The way we listen to music has surely evolved within the last 100 years, hasn't it? It's been sort of like the evolution from ape to human (if you believe in that stuff). Let's see...the cylinder (you know, those can-shaped things with a groove you listened through a grammaphone), the vinyl record (first 78s, then 33s, and the 45s), magnetic tape (the cassette, reel-to-reel, 8-track, DAT tape)...then we went digital with the compact disc, the mini-disc...and finally, a more compact way to store our music, the MP3.
After that, with the advent of the Internet, we found a way to share our music with anyone...this kind of evolved into the original Napster. Finally, we had a chance to throw away our old LPs, tapes, etc. and get all the music we wanted, or perhaps grab a hold of those songs we remember from AM radio (let's not forget that, either).
Then along came the authorities, the FBI, the RIAA...all found a way to crack down on illegal music sharing sites (oh, how ugly that got, and continues to be that ugly). Thank goodness someone came up with more legal music services like the revised Napster, iTunes, Rhaspody, etc.
Once those "official" guys went up, you knew it would be easy to get great artists to appear on them, right? Wrong. Oh, yes, we found new ways of getting to hear The Beach Boys, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, and even current artists like P. Diddy, Alicia Keys, etc. But up to now it has been hard to get the biggest acts to agree to put their music officially online, Who are they, you say? Try Garth Brooks, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and (1, 2, 3), The Beatles.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out it all has to do with a combination of factors...music
licensing issues, royalties, corporate hang-ups, and the willingness of the artists themselves, although I have seen one music-on-demand site out of France (which I won't name as I don't want to end up doing needless advertising for them) that does offer Zeppelin and those Fab Foursome. They say it's legal under some French licensing agency, so for now I'll just have to take their word for it.
But, as time continues to pass and digital technology gets even more innovative, we have found from recent news reports that things are just now getting easier and easier, and the door is slowly opening for digital dreams to come true. Within the last few months, we have finally seen the Beatles' solo output put online via iTunes, Napster, etc. I personally have heard one McCartney solo track with his group Wings, "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" (the final track off of "Band On The Run"), and the sound is second-to-none, crisper and clearer than any vinyl or previous CD release. You would probably think you were actually there in the studio as McCartney and co. recorded it. George Harrison's backlog was just issued this week via iTunes, in addition to the John Lennon and Ringo Starr solo stuff that has been up for a while.
On Monday, Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page announced his group is finally set to release their entire output digitally via iTunes, etc. in November. Hey, doesn't every fan want to buy a 99-cent MP3 of "Stairway to Heaven"? Why wouldn't he/she, seeing that this is the greatest and most requested Classic Rock song of all time! After listening to it in the back of my mind, it still holds up almost 40 years after it was originally recorded. The song (originally from the "ZOSO/Led Zeppelin IV/Untitled/Whatever" LP) has become synomymous with the band. Led Zep's musical style led the way for other classic rock artists like Queen, AC/DC, and even today's alternative rock artists such as Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden.
And we're hearing from the camps of EMI and Paul McCartney that the Fab Four's backlog is being prepped for digital distribution as soon as next year.
I guess that only proves that patience (and a little bit of the easing up of the "rules") can sometimes pay off. In the end, any Led Zep or Beatles song that finally comes out officially in a digital format will be worth all the wait, however long we had to endure. Maybe then the people behind KaZaa, LimeWire, etc. will finally put down their dukes and realize that the public wants the "real thing".
Hmmm...and it still makes all of us wonder.
NEXT TIME: More Than Meets The Eye (in more ways than one).