I grew up in quite a remote village. The nearest record shop was Andy’s Records and was in Taunton, a 20 mile round trip on a shuttle bus which went about as much the long way around as it was possible to do so.
I never felt very comfortable in there, and when I did finally start to earn a few pounds cleaning a bakery every Saturday morning, I was often too tired to really think about spending the £10 I earned so it went into a pot on the kitchen window sill and my mother usually ended up using it instead.
What I’m trying to say is, I loved music when I was a child but there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to listen to it, really. I finally got a radio of my own when I was 14. I think a Walkman came a year later. I remember the radio only ever finding Radio 1 and listening to the top 40 and trying to record tapes to listen to later but I also remember those recorded tapes being the only tapes I had for my Walkman.
There’s a reason I’m telling you this, bear with me.
I had odd taste as a child – still do. I have grown up and acquired understanding of musical genres through a succession of boyfriends and their musical tastes obliterating mine because I didn’t really know what mine were. But one of the first tapes I owned was a bootleg Fantazia tape – Fantazia being, I think, a rave promotions company based in Somerset who ran illegal raves which then became legal raves in the 90’s. Electronic music is often what I’ll listen to when the earplugs and buttons are mine to control alone.
I remember there being names, through university especially, of music producers and bands I wanted to buy the albums of but never had the money to. I was a skint student, and after university, I was almost poorer still, despite working Mon- Fri 9-5 doing data entry for an insurance company and also working 10-3am in a club Thu-Sun nights. Buying music seemed….a commitment I couldn’t afford to make if I didn’t know I definitely liked all the music on the tape or later CD which I was handing over precious pennies for.
And so we come to Spotify.
So far this morning I’ve been through Fluke, Autechre, CJ Bolland, Andrew Weatherall, Aphex Twin, Future Sound of London, Darren Emerson, Sunday Best, System 7, The Chemical Brothers, some Prodigy remixes I didn’t know were on there, Eat Static, Apollo 440, The Orb, 808 State….trips down memory lane. Beats and tunes I’ve heard in clubs and never knew the names of the magicians behind the creations. That I can do that, that I can not only do that, but add all of it to a play list, then go to my phone and store the play list off line so it doesn’t matter we’re camping somewhere where 3G is some distant legend akin to dragons just absolutely breaks my little mind.
And for this I pay £15 a month. Now putting aside for the moment the sheer novelty of having the £15 a month to splurge on such things, how much would it have cost me to track all these gorgeous albums down? Pi by Autechre alone would, I suspect, require some persistence. And all of this, all of it is in my pocket and thanks to a silly white wire can come through the car speakers, thanks to some mobile speakers can play in our tent, thanks to earphones that don’t fall out when I’m bike commuting (I only ever have 1 ear in!) fuelling my pedal strokes all the way home.
This morning I have been reminded of why digital is beautiful. We all take it for granted, I think, and thus focus on the negatives. But when you think of a girl in her bedroom desperately twiddling a knob trying to get reception on soundwaves to a girl cross legged on a sofa searching for music and adding it to a play list on nothing but a ‘I think I heard their name mentioned by a DJ friend once’ whim, there is a revolution in-between. An enormous invisible revolution but a revolution all the same.