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The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 907: Digital Debris part 1: B-sides and bonus tracks

We are very, very deep into the digital era when it comes to music. Virtually every song we could ever want is available to us instantly no matter where we are. All we need is an internet connection and we’re good to go.

The recorded music industry loves this. In the old days, they had no choice but to manufacture, warehouse, transport, and distribute physical products over an impossibly large geographic area. Once the records, tapes, and CDs made it into stores, the labels then had to collect the money from those stores plus deal with the return of unsold product. That meant more transportation and warehousing culminated with the destruction of the stuff no one wanted. It was all very, very expensive.

But with streaming, there’s no physical product at all. All that expensive overhead and big fixed costs are gone. Digital distribution is so much more efficient and profitable on every single level. Is it any wonder the industry has gone all-in with this technology?

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And as for music fans, this way of obtaining and consuming music is not just convenient but intoxicating. Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, SoundCloud, Bandcamp–tens and tens of millions of songs, all there for the taking. It really is like science fiction come to life.

There are now a couple of generations of music fans who have never, ever set inside a record store. They’ve never, ever handled something like a record or cassette or CD. For them, music has always been delivered without any kind of contained. It’s completely ephemeral, unseen zeroes and ones, that beam in from…somewhere.

While there will always probably a market for music on physical formats, it will inevitably shrink and shrink until it’s just a very niche-y thing.

So be it. There’s no stopping progress. But we are losing something in the process.

There are certain pleasures and advantages to physical products that virtual products have yet to duplicate. It appears, though, many of these pleasures and advantages are also heading towards near-extinction. This is part one of a look at what I call “digital debris.”

Songs heard on this show:

  • Blotto, B-Side
  • David Bowie, Suffragette City
  • XTC, Dear God
  • The Smiths, How Soon is Now?
  • U2, The Sweetest thing
  • Oasis, Acquiesce
  • Foo Fighters, Bakers Street
  • Green Day, Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) (Original version)

And here’s Eric Wilhite’s accompanying playlist. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5XzNOtUFWWwYxYUA8RfVxX?si=3ej_1zCtR1eZRKb54fwmnQ

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The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

If you ever miss a show, you can always get the podcast edition available through Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your on-demand audio.