We're catching up with the boys. We've seen the light and we're ready to embrace the future. No, we're not on a one-woman mission to build a wall of empty beer cans, or even to collect the entire The Simpsons back catalogue. We're catching up in the digital music stakes.
For a long time, men have led the way in this field. In fact, in May of this year a survey said that it was only 4% of the total downloading population that were female. However, a recent survey by Music Choice says that women now make up 34% of this population. It is easy to see that it won't take very long before we're even. The real glass ceiling will have been broken … well kind of.
Whether selling to men or women, digital music companies are having to battle with the cult of the album. Whether it's the album art, the lyrics that make it possible to pretend that yes, you are Gwen Stefani, or just the ability to use CDs as coasters, there is undoubtedly something to be said for owning the CD itself. Like it or not, collections are cool. (Unless it's stamps, or science fiction films, or the skulls of animals. Actually, I've changed my mind. CD collections are cool. There aren't many other collections that are cool.)
Anyway, it's difficult to impress people with the size of your hard drive. Not impossible, but difficult. So digital music companies have had to come up with a compelling reason to convert.
When it began, sites such as Kazaa had it sorted. The music was free. That was a pretty damn compelling reason to try it (not that I ever did, obviously, it being illegal and everything). iTunes heralded legal and easy to use music downloading and brought it to a whole new group of people. iTunes is also an interesting site to browse. The ability to quickly discover new artists connected to your favourite band (Girls Aloud in my case) and to explore new content such as talking books and podcasts, make it an easy way to waste half an hour. Or to broaden your musical knowledge, depending on whether or not you're trying to justify it as a good reason to not go to the gym. Again.
Now we've got the next big thing. This is, I should point out, concluded from conducting a poll of six of my closest friends - we're not strictly speaking official trend predictors. Anyway, sites such as Virgin Digital and Napster allow you to subscribe on a monthly basis which gives you access to their entire music collection for as long as you maintain your subscription. This is amazing. For the cost of one CD, you can download any number of songs from a catalogue of over 1.5 million, and listen to it as many times as you want. You can even transfer it to an mp3 player and take it on the bus with you.
A large CD collection is cool. But being able to play practically any song anyone names is better. Forget burping the alphabet. This is the party trick of the 21st century.
Women were always going to be a tough nut to crack. Expert shoppers, we're perfectly at home in a shopping centre the size of Birmingham, and wandering around looking at labels, pulling at seams and generally browsing isn't an experience we're keen to forego. However, as a result of this training, we've also got an eye for a bargain. And if the offering is good enough, I reckon we could surpass men in the downloading stakes. After all, who wouldn't want to own the entire Take That back catalogue for the price of one CD?