[Note: this post is terrible, as it covers two topics, my musical tastes and online piracy, and it blurs them together because I’m a terrible writer apparently. I heartily suggest to read one of the above links over this.]
I’ve done something in 2016 I haven’t done in literally years: pay money for music. I’ve done it twice, actually, meaning I’ve spent more money on music in the last two months than I have in the previous two years. Heck, maybe even the last decade.
I should probably set the record straight right now: I’m not a pirate. I don’t illegally download music, or at least not when I can help it. There were times where I had no choice, but we’ll get to that later. You see, the simple truth is that I don’t download new music, period. I simply haven’t had the need to.
It wasn’t always like this. I started getting into music, I mean really into it, around age 12-13. Before then, music was simply something I heard on the radio, background music. I never paid much attention to it. I should point out here that I was mostly deaf as a young child, so that might have played a role in my general disinterest towards music. I neither liked nor disliked it: it was simply there.
The catalyst was the Bare Naked Ladies hit single at the time, One Week. Something about that song really grabbed me, as it did with most people, as it was a hit. Everyone liked it, but I loved it. I grabbed a cassette player and spent an entire weekend near the radio, trying to record it the old-fashioned way. Hmm. I guess that technically makes me a pirate, doesn’t it?
After that, I began searching for more music. I listened to the radio a lot, and so I naturally liked the hits of the time … but they weren’t like One Week. I increasingly found myself drawn to a particular style or genre of music, classic rock.
Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense. The Bare Naked Ladies were Alternative Rock, which is stylistically distinct from classic rock, but that’s the direction I headed. Perhaps the main reason was simply my parents liked classic rock and so listened to classic rock radio stations more, and I absorbed it that way simply by osmosis. Whatever the reason, classic rock became my go-to for music.
Around this time, I got my first computer and my first CD player. Wow, I guess I’m dating myself there. Anyway, I began buying CDs left and right. Every few months I would splurge at the local CD store, and my mom would get me a stack of CDs for birthday and Christmas presents. Soon I had a massive library of CDs … and I stopped buying them.
The reason was simple: I now had every song I wanted. If I listened to the radio for an hour, I might hear one band I didn’t have, and it wouldn’t be a band I particularly cared about. They don’t really make classic rock anymore, sort of by definition, and once I had everything I wanted I simply didn’t need to buy and more music. By the end of high school, so a period of six years or so, I had stopped buying music.
I had over 1500 tracks at that point, which was a lot of music, so much that I could listen for days at a time and not hear the same song twice. Even so, the same style of music all the time eventually becomes commonplace, even mundane. Slowly, I began to branch out.
I took music throughout high school, where I was the star tenor sax player (mostly because literally no one else played tenor; I was the best by default). I participated in both the jazz and concert bands. Playing jazz was a lot of fun, but listening to it was very hit or miss. Mostly miss. Almost always miss. I don’t think I like jazz at all, honestly. Concert band and classical music, though, was great.
I got really into classical music, but it’s not easy to always buy classical music. Moreover, listening to a full symphony can be … uninteresting. A symphony is something you experience, much like a concert. It is not something you listen to while doing homework, say. I liked the ideas and melodies of classical music, but I needed something more digestible, if that makes sense.
Enter videogame music. Yes, I know, this doesn’t really make sense either, but hear me out. I played a lot of videogames, and some of the best one have simply incredibly music. Names like Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu, the composers for popular games like the Zelda and Final Fantasy franchises, respectively, have become huge in the music world as a whole.
I spent much of my childhood, and a good chunk of my adulthood, playing videogames, so these melodies meant more to me than perhaps others. They are iconic, melodious, vaguely classical in nature and absolutely amazing to listen to in the background. Besaid Island, for instance, crafts one of the most breezy and calming atmospheres of any song I’ve ever heard. I would often open that that game and just leave it at that location, just so I could hear the background music.
It would make more sense to get that song on CD, but that’s the problem: I had no way to legally get that song, or any other videogame song. In an era before Internet shopping, I could listen to my game system or not at all … at least legally. Illegally, I could download it from YouTube, which I may or may not have done, depending on whether the statute of limitations has run out.
I may or may not have grabbed numerous songs in this way … until again I was full. I stopped playing new games, more or less, and so I stopped hearing new music to listen to. At this point I had over 2,000 tracks, some classic rock and some simply classical, and so I had enough overlap to keep me satisfied for ages.
Which is exactly what happened. I’ve listened to the same music, more or less, for the last five or so years. I was happy, I was content. And then I discovered Materia.
Materia is a collection of remixed songs from Final Fantasy games, specifically FFVII and FFVIII. The music in these games, especially FFVIII, are incredibly, and remixed versions sounded like an appealing idea. Also, it wasn’t just one person but a whole collection of people on this project, including some names I know, like Smooth McGroove. I’ve listened to these guys on YouTube before and liked their work. Now they had an album, based on a game I really liked, and it had literally just come out this week.
So I bought it. And as I completely legally downloaded new music for the first time in years, I realized how strange this felt. I haven’t paid for music in the last decade. The odd occasion I needed to hear something I didn’t own, I could listen on YouTube. Easy. I also already had the original songs from the game, so I didn’t need to buy the album … but I did. Because I wanted to support these guys. Because it was something worth buying. Because it was the right thing to do, musically speaking.
So, when I said I bought music for the first time, it’s not because I’m a super evil pirate who always goes for the illegal route. I simply don’t buy music, in an age where you never need to buy it, really, and in doing so it felt pretty good. It’s also a nice change of pace to hear something new.