Thoughts on the Digital Music Revolution

I’ve always been behind on technological trends. I got a Nintendo about the time everyone else was getting a Sega Genesis and a Sega when everyone else was getting a PlayStation. I only bought this laptop a few years ago, which makes my late coming to the Digital Music Revolution nothing of a surprise. But as I’m now listening to tunes I’d forgotten were even in my music collection and jamming more than I have in years I’m wondering why it took me so long.

By far the best advantage to having an MP3 player instead of a CD player is the lack of clutter. A few months ago I had 2 shelves on my bookshelf dedicated to only part of my CD collection. Not only was this cumbersome when moving but also cumbersome when looking for the proper song to play. I’ve learned that clutter is not only an eyesore; it also hinders the enjoyment of what you have. Being able to actually find possessions greatly increases the pleasure you get out of owning them.

My main reason behind buying the MP3 player is that at my new job we’re allowed to listen to music. Anyone who’s worked in a factory knows that an eight-hour shift goes by a lot quicker with a little distraction. Also, I can’t complain about the fact that I’ve gotten over 100 bucks out of the discs I’ve sold at the local music shop. Of course, I paid several thousand for the damn things, but it’s nice to be able to get something out of them now that I don’t have a use for them.

It’s not like upgrading from vinyl to CD or 8-track to cassette. I don’t have to buy anything new, I can just download. It’s also pretty crazy how well my computer reads some of the discs I had. There are a few that were really scratched up and ragged. Over the several moves that some have been through there were quite a few scratches, broken cases and even some water damage. My copy of Tool’s Ӕnima even had what looked like mustard stain on it. My trusty Acer still ripped every song on the album.

There are downsides to my smaller CD collection. I don’t have the best MP3 player money can buy. I can’t just download all my music in there and hit shuffle. I program several hours at a time and let it all play through but this is a lot easier than dragging a CD player and a dozen discs to work everyday. I’ll upgrade soon. I’m also going to miss the artwork that accompanies physical albums but for a justification of why I’m not too saddened by this see my discussion of clutter above. Plus all my music has a pause between songs that didn’t exist on the CD. I’m guessing this is just something that I’m doing wrong when downloading but it’s still a pain. I really thought my Zappa album was skipping the other day at work. There are some odd track changes on that one.

I can’t help wondering what the future holds. This will change the way I buy and discover new music. I noticed that I can get downloads from a little bit cheaper than physical CDs. It’s also nice to know I’ll be able to own Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm for only 99 cents without having to buy the entire Crash Test Dummies album that I’ll probably never listen to. Plus there’s torrent websites. The main advantage though is that I won’t have to find a place to put them or have to take them with me when I move. I’m still not sure how I’ll discover new music. I am enjoying but I guess the easiest way will still be the radio and word of mouth. Nothing really changes there, but I can’t wait until you see bands handing free download codes instead of CD’s at shows.

The biggest bummer is how disposable music has become. It feels like a big deal to throw away a CD but deleting a file doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. I guess this is just where music is heading now. Not only is the format we listen to it and buy it on more disposable, but the actual product is also more disposable. Could you imagine anyone carrying around a copy of E.T. by Katy Perry in 30 years? Not to say I don’t love that song, but I really don’t think it has much staying power. There isn’t music coming out today with the same power or influence as Bob Dylan or The Beatles or Metallica or Nirvana. We’re inundated by a revolving door of one-hit-wonder hip-hop artists. I mean, who the hell is going to be listening to Wiz Kalifa, LMFAO or Nicki Minaj in 20 years? I won’t be. I didn’t listen to them last year. But I’ll still be jamming to Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, just like I have been for the past two decades.

So here’s hoping that something good comes out in 2013 because even though the industry is changing and the way we listen is changing, we shouldn’t change our standards.


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