The One Where I Start Sounding Like An Old Man
Technology is, quite frankly, one of the only reasons why I’m able to survive in this business as my own manager, record label, and agent. I can book shows with the whisk of an email, handle press requests with a simple reply via text message, and solve all sorts of dilemmas on the road thanks to the über-connectivity of my phone. I can sell my songs in an instant, without having to ship albums, find stores willing to deal with an indie (hell, find a store with any rack space at all devoted to music, let alone indies) and set up virtual vending for my schwag. Everything is getting smaller, faster, more user-friendly. It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in the last ten years—even the last two years.
One of the major positive aspects in regards to the portability of our technology has become a serious boon for recorded music: size. You can take your entire record collection with you in your pocket and access it anywhere.
A quick aside—I realize the term “record” is a little dated, but seriously, there is no cooler way to refer to music. CD? No way. MP3’s? Forget it. Give me “records” and “albums” any day. If the labels can continue to recoup the cost of manufacturing a CD based on the cost of manufacturing a vinyl record, then I can keep calling my music “records.”
And, if you want to make an addition to your record collection, you can do it right there, on the spot, beamed straight out of space. Boom. Revolver. Beatles. Instantly. Well…eventually instantly, once Apple and Apple work out their differences…
While all of this technology continues to advance, I’ve noticed that there’s one aspect of it that has fallen behind. I am speaking, of course, of the dreaded Ear Bud. You know, those little white in-ear headphones that are included in the packaging for your iPod or iPhone (I have no knowledge of the inclusion of such listening devices with other products, but I’m going to take a leap and assume that similar things are indeed included with other MP3 players). They are, quite simply, dreadful. With each updated music-storing product I purchase, I give them a try. Each time, they fail.
Trust me on this: Ear Buds are no way to listen to your music.
Sure, if you’re not happy with the sound, you can go out and buy a different set of headphones. I understand that. That’s what audiophiles do—and I assume most of you consume your music through some sort of above average system of sonic delivery. The joy of hearing how truly great an album sounds through a set of speakers or studio headphones is one that is difficult to top, as far as aural experiences go. As it should be, I might add. We, on the recording side of things, work incredibly damned hard at making sure everything sounds tip top. I mean, REALLY hard. We split hairs over analog tape, over proper mastering techniques, over what microphone does the best job capturing the vocal tenor of the second harmony part in the chorus. You, on the audiophile side of things know this, and reward our hard work with your hard earned money going towards a killer set of speakers.
But, you and I…we’re few and far between, I’m afraid. Would you believe me if I told you that your average music consumer actually uses those Ear Buds? I know, I know…they’re free, and they emit sound, and they go in your ears. I understand the counterpoint: why on earth would someone buy something that emits sound when you already get something that emits sound for free?
Those infernal Ear Buds. How I loathe them.
Because they sound horrific, that’s why!
As a purist, all I can think about is what the average music consumer is missing out on. Seriously—if they actually heard it, if for only a few minutes, the way we hear it…the way in which we intended for you to hear it—man, maybe they’d become rabid music fans. Maybe the sheer excitement of hearing their first screaming hot chickin’ pickin’ solo in all of it’s velvety, twangy, punchy glory would open their ears to an entirely new world of music. Maybe they become audiophiles just like you and I after hearing their first Ralph Mooney solo, in all of its low-fi warmth and beauty, the way it was intended to be heard.
But no, they hear everything in the same, flat, listless tones—tones just big enough to fit into those things. It makes me sad to even think about it. Then my sadness gives way to anger—the kind of old man anger your grandfather displayed when you told him George Strait was way better than Ferlin Husky.
You’re too close to this issue, I tell myself. It’s not their fault. Don’t think about it. They just don’t know.
I’m a dreamer, and an unconventional purist. I know I speak for an alarmingly low number of people when it comes to this gripe. But seriously, why do we sweat over every tone, every note, every sound, every mix… if you’re just going to listen to what we’ve done on little, tiny, miniscule, terrible sounding Ear Buds?
I also realize that soon I’ll be complaining when the neighbor’s kid’s football comes flying into my yard, when the paperboy doesn’t hit my front porch steps with precise accuracy, when I see someone with a funny looking pair of pants walk by, and when flavored whiskey starts taking a bite out of the regular whiskey market (seriously, what’s wrong with whiskey? What is there to improve? Vanilla? Cherry? What??). It seems to be an inevitable progression that comes naturally with age: as the number representing your years on earth increases, the number of things that inexplicably annoy you will increase in equal measure.
I’m sure someone infinitely more intelligent than I has already expressed the above sentiment as some sort of infallible mathematic formula, so I apologize to that person for my reckless hip-shooting when it comes to these sort of calculable things.
But seriously, if you’re an Ear Bud person, don’t get angry with me. Just do me a favor… do yourself a favor… do all of us in the recorded music business a favor: save a few pennies up and get yourself a real listening system. None of these new fangled Ear Buds. Please?
Please? I promise you’ll thank me later…
Damn you kids, you don’t know nothin’.
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