Buying an album was always a rite of passage. From purchasing your first album to the excited trepidation of waiting for the long-awaited release of your favourite artist. In some ways going down to whichever record store it was in some ways akin to going the match. There is the hype of the reviews as they dissect the album and then finally the day it is released when you get a chance to see if it lives up to your expectations.
Sometimes it can be the sheer high of listening to something that is on another level and a feeling that the band or singer has done it again. There can be that extra heart beat moment of knowing that this is something special. Equally it can be a damp squib, a stomach lurching feeling of seeing your team go two goals down within ten minutes in a cup final. Even though you know it’s rubbish you convince yourself that it will get better after a few more listens but sadly it doesn’t.
Discovering an album can be just simply judging it be the cover or listening to a song that you take a plunge. A mate may even recommend a band that you wished you had discovered years ago. It’s the sheer joy of discovering a new artist and expanding your own tastes.
Now music is not only more accessible but can be instantly be obtained. The internet and indeed the speed of downloading has changed how we listen and obtain music. Gone are the days of copying a mate’s CD onto tape now you can do it from your lap top.
Of course it caused a furore as piracy rose due to illegal downloads but the likes of apple not only made downloading legit but changed how we listen to music.
In some respects it went back to the early days of popular music where the importance for an artist was to make that catchy song. A successful tune could pave the way in terms of making money and obtaining new fans. It was why Pink Floyd were unsure what direction they had to take when Syd Barrett left as he was the one (at the time) who the rest of Floyd felt had the ability to write that unique song.
As music evolved an album became something serious that had to be listened from the beginning to the start. Ironically Pink Floyd developed albums such as the dark side of the moon that was meant to be a journey and not a case of picking selected tracks.
With apple and later Spotify this all changed. If you hear a song on the radio you can download it instantly. The choice is yours as you can download the tracks that you like. That warbling, self-indulgent track, well I am not listening to that. Even if the artist intends for the album to be listened in full you don’t have to.
Technology has changed how we listen and in some respects means more choice. Whereas once there was only the radio to discover music and word of mouth, this can be done via Spotify. It can be done via playlists, recommendations or simply genres. The only difference now is that people no longer go out and buy the album only add it to their favourites list or include it in their own playlists.
This of course causes problems as infamously highlighted by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke who decried that Spotify was underselling musicians. It is certainly true that royalties are not that great and now musicians tend to make the money by touring or performing at festivals.
Critics have highlighted concerns about new artists not being given the opportunity to develop and that there is nothing new on the scene. In some respects that is certainly true in the sense the media can’t cite a movement such as punk, grunge, or even Brit Pop. Indeed the last Indie band to make an impact probably has to be the Arctic Monkeys. Yet their popularity was down to using social media.
Despite the criticism of Spotify it does provide an opportunity to discover new music and artists. From this I have discovered the Thee oh sees, got back into listening to funk with Curtis Mayfield, and garage blues such as the Kills.
The joy of producing my own mix tape has been revived as I can set up playlists which means having a diverse range from Megadeth to Otis Reading with bits of blues and even disco mixed in between.
The only difference that I have noticed is that in the past year I have scarcely bought any albums. Being old school I would have bought the Thee oh sees album but for whatever reason I haven’t got round to it and listen on Spotify. Don’t get me wrong I still love buying albums albeit CDs. There is still that excitement of holding it in your hand and examining the inside sleeve but it’s just that the way I consume music has moved on.
Of course the field has changed for musicians although they probably still rely on radio airplay to get a track promoted. There is that much choice to listen to your preferred tastes whereas previously the radio held much clout on what was listened to. Now anyone can delve into their preferred choices.
It’s not just music that has changed on how we consume it but television as well. With faster broadband speeds the opportunity to download TV shows and films has led to the rise of Netflix’s and Amazon prime. With a choice of quality shows you can now watch whenever you want and even binge watch the set in one go.
Never mind having to find to follow a show at a set date and time you don’t even have to worry about DVD’s. The rise of streaming probably helped lead to the demise of Blockbuster’s as you don’t need to venture out of your living room or be disappointed if all the copies have been rented out.
Added to which there is catch up TV such as BBC I player that means you can watch your favourite programme at a time that is convenient for you. It is not just BBC programmes but ITV, Channel Four, and Sky to name but a few.
Even radio offers you the choice to listen to programmes that you miss. Right now I am listening to 6 music’s Huey Morgan show because it is convenient for me. If it wasn’t available then there is no way I would be able to listen live on Saturday.
Of course this works both ways as it provides the opportunity for the media to increase its audiences right across the spectrum and that is the good side of streaming and downloading music or television shows. There is more choice now than there ever is and more control for the listener or the viewer.
It is inevitable that there is going to be some sort of impact especially piracy. Sky seems to be suffering simply because people find ways of streaming matches to watch their team rather than pay the high price of a subscription.
Music too it could be argued is suffering from downloading and streaming. Bands are finding it harder to get their music heard and albums are no longer listened in the way they were once intended.
Nevertheless there is a demand for it and the reason for that and I am willing to hold my hand is that it is accessible. There is more choice and still a chance to discover new music. What the future holds who knows. People will always love music and maybe styles will change.
At present musicians performing live seems to be the best way of making of money and it probably won’t be long before the likes of Amazon Prime, Apple, Facebook, and maybe even Netflix’s may consider streaming a live show so that everyone can enjoy that moment of that band or singer performing live. After all there are many who would probably have paid to see a live showing of Led Zeppelin’s reunion a few years back. Maybe that will be the next step for music.