Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

test press of Communicate with notes from Mark
I've been thinking about audio files lately. There are lots of interesting audio blogs these days and I realized that putting audio interviews for my sharing economy research online would be a neat thing to do. For the last month or so, I've been diving into audio gear and software. (I'll write about all this in another post when I figure out what I'm doing.) During this journey into gadgets past, I stumbled into my vinyl records from my DJ days. Most are promotional records that Rockpool sent me when I was reporting my charts to them, but many were from Mark Stephens. Mark Stephens was my mentor and one of my best friends. He was also the first person I knew who died of AIDS. Mark received tons of promos and he would share some of the good stuff with me. He would jot things down on the record jackets or on little post-its. Since I stopped spinning records, I've allowed several DJs as well as my second-cousin Cornelius to go through my record collection and take what they wanted. What I have now is a 1000+ record collection, almost all from 1988-1990, 90% crap, with very high sentimental value. What do I do with them? I looked into software to convert vinyl to mp3's but it looked like a real pain. The other idea I had was browse my vinyl for stuff I liked, scan the notes and try to find the music on a file sharing network. I should know the answer to this question, but is this illegal?

I seem to be getting into these diary-like entries these days, but digging through old vinyl and reading the little notes from Mark brought back a lot of memories. I'm struggling with how to bring some of those memories into the medium I have today.


Joi - I think I'm not alone when I say that I've been enjoying your diary style entries.

I used to have quite a few old jazz records from when I lived in Boston near "Looney Tunes", the record store by the Berkeley School of Music. When I moved to Japan, I couldn't bring them, so I gave them to a very grateful friend. Before I did, I copied some of my favorites onto MD, but the experience of hearing Sonny Rollins on a minidisc player on the subway in Tokyo, even though the sound quality was great, was so far removed from the ritual of lovingly taking a vintage record from its sleeve and playing it for friends, knowing that you are using one of the record's finite number of plays before the sound is gone.
However you were to record them, I doubt you'd enjoy it nearly as much.

That said, I read somewhere that enterprising teenagers have started setting up CD-ripping services where they find old guys like us with lots of CDs and no spare time and they will take your CDs and rip them to MP3 for a fee. (No doubt building up massive MP3 collections themselves...) Kind of a 21st century version of a Saturday lawn-mowing job. Maybe you can find someone to do that?


I come here from time to time from a mutual friend's blog. I haven't visited for a while, months even. I always found you to be intelligent, interesting and thoughtful. Lots of times I had absolutely no idea what you were talking about, but I always enjoyed the way you talked about it. I could see clearly how you and he, and he and I, could all be friends the way we are.

But with this entry... This entry is different. This time, I actually Felt our connection. So, I think the answer to this pondering:

"I'm struggling with how to bring some of those memories into the medium I have today."

Is... Just Like That.


Two observations:

1. DUDE! Cornelius is a relation? Didn't know that, and now I do. Groovy.

2. I don't know about Japan, but here, it's fine to download music that you already own. After all, it's redundant.. in a different form. Better to archive than to let all your musical memories go *poof* and it's handy to consolidate on the computermatic -- and this would be an efficient way of doing so if you don't want to do the manual thing of realtime ripping each vinyl.

One question:

1. Do you like Yellow Magic Orchestra?

Thank you Joi. Nostalgia is meant for humans. ^_^

Joi, here's what the regular release looked like:

Thanks Jim, Kate and Gen!

Torley: Yeah, Cornelius and I are pretty close. I was one of the few cousins who hung out with him when he wasn't popular yet.

I love YMO. I introduced Cornelius to Hosono-san of Yellow Magic Orchestra. I actually worked on one of Hosono-san's CDs. We had Kim Cascone from Silent Records mix it because we were getting into ambient music. I remember trying to get a big-ass Sony digital system into the basement of Zoetrope where we wanted to do the mix. The Sony people were furious because it was "noisy", but the studio was a classic. Shag carpet walls and old reels of Doors mixing tapes in the closets. Connie Yee, dropped by and made guest appearance on the CD. I can't remember the name of the CD now...

Ryuichi Sakamoto is also a good friend and I keep in touch with him more than Hosono-san these days.

Both of them are legends in my mind and I do what I can keep in touch and help them out. I've been trying to get both of them to blog, but haven't been able to yet.

Anyway, more information than you probably wanted, but I'm wandering down memory lane here...

Hey Joi

"I looked into software to convert vinyl to mp3's but it looked like a real pain." C'mon man! A bit of time and sweat is all that's needed, there are tons of good (and not so good) programs that'll sample, normalize and de-scratch that ol' stuff, and you'd have loads of fun doing it (80's retro party would seem to be the order of the day!)

The only thing I'd would warn you of though....once you've listened to most of those tracks whilst sampling them, you'll probably NOT want to listen to them for another 20 years!

...send me an invite to the party man, I'll get my glow-sticks and smiley t-shirt out...Ben

Thank you graciously Joi for the information. I am happy you shared more of your musical memories -- not more information, believe me... if anything, not enough ;). That's why I come here, I enjoy it!


I just packed up my CD collection (am moving from SF to Seattle in a few days), and also found that I still had several hundred cassettes in the basement. Packed those up too (again). This reminded me that I still have hundreds of LPs in my folks garage in LA.

The physical-ness of these discs are generally lovely, but storing/moving them makes me chant "Om, FLAC, Ogg, MP3"!

I think the value/expense point of having one's old analog collections in digital format is met by p2p / online music services, but if you have to digitize yourself, it gets really hard to justify those albums you might only put on again once in your life for five minutes.

But, if you're willing to pay, I'm sure you can find individuals or a company to digitize your collection. I know there are companies that offer this service.

The US hasn't decided yet if downloading is legal or not. Canada has, and they say it's legal. Unfortunately for us, we're stuck between the RIAA trying to sue its viewpoint into the lawbooks and millions of p2p users who have made downloading a part of "fair use".

Back when cassette recorders came on the market, the recording industry pulled this same stunt. "The sky is falling: people won't buy records anymore if they can just copy them at home." The Supreme Court had to weigh in, and they ruled that home recording was within a consumer's rights.

I've faith that a different set of Supremes will make the same ruling when we get to that juncture over p2p, but in the meantime, you could easily end up swapping legal memos with the RIAA over the scenario you described. They're expecting you to pay for each file you download, even if it's already on your vinyl shelf.

Using a makeshift setup, I tried to digitize some of my vinyl. To hear it all playback after so many years was just too sad and nostalgic; I had to stop the portation due to emotional (not technical) reasons. Silly, I know.


this is a luxury problem for sure! Hire a baito to do it all for you, thats probably the best way and you get to contribute to the economy as well ^_^

I've given up on my old records. They are in storage in NYC somewhere, I think. I have hundreds away when I left Texas and just could not bring the ones in NYC to Tokyo. As it is my media is overwhelming me. I'd almost like to hire a librarian to manage my server, my DVDs, VCDs, CDs and books. Oh well...

Have a look a this guy, he scans old vinyl records and digitizes the music in software!