From ‘mass-music’ to ‘my-music’ – has the business lost its authenticity?
By L. A Rowland
Once upon a time, life as a music-enthusiast meant saving up for weeks to buy The Beatles’ latest LP
Let’s go back to the 1960s. It’s Saturday morning: you get up early and wander into your local music store, humming ‘Let It Be’ as you search for the record. The manager catches your eye and nods, congratulating you on your immaculate choice. You share a moment of “Hell, yes”. Handing over your precious coins, you rush home with the giant disk in hand and carefully place it on the turn table. As the music plays, you sink into your living room chair and listen to John Lennon’s voice emanating from the dusty record player.
Now let’s fast-forward to the 21st century. It’s Saturday morning: you are lying in your bed when you hear a song you like on the Radio One Breakfast Show. Raising your smartphone to the heavens, you Shazam it. The heavens reply with a direct link to the iTunes store, and 99p later, the song is yours. When you tweet about how great it is, all your followers favourite it. Hell, yes.
It is no secret that these two scenarios achieve the same end, but in the last fifty years our way of getting there has been entirely rejigged. We live in a society that runs on instant gratification; the world is evolving in a torrent of technology, pleasure-pursuits and YOLOs, and the music business is evolving with it. But has evolution personalised and intensified our musical experience, or has the innate value of owning a record been lost entirely?
Let’s call this phenomenon the transition from ‘mass-music’ to ‘my-music’. In other words, instead of spending our Saturday morning listening to an entire album from a single artist, we are able to pick and choose our favourite songs from thousands of them; in this new-found musical equality, Freddie Mercury can play next to Nicki Minaj, Harry Styles next to Mozart and Mick Jagger next to Rebecca Black (we all remember ‘Friday’). We are able to carry a selection of music that is unique to us everywhere we go, and listen to it through headphones so that only we experience it. Fantastic. Right?
But there’s a catch. In having this, we no longer stop to think about the time an artist puts into their work, because it takes us no time to access it. The excitement of owning a new record and sifting lovingly though each song is no more. Albums are not appreciated as a whole, but split apart into what’s a hit and what’s not; what should be, and what really shouldn’t. From there, individual songs either take the digital world by storm, or sit in the iTunes store, untouched.
So, as brilliant as it can be, does the one-click access we have to music destroy any intrinsic value in how it is experienced? In my opinion, yes. But as we are at odds with the world around us, all us die-hard lovers of authenticity can do, in the words of Miss Swift, is ‘Shake It Off’.
Or buy a turn table.
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