Human beings are, for the most part, keen collectors of things.
That’s a bold statement, but collecting really isn’t a new phenomenon – you will, no doubt, have images flashing through your mind of gaming enthusiasts or train spotters. Your aunt who collected those funny china dolls, or Granddad’s collection of clay pipes and strange bottles. Or maybe an old bag lady’s collection of… well, bags. I suspect that even the most ardent minimalist has a secret stash of design magazines hidden away behind the wall somewhere.
So when records and CDs became collectible, it was inevitable that people would want to hoard them. Let’s face it, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably guilty. Unless you’re one of those people who thinks that blogs are good only for providing free mp3s, in which case you probably have a large collection of illegally downloaded music instead.
As the music “industry” grew, inevitably they started to capitalise on this – in the early 1990s, poster bags and limited edition 10″ singles were all the rage. A decade or so later, it was the singles box set.
Then came the vinyl revival. I’ve complained before about Record Store Day, mainly because it encourages petty consumerism, and really any good it does is overshadowed by the resellers who buy everything you want before you get anywhere near the front door of your record store. But I suspect it’s also fair to say that the vast majority of vinyl being sold right now is never actually going to feel the weight of a needle upon its grooves. People are buying it because it looks good – and then, I would be prepared to bet, often only listening to the accompanying digital version.
So on it goes – for decades now, rather than just enabling us to play the music, the music business continues to play us. They give us what they know we will buy, rather than what we really want – and as soon as we behave a little erratically, for instance by not buying yet another edition of Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells simply because it’s available, they get upset and start going bankrupt all over the place.
This is, of course, a pretty bleak outlook. Like many people, I would dearly love a box set of early Pet Shop Boys singles, or a reissue of the first few Kraftwerk albums – but only because… well, frankly it’s because I’m a completist. Oh, and also a hypocrite, apparently.