Tuesday, January 16, 2007

the end of high fidelity

Towards the end of this piece detailing Apple's irritating (and shortsighted) "crippleware" practice (rigging iPods to play only songs purchased from iTunes and vice versa), we're offered a vision of the near-future:

" Eventually, perhaps in 5 or 10 years, he predicts, all portable players will have wireless broadband capability and will provide direct access, anytime, anywhere, to every song ever released for a low monthly subscription fee. It’s a prediction that has a high probability of realization because such a system is already found in South Korea, where three million subscribers enjoy direct, wireless access to a virtually limitless music catalog for only $5 a month."
Is another music revolution in the works? It sure looks like a good bet, doesn't it? The technology is already here, and we're basically just short on the wi-fi infrastructure. Sadly, once this last technology leap takes place, that comforting world of proprietary music collecting will vanish. Today's children may never know the pleasures of rifling through a record bin, or scanning through a dorm-mate's CD collection for musical affinity. (Though admittedly, college students have MySpace and last.fm to scope out a new acquaintance's taste, which is both more effective and creepier, since you can do it surreptitiously.) Physical music collecting was already on the wane in the age of the iPod, of course, but what happens when music becomes a collective good, when any song ever recorded can be called up anywhere and at anytime with a click or a voice command? It would be, well, awesome -- that's undeniable. But where does this leave my wideranging, erudite collection of recorded music, ranging from Bach's Cello Suites to J-Dilla's last album, goddammit? Are my years -- nay, decades -- of careful, tasteful acquisitions, my entire music library that serves as a monument to my tremendously cultivated taste and fine breeding...can that now be rendered obsolete?!? Oh, please kill me now.