The Music Lounge

The Digital Age

Life in the download era….

Last week I was chatting to a couple of people in their early twenties about music and their love of R&B in particular, especially Chris Brown. Out of simple curiosity I asked if he wrote his own songs presuming they would know everything there was to know about their favourite artist. They had no idea. One told me ‘it’s because it’s download’

Fully aware of sounding like a dinosaur I said how my generation quite literally studied albums and lyric sheets to glean as much information about the artist as possible. Today we live in the age of the instant download, a song can be bought and placed on your mobile phone in a couple of minutes from almost any location, it’s instant musical gratification. But at what price? And does anyone care anyway?

It is easy to criticise today’s generation, I knew everything about my favourite artists probably through boredom more than anything. Had someone put a PlayStation in front of teenage me in 1980 then I am quite sure I would have played on it the same as today’s teenagers, it’s too easy to be precious about such things. But as someone who has known LP’s, CD’s and now Spotify I feel qualified to have a balanced opinion.

I am glad that I was able to experience the physical enjoyment of buying and playing vinyl records, it was for me, a hugely personal thing, I treasured my collection. Playing vinyl when you didn’t have the luxury of an expensive hi-fi setup meant working at getting the sound right, fixing loose wires, cleaning the turntable, changing the stylus, blowing dust off the records and so on. There were sellotape repairs to be made to split album covers, swapping albums with your friends, wanting special edition gatefolds with lyric sheets or coloured vinyl. Information on your favourite artist was hard to come by, patience was a virtue. YouTube was a pipe dream.

But we know have the mobile phone, we can play thousands of songs in our car, free from DJ’s talking over the intro or fading out the guitar solo. We can cherry pick one great track from an album of otherwise stinkers, we can create playlists without fear of the tape getting tangled and for a few pounds/dollars a month we can compile a vast library unlike any teenage you or I could have hoped for.

There are winners and losers, today’s artists struggle to have a body of work heard and appreciated because we, the consumer have the power of selection. Royalty payments suffer, the notion of undivided loyalty to one band or artist has largely disappeared and a thousand Instagram images chokes the aura of anticipation. Saturation comes at a price, I live in the now and admire the technology of musical delivery but I cannot help but feel today’s youth are missing out on musical based memories previous generations enjoyed and cherish to this day.

In our headlong rush to bring everything to our finger tips some real pleasures have fallen by the wayside, it feels less special now and much less personal.


Categories: The Music Lounge

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