The facts are now so lamented it has become nauseating to hear how much music consumption has altered throughout the 20th and 21st century, a topic of conversation one’s dad makes at the dinner table when mutual familial interests grow sparse. But I feel we need to set the scene, so this is exactly how I will begin.
The pattern is simple- it all becomes obsolete. Gramophones and radios replaced household pianos. TVs encroached on radios which are now almost exclusively relegated to the realms of rush hour traffic jams. Vinyl records replaced shellac discs. Cassettes came in various forms and they were all rendered irrelevant by the short lifespan of the CD. The CD was scratched by the mp3 but shattered by the iPod. And the iPod has been regenerated every year since, its sales only diminished in light of our beloved smartphones.
With the iPod and the encoded format of iTunes downloads, Apple established quite the monopoly on music consumption. Few have felt comfortable giving up the music they acquired in the early 2000s to change the hardware required to play it. Change is no new thing. And likewise, streaming will soon be replaced. In the meantime, we
cannot fight the current, and our concerns for the wellbeing of artists in this most recent medium are not exclusive to it. The problem of the just payment of artists for their work is a problem of our unregulated economy, and not implicit in the way we listen to said artists. A new wave is upon us once more. Many no longer download at all; now we stream.
Each change was inevitable, the hypothetical father concludes. Yet many a nostalgic finds great pleasure in the obscure LP/ EPs from before they were born. The little conservative inside me hastens to admit that he himself fears that with each of these changes something unique about the particular medium was lost, and I think there is a sentimental value to these relics. Pieces of art and history reside in those silent, gorgeous sleeves you might find at the bottom of barging bin in Soundclash record store, and as I stream a half-arsedly selected YouTube playlist while I write, I am constantly bombarded with ads. To this end, we might well have to conclude that
the concept album is MIA in music’s latest endeavour. But while one artistic form might be in decay, others may now flourish in its place.
For better or for worse, I cannot content myself listening only to the eras I never experienced. I live today, and wish to experience music as such. In fact my desire for the new is insatiable and to feed it, I must only stream. On the internet, I can discover it all without even sitting up in bed. There I can hear the world over, for free. Every artist with a laptop can be heard. That, for me, is something worth listening to.