Just spent an hour in a raging conversation. Do country music fans care about fidelity? Not marital fidelity, we all know how they feel about that. Musical fidelity — the quality of the sound they are hearing!
If you pick up an old Playboy magazine from the 1970’s you’ll notice one thing, besides the different grooming habits of the models. The magazine is chocked full of high end audio advertisements. Speakers. Turntables. Cables. Preamps. It’s astounding. Before the advent of the computer, high income nerds had one place to focus their attention and disposable income, hi-fi.
We’re all aware of the revolution that happened when Walk-Man’s appeared in the 1980’s. Suddenly music was portable, and how it sounded mattered a lot less than where you could listen. I remember the sheer joy when my parents bought me a portable eight-track player. I used to pop in a Ted Nugent 8-Track and carry the player into the bathroom while I took a shower. The idea that I could take music into the bathroom was AMAZING to me.
CD’s appeared in the early 80’s as well. True the early mastering on those CD’s was terrible, but over all the WAV file that a CD used was a high quality format. YES, entire books have been written arguing about whether a CD sounds better or worse than vinyl, but compared to what was coming…the CD was sonically solid.
THEN, we got the MP3, and let’s just say since then it’s been pretty bleak from a mass-use stand point. Ear buds. Jambox. It makes those AM transistor radios from the 60’s look good.
The moment that the convenience of music overtook the quality of the sound, we built a generation that doesn’t appreciate great sound because they’ve never had it. Trust me. If you’re in the studio when you hear a piece of music being recorded and you then listen to that music via MP3 and ear buds…it isn’t the same music.
Recently, indie rock buyers have begun to move in the direction of vinyl, which is a format that sounds much better to my ears. There are now people sitting in homes listening to high quality systems in greater numbers than in decades, but what about the country music public? I must admit, in my experience, they don’t tend to be the cutting edge in format or fidelity. Many of my friends who make rock music are contemplating a CD-Free world, using download and vinyl instead. For an Americana artist that feels miles away. What do you think?