‘Pod People

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I am one of those people who don’t own an iPod, part of a shrinking majority, I’m afraid. Why don’t I have one? Well, part of it is my innate tendency to go against the grain, to do the opposite of what everyone else does “just because.” The more people say how great something is, the more I want to run for the hills. Just part of my makeup, I guess.

Part of it is laziness, too—do I really want to spend hours uploading every one of the literally hundreds of CDs that I own and then loading them onto that pesky little device? And do I want to eat up my computer’s memory (and yes, I know all about external hard drives and such) with all these damn music files?

But there are two really good fundamental reasons why I don’t have one yet. One: do I really need to carry my entire CD collection around with me wherever I go? Do I need music 24/7? And two: when, where and how will I hear new music if I am constantly plugged into a little gadget that feeds me stuff I already know about?

Let’s take the first question first. Why on earth do I—does anyone—need his or her entire music collection on their person at all times? Are you planning on being trapped on a desert island in the near future? There is such thing as too much of a good thing, after all. And furthermore, speaking for myself, I find that it detracts from my daily experience to be shut off from the aural world when I’m out and about. I rather enjoy looking at people, soaking up the sounds of the city, hearing parts of conversations (well sometimes), birds singing, babies crying, etc. I don’t like to be cut off from the world by my CD collection. Yes, there are times when you need to be cut off, but all the time? It’s part of a writer’s job to observe the world, and it’s hard to do that with the Sex Pistols throbbing in your brain. Besides which, I think it’s kind of dangerous to not be able to hear what’s going on around you when you’re out walking, especially if you’re a woman. But maybe that’s just my urban paranoia.

Second (and more important in my humble opinion), how am I going to hear new music (not to mention talk radio!) if I am constantly plugged into my own CD collection? After all, iPods can only carry music we already own; as of yet they have no radio function. So, gone are the moments of amazing discovery—the times when you get that jolt of electricity from hearing something really cool, and knowing that others are getting that same jolt at exactly the same time. Music is a much more diversified, private, specialized thing now, and that’s too bad. I wanna hear that great AC/DC song for the first time on my car radio at full blast with the wind blowing in my hair and the sun shining on my face while I’m driving by myself on the first day of summer, knowing that somewhere out there, there are other kids who are annoying their parents by turning the volume up to eleven, and maybe somewhere there is a sad kid who doesn’t feel so alone now…I don’t want a sonic blast from Down Under when I’m sitting in my boring little apartment downloading at 2 a.m. in a dark, lonely room. Music is to be shared, and file sharing does that. But it’s just not the same. Besides, I don’t have time to sift through all that music—er, files—and figure out what I need to hear. That’s what good DJs do—they share the music they love with us, and more importantly, they give it context and meaning. They are our best friends; they educate us about life.

I know I am not alone when I say I miss radio the way it used to be. The growth of satellite networks Sirius and XM tells me I am not alone. Yes, there are stations on these networks that cater to very specialized audiences—you know, the people who need to hear Dark Side of the Moon for the umpteenth time—but I believe that there are just as many (if not more) people who want to be challenged by music. Because human beings, though they crave the security of the known, also crave the mystery of the unknown. And that’s what is truly great about radio at its best.

So until those pesky people at Apple include a subscription to Sirius in their little ‘Pods (something about that name always reminds me of Invasion of the Body Snatchers), I’m out. Cos I need that jolt to stay alive…

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About Lisa Iannucci

  • Your points are valid, Lisa. People shouldn’t buy an iPod or any MP3 device just because of the fads. I’m certain half of the people who have them could just as easily function on a walkman or flash player instead splurging on a 40GB iPod. I’m not one of them though.

    As for having your entire music collection in your pocket though, how can you not love the ability to think of a song in your head, and then hear it right away? This is only magnifies by being able to shut out the noises of the city. Besides not hearing NYC traffic, there’s a screaming kid every day on my train home, and while everyone else in the car shakes their head having to listen to the brat, I have some smooth jazz lulling me to nap until my stop.

    Think alternatives. Here’s a page of MP3 players with FM receivers. Give it a peep. Peace.

