How Digital Music Ruined the Recording Industry (Plus Friday Apprentice Detritus)

I had an interesting conversation the other day with this guy—a hard-core audiophile—about a theory, widely held among his hi-fi purist peers apparently, of why CDs and digital music have ruined the music industry. The argument, unproven to say the least, basically boils down to this: The difference between analog recordings (vinyl) and digital (CDs, MP3s) is similar to that of incandescent light bulbs and florescent ones. The former emits something natural and organic that resonates deeply with our inner psyche, the latter, while offering a technically superior performance, retains a thin veneer of the artificial that fails to fully penetrate our senses, therefore making us unable to form as strong an emotional bond. That explains why, in this guy's opinion, the music industry thrived so heartily up until the early 1980s or so and then began a steady decline as CDs and MP3s ultimately replaced vinyl. Not that I have any studies to prove it, but I think there is something to this notion of connecting to primitive parts of the human brain in order to form a strong emotional connection. Malcolm Gladwell, for example, explored this idea in a fascinating New Yorker article last year about why, despite evidence to the contrary, people think big old honking sport utility vehicles are safer than a handy little compact. Thoughts?

Also, it being Friday, I had to offer up a couple of Apprentice tidbits (I know, I know, the addiction to this show is worse than a bad crack habit).

Tidbit one: I walked into work this morning and found a gigantic box from—guess who—Staples! Yes, a nearby colleague lent a helping hand to pull this hulking monstrosity (more precisely, the logo-emblazoned "Desk Apprentice" from last night's episode) out of its box. So far the thing's been sitting on the floor next to my desk blocking entrance and egress from my cubicle-sweet-cubicle. I'm just waiting for Donnie Trump to send Bren and Alex's Plexiglas whachamajig over so I can have something to set this huge lazy-Susan on. Since it is Friday, though, I'm thinking of filling its enormous center with some ice and setting some beers in it to chill. Perhaps I can stuff some wings, hot dogs, and nuts in the many unexplained exterior crevices. If that works out, okay, then this thing might actually be worth its $34.99 price tag.

Tidbit two: I had missed last week's episode in which the two teams designed a brochure to promote Pontiac's new Solstice model. I did TiVo it, however. On Tuesday my one-year-old son gave us a 4 AM wake-up call and I figured as I fed him a bottle, I might as well catch up on my Apprentice watching (see what a filthy habit this is). So, as is now de rigeur for the product placement sponsors, Donald has a shot just before introducing that episode's task where he asks "the executives" from XYZ company how business is going. Invariably the answer comes back, as it did from these two GM honchos, "great, great—couldn't be better." A few hours later, I make my way into work, log on to the Wall Street Journal, and see that, lo-and-behold, GM just announced a (not unexpected) $1.1 billion quarterly loss, its worst since 1992. Maybe I'm just being persnickety, but it seems as if companies are going to so much trouble to break through the clutter with product placement, you'd think they'd at least offer a grain of truth in the message they choose to convey. But what do I know?

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