What’s It Worth to You?

By: John

U2 Gave Away a Free Album. I Still Haven’t Listened to It.

Last week I posted a cheeky little Facebook status:

While meant to be sarcastic and hilarious, it was actually met with some unexpected minor controversy and prompted a discussion.

The point of the opposition was “how do you know it’s a failure? You haven’t listened to a note of the album.”

True, however, that was not my point at all.

I can not make any comments on the content of the album, because, as of this, the first of November, I still have not listened to it. It’s sitting in my under-utilized iTunes program, but I have had no interest in listening to it.

I listen to music every day. Every day. Without fail. I purchase music regularly, I share and rip/burn albums with friends, I even obtain music through unconventional methods such as “downloading” them from the “internet” (wink wink).

And yet, when given an album for free — one that automatically entered my music collection without me even trying — I couldn’t care less about it.

It could be a masterful work of art. Not a freakin’ clue.

probonoI’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t care about this album because it has taken absolutely no effort to obtain. It takes effort to drive to a store and buy a record with your cold hard cash. It takes effort to throw down a credit card and buy and album on iTunes. It even takes effort to seek out, compile a playlist and organize music to stream on Spotify for free. And even illegally obtaining torrents or .rar files on the seedier side of the Internet takes patience and an effort to find the album you seek.

I feel nothing about this album, so in reaching me, iU2 failed.

If it matters to you, you will put in some effort to get it, whether its money, time or elbow grease.

This made me think of a recent concert experience. Robert and I went to the 312 Goose Island Brewery Block Party. We got to see bands such as Cayucas, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down and the Breeders for the low cost of $10 admission. There was cheap beer all around and cheap food trucks. I didn’t even pay for parking, as I was able to get street parking. The entire event cost me $36 including transit and food. Amazing for a Chicago event.

On the other hand, while the bands were great, the audience was one of the worst I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been to a Vampire Weekend concert before. The crowd was restless and talkative and no one seemed to care about what was going on up on the stage. I got the impression that many of the people in the audience a.) didn’t care about the bands b.) had possibly never heard of the bands c.) weren’t there to watch bands at all d.) had glorious hipster mustaches.

I contrast this experience to seeing Arcade Fire just a month before. I spent $100 on tickets, plus parking, plus food and expensive $11 drinks. All in all, I probably spent at least $175 for the experience. However, the crowd was magical at this concert. Everyone there was attentive and involved in the show. It was unlike anything I’d experienced before. It was literally the best concert I’d ever witnessed from the music to the crowd.

It got me thinking – people paid good money to see a band they loved. They probably had to save and sacrifice something to get there. (Most of the audience was young, but even the older members of the crowd didn’t strike me as having Bill Gates money.) Also, Arcade Fire encouraged all on this tour to dress up in formal attire or costume. That takes planning and commitment. It was a decision and a choice to go and to invest time, money and effort to enjoy the experience.

While the Goose Island block party was still good cheap fun unlike what you find anywhere else in Chicago, it felt more like a thing so cheap you simply couldn’t pass on it. That is literally what got me there. “This show is $10 you say? And I get to drink beer and watch the Breeders? Count me in, Robert!” It was a thing to do with people that didn’t cost much.

I’m not knocking the 312 Block Party by any means. I told Robert I plan on making this standing plans in the years to come. But we got what we paid for, so to speak.

I’m not even really knocking U2 for giving away a free album. There are plenty of other people on the Internet to handle that.

But don’t expect me to care about it.

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