  • That doesn’t solve the problem of radio sucking, though. And you know, this culture is WAY too much into instant gratification as it is. Read a book or something…:)

  • L.A.W.

    You don’t necessarily have to have your entire CD collection on your ipod. I have a mix of my CDs and songs I’ve downloaded from limewire. No one who has an ipod is constantly connected to it, so I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to hear new music…just listen to the radio or watch some MTV or BET. That solves that problem. It doesn’t take hours to upload CDs, just do a litte bit at a time, and you’ll have your ipod full in no time. I listen to my ipod when other music sources aren’t available: when I’m on the set, when I’m on a plane, when I work out, etc. The ipod is more than a fad, it’s a great little device. I, too, have the innate feeling of wanting to buck the trend, but at a certain point even I have to admit when something lives up to the hype.

  • Yes, but it’s not the iPod’s fault that FM radio sucks these days.

    As for hearing talk shows and new music, maybe you should read about podcasting.

  • Radio is about more than music. Having interned at a radio station, it brings the community together. It’s everywhere concerts are held, and it blends social events with free coupons.

    XM Radio and Internet piracy doesn’t do that. It just cares about the music.

  • Radio promotions lead to more listeners leading to more ad revenue leading to even more promotions.

    How can there be a sense of community when you are just a conduit for marketing?

  • Better a marketing conduit for local businesses than for distant multinational corporate entities.

    I don’t mind hearing radio advertisements quite so much, if at least a few of them are for locally owned small businesses, and not all of them are for McDonald’s and Walmart.

  • Lisa — The proliferation of podcasting allows you to quickly and easily download a vast array of audio programming (talk and music from around the globe) onto an iPod. Then you can listen wherever you want.

    I mainly utilize my iPod in the car nowadays. I’m on the road many hours each week, and a combination of my own music and podcasts literally saves my sanity.

    I must admit that I love nothing better than taking a walk about town with my headphones on, however. For me, music makes for a soundtrack for my life. As a writer, my ideas float and circulate through my brain as I take in the visual images before me.

    I can’t speak for others, but my iPod was a dream come true. I love it and wouldn’t give it up for anything.

  • And the best thing is, there’s never any ads playing on my iPod.

  • No ads yet on your iPod. Just wait until Sony and Time-Warner and the other media giants succeed in getting everything locked down under DRM (Digital Restriction Machinations).

    Then you will not only have to pay to download each song, and pay a monthly subscription fee on top of that, there will also be advertisements bundled with every song, and it will be a federal crime to break a song apart from its advertising.

    Just look at the history of cable television to see what big media wants to happen. It started out with “I’ll pay a monthly fee to get TV with no ads.” But now it’s paying a monthly fee to get TV that still has just as much or more advertising than broadcast television.

  • I never listen to music on the radio, and I never have trouble finding new music to buy. The hard part is paying for it, or finding it in the first place.

  • I doubt that, Victor. Why would anyone buy a song with ads attached to it, when you could just rip an ‘ad-less’ version from the CD? The iTunes store would tank.

    But if that does happen, it’s amusing to imagine you’d have to buy your ad-less music in a back alleyway to avoid prosecution.

  • Same reason people buy DVDs with ads you can’t skip: because the industry has succeeded in making that crappy option the best of the available ways to obtain the entertainment people crave.

  • I listen to the radio when I’m at home, and listen to my iPod when I’m out. As for maintaining some awareness to the world around me when I listen to my iPod, I usually only have one earbud in my ear. This is not only because you can only have one headphone in your ear while you ride a bike (like driving a car) but also because I didn’t want to be cut off from the rest of the world.

  • But movies have always had previews before them. Music never has.

  • VHS movies often had no previews at all. Early DVDs also often had no previews, or previews that could be easily skipped. Maybe you’re too young to remember any of that.

    Music on the radio, as others have also pointed out, has always been accompanied by advertising.

    So it’s not much of a stretch for me to suggest people can be bullied into accepting ads with their song downloads, just as they have with their DVDs.

  • Local radio generates local revenue. I don’t pay for AM or FM programming, and much of the advertising is local business. Internet radio doesn’t do that.