JAIMIE VERNON: I’VE LOOKED AT CLOUDS FROM BOTH SIDES NOW

Jaimie 2Before we get rolling I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be on CFRB’s “In the Studio” show with hosts Bob Reid and Blair Packham tonight at 8PM EST and Sunday night at 10PM EST. We’ll be discussing my Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia books.

You can listen live here: http://www.newstalk1010.com

iCloudThis week iTunes decided to take a crack at crushing such streaming sites as Spotify and Pandora who offer millions of songs on demand for listening purposes only. You can’t buy ‘em. You just pay money to run your playlists in an endless loop (isn’t that what we have satellite radio for?). iTunes wants a piece of that action and their new iTunes 11 allows you to marry your music collections together from your iTunes account and your own hard-drives and stick them in the Cloud; For those unaware, the Cloud is a make-believe place in Cyberspace (or rather, a plethora of gargantuan servers in vaulted bunkers under iTunes’ offices) where you can upload and access your entire music collection anywhere, anytime. What I took from iTunes’ hyperbolic and jazz-hand waving news release was this:

Sleazy salesman pointing“Hey, look at how convenient it will be to access all your music (and videos) that you’ve collected for decades, and have handed to us for complete and infinite control. Don’t mind that we might report you for illegally acquiring thousands and thousands of songs that are now housed on our servers and could, with judicious whimsy, deny you access to…especially if the RIAA or the FBI decides that you might be a (gasp) illegal downloader! That’ll be for you to prove in a court of law at your expense. But hey, the convenience, folks. It’s all about the joyous convenience. What about your previously “purchased” tunes you’ve gotten from us over the years? Yeah, you don’t own those. Oops! Did we not mention that before? But don’t worry about that little hick-up in the chain of ownership….you can stream at your heart’s content!  And isn’t that what it’s all about? Streaming glitch filled, connection interrupted, reruns of shit sounding pseudo representations of the great music you know and love? Isn’t that great? Well, isn’t it?”

In a word, No.

Record collectionWhen the hell did we decide that our personal music libraries should be given back to a corporation to hold in cold storage for us? I’m sorry. This is a fucked up, counter-intuitive idea. It’s like going to the book store, purchasing books, and then going to the library and handing everything to them for safe keeping just because we can’t be bothered to buy a book shelf. WTF?

How much convenience is enough? That we’ve managed to reduce our hundreds of square feet of wasted living space in holding onto old vinyl and CD formats is one thing. But when we’re too inconvenienced to house those digitized songs on our own hard-drives and hand them to total strangers so they’re out of our hair…that’s just First World laziness.

Banker1The sales pitch is that they want to be your music bank. Just deposit your songs, withdraw at will. Wow, that’s handy. Frees up room on my hard-drive and I can get at it again when I’m in my car, at the cottage, at a friend’s house when I just have to share the new Beatles re-mastered re-masters that have been converted to vinyl and back to shite quality MP4 format. How did we ever live without this convenience before? Or Post-It Notes…but I digress.

bait-and-switchWell, guess what folks? Just like the evil overlords at Facebook who sucked half a billion people into dropping their photos and thoughts and personal conversations onto their platform, iTunes now wants you to do the same. That’s because they’re altruistic music loving hipsters, right Mr. Vernon? Fuck no. They want your content. Why? To sell back to you.

When hundreds of millions of people finally get ‘with’ this Cloud idea and move everything into the big bunker in cyberspace, iTunes will then bait and switch. It will be slow and insidious. First they’ll wine and dine you with special content deals for iTunes Cloud users. “Switch to iTunes Cloud and you get a new Jay-Z exclusive bonus pack, two Chris Brown inflatable fists with Rihanna punching bag and a Lady Gaga authentic meat dildo.”

Robot_HoBut over time the blow jobs will turn into hand jobs and eventually the iWhore program will force you to pay for access to not only those previously free perks, but your own vaulted content. Want to continue to stream your songs to your personal devices? Oh, that’ll be $2.99 a month per device, please. Want to load another 1,000 songs into your account? Well, that’ll be $49.99 a year for the additional storage space, please. Want access to that limited edition 12” Jellybean Benetiz mix of Madonna’s “Holiday” that you converted from a rare Japanese vinyl pressing to digital form, sold the vinyl to save apartment space and stored on iTunes’ Cloud service? Well, um, oh….it’s not in your account anymore. Why? Because just like on YouTube, the label that owns that song has slapped an injunction on it because they own the copyright and that particular song mix was never officially digitized and made available for sale. Madonna now wants her chump change. You can either pay to have it unlocked or suffer with the standard version that iTunes conscientiously put in place of your version – just for your convenience. Wasn’t that nice of them?

broken_cloudThis new iTunes model is counting on a technology that’s not even fully functioning yet. In fact, the existing Cloud technology sucks donkey balls (and only the left one it turns out). Having trouble getting your internet-based mail from Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail some days? Yeah, imagine that frustration with your music collection. The Cloud is currently unreliable. How anyone thinks that that problem will ease with a global perpetuation by the masses as years go on is naïve. The more music that gets sent to iTunes the more problems you will have accessing it. I hear screaming by iTunes users now when they can’t get access their paid library on their existing accounts – and that’s not even in the Cloud yet.

iFailAnd you can expect that in short order, iTunes will develop new iCloud devices and apps that will force your current devices to be backwards incompatible. Synchronizing older devices is already an issue as iTunes continues to refine and revise its interface. Expect to shell out for annual iPod, iPad and iPhone upgrades regularly.

