This, then, is how I learned to love portable music (and MP3 is the first truly portable music – believe me, I also once carried a tape player). These days I carry an Apple iPod, an ever-ready library of about 60Gb of music at my fingertips, but I have also used (and worn out) several other MP3 players in my time.
MP3 isn’t the best way to listen to music. The sound is too ‘scrunched’ (for want to a technical term) At the moment, it is winning on convenience grounds as its space-efficient, cost-effective, easily copied/transferred to other gadgets and can be obtained in just a few minutes. In addition to that (perhaps worryingly if you are a fan of album music) you can purchase only the particular tracks you want at the time. Vinyl is still the best way to really hear a band. But you can’t play a turntable on the train, you can’t take it on holiday with you and you really don’t want to carry a suitcase filled with vinyl anywhere unless you are some sort of DJ and being paid to do so.
The MP3 is without a doubt the finest development in portable music since the travelling band. But its also really good for alternative music; the mainstream’s brow-beating tactics have rendered a good deal of great music unfashionable, and nobody wants to walk around blasting Celtic Folk or Delta Blues tunes out of a ghetto blaster, do they? Likewise, your favourite band’s foray into soundscapes or clever-dick psychedelia may be awesome, but might not be a hit with the ladies, so to speak, but with MP3, you could be listening to anything and its entirely up to you. Its also good for independent music, bands can cheaply distribute their music (often giving away free songs) which makes starting a band and sharing your music that much simpler. So, to sum up MP3 is a very freeing experience indeed. Just don’t chuck out your turntable!