did they let it blast. Seven hun­dred lit­tle playlists, all rock, hip-hop and jazz.”

How we lis­ten to music and how we buy it in New Zealand have changed dra­mat­i­cally in the past 10 years. Ki­wis now get 73% of their per­sonal music on­line. In con­trast, in 2008 we picked up 85% of our music in a phys­i­cal form, mostly on CDS. But CDS are now head­ing the way of cas­sette tapes, which were the first prac­ti­cal for­mat that al­lowed music nerds to record their own favourite tracks off vinyl at home.

In its early 1990s hey­day, British music magazine Mojo devoted three pages an is­sue to sug­ges­tions for C90 mix-tapes, based on (I’m not mak­ing this up) such ti­tles as, “The 22 great­est bass

parts in his­tory”.

None of us knew it at the time, but when the first com­mer­cial CD, The Vis­i­tor by Abba, was re­leased in Oc­to­ber 1982, tapes were ba­si­cally doomed. By the start of the 21st cen­tury the cas­sette tape was dead, and vinyl looked on its last legs.

CDS had a lot go­ing for them. You could record on them at home. They didn’t un­spool like tapes or be­come more scratchy ev­ery time you played them, the way a vinyl record does. With 80 min­utes of record­ing time, one CD could ac­com­mo­date a vinyl dou­ble al­bum. And record com­pa­nies soon re­alised how cheap it was to reis­sue al­bums on CD, be­cause the stu­dio costs had been cov­ered years be­fore.

For a golden pe­riod in the 90s, you could buy on a CD al­most ev­ery al­bum you’d ever missed or had wrecked at a party in the 60s and 70s. I can still re­mem­ber the al­most vis­ceral de­light of find­ing the first two al­bums by my favourite band, The Amaz­ing Rhythm Aces – long since deleted on vinyl – re­leased to­gether on one CD.

But the web is now do­ing to CDS what the shiny lit­tle disks did to tapes. Today, most music in New Zealand is found on Spo­tify, itunes and Youtube.

The at­trac­tion is easy to un­der­stand. There are, for ex­am­ple, 20 mil­lion songs on Spo­tify. You’d need to pack ev­ery room to the ceil­ing in 100 av­er­age-sized houses to keep that much music on CDS. The music li­braries on itunes and YouTube are also vast.

You can ac­cess Spo­tify and Youtube for free, while on itunes you can pay to stream music, or buy it song by song, which means you can down­load and trans­fer it to a CD, for ex­am­ple, if that’s how you still feel most com­fort­able lis­ten­ing to your music.

As a techno­phobe who uses Spo­tify, itunes and YouTube (there are many ser­vices, but these are the big three), I’ve had to ad­dress sev­eral is­sues. If you’re in a ma­ture age bracket and want to make the leap to stream­ing, these are some of the ques­tions you may want to con­sider.

I. Do I need to be on­line to stream music?

Yes. If you’re not one of the 89% of ac­tive in­ter­net users in New Zealand and don’t have a com­puter, lap­top, tablet or smart­phone, but want to lis­ten to your own music, then cher­ish and care for your CD or record player.

II. What de­vices do I need to con­nect with Spo­tify and itunes, and watch Youtube?

In ba­sic terms, for Spo­tify and Youtube, vir­tu­ally any­thing that’ll get you on­line, whether a com­puter, tablet or smart­phone. For itunes, you’re best with any­thing from Ap­ple that con­nects to the in­ter­net.

III. How dif­fi­cult is it to con­nect?

Not very hard at all, if you’re rea­son­ably com­puter-lit­er­ate. Google the names of what you want and fol­low the in­struc­tions on-screen to get the apps. But if the “web­net thing” is a mys­tery, find a fam­ily teenager (or bor­row one from a friend).

IV. Once you’re got the music plat­form you want, how do you lis­ten?

Plug­ging headphones into your com­puter or phone is prob­a­bly the sim­plest way. If you want to con­nect wire­lessly, then the Blue­tooth func­tion in your smart­phone or tablet can be used with mod­ern, wire­less- ready speak­ers. You can stream to your big- speaker home sys­tem from the 1980s via a wire­less adapter or sim­ple cable from your de­vice (Google’s Chrome­cast Au­dio “don­gle” is a cheap and pop­u­lar op­tion). Or if your smart TV is fairly new, it may well be ready to con­nect wire­lessly, so you can play music through the TV speak­ers; you may even find Youtube and Spo­tify al­ready loaded.

V. What about in my car?

Many new cars are drop­ping CD play­ers but have Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, so it’s pos­si­ble to play music stored on your phone. It’s like the sys­tem used for “hands­free” mo­bile phone calls. Other cars have a slot for a USB flash drive or me­mory stick that can be loaded with MP3 songs from your com­puter (again, you may need a teenager to set it up).

VI. What? They’re not putting CD play­ers in cars any­more?

Afraid not. It’s es­ti­mated that in three years’ time, roughly half the cars sold in Amer­ica won’t have CD play­ers. Gi­ants like Ford stopped putting CD play­ers in their new cars last year. My wife dis­cov­ered too late that the Honda Jazz she bought in 2015 didn’t have a CD player.

IF YOU’RE feel­ing a touch of fu­ture shock from read­ing that, here’s some­thing nos­tal­gic and com­fort­ing. Records are mak­ing a come­back world­wide. Gra­ham Nor­ton doesn’t hold up a vinyl copy of his mu­si­cal guest’s lat­est al­bum by ac­ci­dent. In Bri­tain, vinyl al­bum sales have jumped from a low of just 205,000 10 years ago to 4.1 mil­lion last year. Here in New Zealand, of the 27% of music today that isn’t sourced on­line, a startling 19% ( around $ 4 mil­lion worth) is sold on vinyl.

You don’t have to be a hip­ster to like vinyl LPS; they are sold at The Ware­house (Fleet­wood Mac’s Ru­mours is a big seller). Main­stream re­tailer JB Hi-fi has 14 turnta­bles listed on its web­site. And, as my four-year- old grand­daugh­ter and I have found, you can have a lot of fun with vinyl. Play a Linda Ron­stadt 45 at 33rpm and she sounds like Roy Or­bi­son. And Roy, at 78rpm, sounds like Linda on he­lium. Try do­ing that with an iphone. +

Above: A 60s night­club singer re­laxes at home with her sin­gles and LPS.

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