Killing time in town a couple of weeks ago we took an opportunity to pop into Zavvi on Oxford Steet. It used to be Virgin, but now it's not. We thought it would be nice to peruse the week's new single releases, see who was trying to palm off CD singles full of rubbish, identify various acts' attempts to flog 7" picture discs as 'collector items' to people without turntables, and so on.
The singles section had been replaced by some generic rubbish.
We couldn't find singles anywhere. Wandering around the 'store' (shop), it was obvious that the decision to pull physical singles was hardly an issue of space. There were plenty of areas like this…
…where the singles racks could have been. It's simply not worth Zavvi stocking singles, even in its flagship branch in the capital. (We've since learned that at that point the Oasis single was available at the tills.) It was quite sad, albeit in a "who invited Grandad" kind of way.
There's an interesting thread at the moment on the Popjustice forums about CD singles disappearing from Zavvi, HMV and Woolworths.
Off the top of our heads, here are some things that spring to mind on this topic.
» What constitutes 'owning' a song?
» If you can't see or hold something is it worth spending money on?
» Does that question alter if what you're spending money on is something you only intend to listen to?
» If you cannot legally buy something, are you somehow entitled to illegally download it?
» Is it alright to illegally download a song in order to punish a label for not making it legally available sooner/legally available in higher quality download/legally available as a CD single?
» If you illegally download a song for any of the above reasons, do you
consider the direct impact this has on what the artist and label will
be able to produce in the future?
» Should stores like HMV and Zavvi, which built their business on music sales, cater for minority buyers out of some sort of loyalty?
» Is 79p for a song better value than £1.99 for a CD single containing the song you want and the song you don't want?
» What sort of price would you put on being able to listen to a song as often as you like, forever?
» How frequently do you listen to CD singles you purchased six years ago, or take them off the shelf or out of the cupboard to admire their beautiful packaging?
» Can anything be done to re-educate an entire generation who've grown up with music being 'free'?
If you're still refusing to buy tracks as downloads you'll find yourself, very soon, in the same position as those vinyl obsessives who once boycotted the inferior sound quality, smaller artwork and poorer 'experience' of the compact disc. If, on the other hand, you've never bought music in a physical format, the first few pages of Bill Drummond's '17',
in which Drummond describes the intense and unforgettable emotional
experience of buying and cherishing a physical copy of 'Strawberry
Fields Forever', are worth a few minutes of your time.