Nicholas Carr linked to Duran Duran bassist John Taylor’s essay (!) for the BBC about how the internet changes music consumption. He relates a story about seeing Roxy Music on television in 1972 and riding his bike for miles to go to a shop where he could buy the record.
We had no video recorders, and of course there was no YouTube. There was no way whatsoever that I could watch that appearance again, however badly I wanted to. And the power of that restriction was enormous…. The power of that single television appearance created such pressure, such magnetism, that I got sucked in and I had to respond as I know now previous generations had responded to Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan show, or The Beatles, or Jimi Hendrix. I believe there’s immense power in restriction and holding back.
The moral is familiar: On-demand culture deprives cultural-industry product of its aura, and consumers are left with a shallow and superficial relation to it. That seems to sell the power of the product itself somewhat short—if the songs are really good, the aura artificially secured by restricted access presumably shouldn’t matter to our aesthetic response. The would-be John Taylors of today should be listening to “Virginia Plain” over and over again despite downloading it. As he points out, the internet can free us from the tyranny of what’s popular now and let us discover and become obsessed with culture from a diverse range of eras and locales.