I’m all for better convenience in this warp-speed world we live in – how else am I going to watch a DVD, listen to an album, read Facebook, tweet and cook dinner simultaneously? –  but someone please explain to me how the above scenario is more convenient than pulling a CD out of a jewel case and sticking it in a CD player or hard-drive to listen to?  The entire planet has Devicesbeen brainwashed to believe that those people with our best interests at heart actually have our best interests at heart. We’ve shifted from a materialistic product obsessed culture to what can only be described now as a money-for-nothing service based culture.

Couch_catIf we could figure out a way of never leaving the house we would. We’re getting pretty close too. If we choose, we never have to use a telephone ever again, we can work from home and we can have food and sex delivered to our doors 24/7. And now we pay companies to deliver entertainment content to us on demand – videos, TV, music and news are but a mouse click away. The cause and effect of the latter has now effectively added to the dismantling of the world economies. The entertainment business has been devastated (hell, it crushed my 25 year old record label in 2010).

Trunk of a carWithout the need for physical content and the infrastructure that was created nearly 60 years ago to facilitate it – manufacturing, warehousing, delivery, selling and retail displaying of same – we’ve lost entire job sectors. Just this week EMI Music in Canada laid off a chunk of corporate brass as it moved into Universal Music’s family on the back of EMI’s sale to them. An argument can be made for the sane jettisoning of those jobs for no other reason than it saves both companies a shitload of money. But at what cost? It now means the remaining employees will be burdened with more work – well, if there’s even more work to do in this collapsing industry. But those people had assistants, office staff, and accounts to manage with artists to oversee. The trickle down effect, at the end of the day, will also mean less music to stick in your iPod or file away onto the Cloud.

Shooting_in_footYou see, the brain trust at iTunes have short-sheeted their own business model as they blindly perpetuate the eventual demise of their own music service by driving out physical content in favour of virtual content. Despite the creation of millions of songs by millions of artists globally, over time they will run out of enough new marketable content to keep their service fresh. At least from the four remaining major labels (Warner, Sony, BMG, Universal) as that is the only music content they’ve deigned to acknowledge to date. I expect them to either be crushed under their own hubris, or abandon ship when the people stop accessing content on their sales platform or in the Cloud. And with Spotify and Pandora pushing to pay even less to artists and songwriters for streaming content then they already do, they too will have their day. And at that point small uprisings from underground ‘format farmers’ will rise again probably on the back of the current vinyl revival and access it whenever they damn-well please from rooms with large shelving units containing rare mixes of Madonna’s “Holiday”. And it will sound glorious and lossy free. And former iTunes employees will deliver a pizza – or a blowjob – to your door while you do so.

Hoard and covet your music, people, because no one else will care enough to do it for you.

Send your CDs to: Jaimie Vernon, 180 Station Street, Suite 53, Ajax, ON L1S 1R9 CANADA

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 34 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com

5 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON: I’VE LOOKED AT CLOUDS FROM BOTH SIDES NOW”

  1. ….g’wan ya say….Apple isn’t that devious….it’s almost like a music control cult…..nah, can’t be…..do they at least give us an iCloud t-shirt …..oh, and a nice pair of iCloud sneakers

  2. That world we’re head toward— the one in which we do not have to ever leave home to experience what life we have left— was the basis of a book I have always thought a little too close for comfort: Michael Frayn’s “A Very Private Life”. What we need, Jaimie, is a hit of Hilarium and a good sound system to play that vinyl on. You have to read the book to understand that. Maybe iTunes has it in their cloud somewhere.

  3. Nicely written Jamie! One thing that we know for sure is that, thankfully, everything in the arts works in cycles. Music’s salvation will always be found in the live performance stage and the desire for people to socialize (sex) and see their favorite bands live at parties, festivals, fund raisers, clubs or in concert. Just as listening to vinyl records became “uncool” but are making a comeback now, listening to “canned” and stored music, once it becomes expensive and low quality, will become “uncool” and seeing live music, will become “cool” (a status symbol). For example, now GMO foods from the evil corporations like MONSANTO are being avoided by consumers who are now shopping locally for healthy, ORGANIC FOOD. Similarly, young, new music consumers will be motivated to shop locally for homegrown “organically” produced local music which, hopefully, will be locally recorded independently, thus creating a local, thriving live performance and recording music market! What was an old 1960’s music scene hopefully will become the “hip” new scene again in the 2010’s! For what it’s worth, I think that today’s corporation-created music “SUPERSTARS” are about as artistically valid as a virtual, cyber-selling HOLOGRAM, which seems to be the new trend to go along with the “cyber-stored” canned music. Musically and Artistically, we have to get back to “The Garden”.

  4. Always great stuff “Captain”

  5. I still love liner notes. I don’t get liner notes (or much art either) with a downloaded song. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to listen to a CD or Lp and I re-read the liner notes. I don’t always have to hold it in my hand, but sure is great to when I want to. It has a story and an identity I can relate to more even if it’s in the grooves.

    On vinyl I can even see the music in the grooves. The mono records look different than the stereo records and you can see the dynamics (loud and soft parts) in the grooves. You can see the beginng and end of the song. You can’t do that with a download or even a CD.

    Money for nothing? Money for crap service? I sure can’t see it.

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