Ralph Mellon: iPrefer a book rather than Kindle

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HOME taping is killing music.

These words, accompanied by a skull and crossbones, formed a prominent campaign when I was a lad to protect the livelihoods of those in music’s industry.

It was, of course, intended to dissuade people from recording their favourite music from the radio (or borrowing and taping records from friends), thereby avoiding shelling out around 70p for a single or £3.50 for an album.

The arguments, among many, were that the creative talents behind those sounds you loved with such fervour were losing out on payments and royalties, while music shops, record companies and distributors, etc., were losing the income that helped bring you these sounds in the first place.

In today’s digital age, with i-Tunes, websites, downloads, mp3s, i-Pods and whatever else, the debate is still running parallel with advances in techonology.

Back in vinyl days, part of the joy of buying music was marvelling at the inventive and artistic power that went into the design of some album covers. A 12-inch square of pictorial and imaginative genius that you could look at and savour over and over again.

A lot of that was lost when the product shrunk to CD size – but you can still appreciate that a lot more easily than a downloaded file.

Anstruther’s own King Creosote, the much-admired, prolific and fame-evading talent behind Fence Records, was engaged recently in a USA debate on how new technology might benefit official music sales – but he also wants to wave a banner for (sadly diminishing) physical emblems of music, like LPs and CDs.

The King, aka Kenny Anderson, was kind enough to share his opinions with the Mail before he left for Texas.

Those visible symbols of the music industry had a value that should be recaptured, he said, as much for the musicains’ benefit as anything else. And, for what microscopic amount it’s worth, I agree.

Kenny said in 1982 he started buying non-chart albums at £5.49 to £5.99 on cassette and vinyl.

Thirty whole years of inflation later, you can buy ‘Diamond Mine’ by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins (their Mercury Muisc Prize-nominated album) on Amazon or in HMV for £4.99 or a fiver.

“That’s if you choose to buy,” said Kenny. “That’s scandalous and, with much decreased sales, it’s paying for nothing.”

The King also pointed out that record sales once kept many people in employment – music shops, distributors, publicists, photographers, ad men, designers, video makers, instrument and equipment manufacturers, lawyers and accountants – as well as paying for bands to go on tour with a decently-equipped entourage.

I think the King is right and I hope his views might help spark some kind of change in an industry that, he says, used to be exciting but is now all broken.

I just hope the vast, online age that surrounds us hasn’t already driven too many nails into its coffin.

I passionately love music, and I’m also an avid reader.

Kindle is becoming more and more ubiquitous in offering you the chance to strain and squint at your i-Phone as a means of enjoying a literary classic.

Myself, I prefer holding a book.

*Ralph Mellon writes for the East Fife Mail