Digital choices, digital decisions

Having seen the Rush Time Machine Tour in El Paso while traveling there in the summer of 2011 (one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended, btw), I was looking forward to getting the concert video to watch and the album to listen to. I’ve always been interested in how concert videos and the accompanying albums are produced, especially in comparative terms of the mixing and editing of the music, effects, audience, etc, and there are plenty of such things with Time Machine 2011. (For example, the removal of some dialog at the end of their instrumental “indulgence” from the album.)

Most surprising to me, though, was something that I’d never really thought about before: the version of the album sold on iTunes is exactly the same as the CD version.

A little background may be in order.

During this tour, Rush played the entire Moving Pictures album as the opening of the second set. On the DVD/Blu-ray, as expected, after the first set ends there is a slight pause before then going into the second set. The songs from Moving Pictures are played straight through, as they were in concert. On the CD, on the other hand, due to storage space limitations on a single disc and (I imagine) the desire to keep it a two-disc set instead of a three-disc set, the songs from Moving Pictures are split. Though less than ideal from an aesthetic, musical perspective, the split makes some sense coinciding as it does with the split of songs on the original LP release (the album predates the CD). 

I ended up buying the album through iTunes instead of on disc. The songs are (obviously) the same, but for some reason I was expecting the editing to be different. Specifically, I expected that there would be no break between the songs of Moving Pictures, so I was somewhat shocked when the audience sounds faded out at the end of Limelight and then faded back up for Camera Eye. Shocked. And a little disappointed.

Disappointed because this is another example of how many industries (music, movies, publishing) have failed to realize (recognize?) that digital is different. In this case, like so many others, digital distribution is seen as just another way to sell the same product, a different way to package it.

For many years now, video and audio-only presentations of live music have been treated not just as different packages, but as different products. I wonder how long it will be until the physical and digital presentations of live music – all content, really – will be treated not as different packages, but as different products.

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