02 April, 2006

The Dead Dog and The Dollar

I once worked with a woman who would spend large portions of our group lunch hour discussing her father-in-law's life. "Bob and Carol just got back from a 3-week Alaskan cruise" one day, "Bob and Carol bought all of the kids and grandkids iPods last Saturday" the next. Since I was relatively new there, I had no idea how Bob had scored such a plush life. It seemed that he never went to work but always had plenty of cash to throw around for luxuries.

Turns out, Bob had written a song about the death of his dog. In the mid-1970s, Bob's Dog's Death Song was turned into a major love ballad by a female country superstar. That song has been played on honky-tonk juke boxes for thirty years, covered by dozens of vocalists and keeps Bob rolling in high style. And good for Bob. Don't get me wrong. I love the Songderella Story that is such a pervasive part of Nashville Mythology, and love that I sort-of know an actual living example of it.

Be that as it may, if the "record industry" thinks I'm going to more than 99cents for songs from iTunes they've lost their minds. I presently have 273 items downloaded from the Apple iTunes Music Store. (Lest you think I've spent an actual $273, keep in mind that some are free, and some were included on albums where I get more than 10 songs for $9.99.) After looking over the list carefully, I can say that 254 of those songs would not have been purchased if they were either not part of an album or cost more than a buck. Because there are nights when I'm up writing or playing the world's greatest game that I have an itch for something new. Or really old that I haven't heard in awhile. It's fast and easy to pop open the music store, spend a buck and listen to "She Bop" or "Take Your Mama".

A dollar is what a quarter was when I was a kid. It's got that same level of value. It's worth something, but not so much that you feel guilty for spending it. When you get over a dollar you get into "I could buy a sandwich for that" territory. And, frankly, I'd rather have a sandwich than easy access to the latest corporate swill from the music industry. Wherein lies the further irony. The songs for which they wish to charge more than a dollar are the new things, the frontlist licks as it were. The songs most people my age are least likely to want to hear on the radio, let alone carry around in their pocket. I'd give you a buck-fifty for "Astral Weeks"; I'd give you $2.50 for "Paradise By The Dashboard Light". But I am not gonna give you any more than a dollar for anything sung by Kelly Clarkson. Unless she covers Zevon.

So I apologize to the future Bobs of this world, and their managers, lawyers, umbrella handlers and personal chefs. Like the rest of us, you'll all just have to learn the value of a dollar.


At 8:19 AM, April 03, 2006, Blogger jag said...

Nicely said.

At 11:39 AM, April 03, 2006, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

Couldn't agree more.

At 1:04 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger Lesley said...


But I have to admit complete luddite status on digimusic. I don't even own a portable music device any more. I don't even have a CD burner to play downloaded CDs in the car!

At 3:43 PM, April 03, 2006, Blogger Patrick said...

You're lucky... as I understand it, it's most likely Kelly's songs that will be more expensive.


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