I told myself that it wouldn't matter much, when Tuesday rolled around and I could finally purchase Daft Punk's Random Access Memories from the record store, that I'd already been streaming the album for a week on iTunes.
I think I was wrong.
I'm not going to make the audiophile argument here -- I didn't buy it on vinyl or spin it on a thousand-dollar sound system -- even if listening to it the first time around on shitty laptop speakers was far from ideal. I'm not even going to argue that having a physical copy of it would have somehow changed my experience of the album; the artwork on the CD I purchased is really no larger or nicer than what I was seeing on my computer screen anyway, and it comes in your standard, generic, plastic jewel case.
But I will argue that I've missed something in listening to the sneak peek a week in advance, in the same way that the single Christmas present I was permitted to open each Christmas Eve was always kinda, I don't know, not as cool as the stuff that I had to wait until Christmas morning to tear into. And the fact that I'm feeling this with Daft Punk doesn't seem accidental, either.
The fact is, Daft Punk is a band that thrives on mystery, even if there's not much more than two brilliant French dudes to see behind those cooler-than-any-of-us-will-ever-be helmets. The allure of the band, in some ways, hinges upon that mystery, in the same way that, if you're of a certain mindset, the White Stripes seemed cooler when you weren't entirely sure what the fuck was going on between Jack and Meg.
And so, for an album that was so tightly controlled (no leak -- of which I was aware, at least -- and no big interviews except for the Pitchfork one, which came out after its iTunes release anyway), streaming it to everyone with a web connection before its release seems ill-advised, at least to this fussy listener.
Because even though I couldn't wait to hear this record, I would've ignored any leaks and the shitty-quality YouTube videos until it came out, having contented myself to watching, for the hundredth time, the irresistible "Get Lucky" teaser.
The streaming, though, felt like Daft Punk saying it was okay to get to it before it was really born.
And, of course, I couldn't resist -- I downloaded iTunes for the first time ever, and listened to it more or less on loop.
I understand the decision. It mitigates the risk of a leak, a risk that I imagine gets exponentially higher as the release date approaches and more people have their hands on copies. Further, it builds up interest in the record, though I have to imagine that the people finally turned on to Daft Punk because they streamed on iTunes are a pretty small segment of the listening population.
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But even if I understand the decision, I wish they would've made me wait. When I got into my car and played it as loud as my girlfriend would tolerate, the opening of "Give Life Back to Music" seemed a little less urgent, a little less electrifying than when I'd played it on my laptop a week earlier.
Like the millions who did the same, I robbed myself of that moment, and I wonder if anyone else feels a bit like a heel for doing it.