Interesting Music Lost in the Noise

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iPod burning vinyl D. Alan Photography

Laying on top of the roof, looking up at the stars, my seven year old self and my sister considered what would come after the CD.  Although the CD seemed perfect, I imagined something with multiple sides, like a prism of some sort.  I guess the idea was to have all of your music on one device.  I realized then that it would be hard to store something like that, and I could only imagine it being quite large (because I assumed the amount of music a CD held was related to its size).  So, fixing my gaze back on the stars with a sigh, I acknowledged that a CD just might be the perfect way to listen to music.

Then there was the advent of the MP3 that changed everything.  With the combination of affordable personal computers, increased memory and decreased size, the world came to our fingertips–and the iPod put it in our pockets.  I loved it.

But now I wonder again, where is it that media is heading?–not so much as to what will be the next format to have music, but more so on the affects our current situation will have on the way people perceive music.

When cassette tapes roamed the earth, kids would make a copy or a mix tape of interesting music for a friend, but this required owning a tape in the first place, or putting some serious time into recording the perfect songs from the radio.

When the CD first came out, this trend continued.  I remember asking friends to put a new CD they just bought onto a tape for me.  If I really liked it, I would go out and buy the CD.  If I didn’t, I just copied over the tape with something more interesting.

What I’m trying to get down to is the current situation.  Now it seems that a lot of kids only have iPods and access to a computer at home.  Regardless of the source (be it a friend’s iTunes, internet, etc.), they can get massive amounts of music in minutes.

In many ways, I like this.  But in other ways, I fear for the well being of what will be deemed interesting music.  What I mean by interesting music, as it is a very relative term, is that music which exists outside the realm of pop–the stuff that gets millions of dollars in advertising from record companies.

Before, those songs that were force fed to us in every restaurant, and which bombarded every radio wave we tuned in to, were the source of noise.  But it seems now, because anyone can fill their iPod with anything from the obscure to the ‘Lady Gaga’, that the artists being backed by big advertising bucks are the only thing piercing through the noise.

While there have always been those who search out the interesting music of the world, they are no longer required to support the artist in any way.  They find a review of an interesting album, download a torrent, and pass it on to twenty of their friends who are looking to just stand out of the crowd.  But this activity doesn’t lead to that obscure band with the interesting music to get discovered by Record Label X unless it also happens to be obscure, interesting music that is also marketable.

For any other producer of interesting music, however, the consumers of it have no obligation to support the group who has so graciously donated their tracks to a kid for the sole purpose his friends can see a name that no one else has on their play list of 231 years 88 days 14 hrs 48 mins and 59 sec worth of interesting music–yet, they scoff at the other kids who only have a couple of days worth of music that is filled by the same albums that populate the airwaves and MTV.

Everyone in this scenario is winning except for those groups trying to make interesting music in the first place.  In all the noise that was, existed some gleam of hope for musicians.  In all the noise that is, that same hope is buried 80 GB’s under–much farther than 6 ft.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. george
    Jul 15, 2010 @ 11:02:55

    I have to agree with what you’ve put here, this is something I’ve thought about a lot, and it’s a very real dilemma that faces most up and coming musicians these days. But interestingly, although this is a big problem for most new bands who are trying to “make it”, there is also another side to the coin of living in the digital age. Even though these bands are facing really difficult odds selling their albums at a time when their music can be swapped for free between friends or using torrents, a huge amount of these bands, if they existed 25-30 years ago, would not have had the resources or technology to produce that album without help from some sort of record label or serious source of funding. Now, with very limited gear, anyone can make a near pro audio album for very little cash and with very limited technical knowledge.
    I think there are two ways to look at this. The first is that record sales are becoming a more and more difficult method of revenue generation for up and coming bands… or any bands for that matter, and this could have a very negative effect on those bands and their creative possibilities. The other way is to accept that everything about the way that we live, create, and share with other people has and is continuing to change dramatically (mainly due to the internet). Now we are seeing many artists adapting by creating their own record labels, releasing their albums for free or on a donation basis, having their main revenue come from live shows, and seeing their music spread that much faster due to their working with the flow of the system instead of against it.
    We live in interesting times, and although we see more and more instances of big record labels trying feebly to crack down on piracy of their products, people will always find a way. We have come so far from the days when the only music we had access to was what was selling on cassette or what we could record from the radio, what was being spoon fed to us by the big record labels. Now, anyone who has a couple hundred bucks and a story to tell can make an album. I think that is a truly amazing opportunity. The more people that have the means to create and share music, the more good music we can find and enjoy. Maybe the amount of noise in general is increasing, but I think through listening closely and adapting to the times, a bounty of fantastic music and opportunity can be found within and shared with the world.


    • windbeat
      Jul 15, 2010 @ 12:00:58

      Thanks for posting your thoughts.

      I definitely agree with what needs to be done in light of the problem. The way we share is going to need to rapidly change, and I feel it will eventually become more personal (it already is). The record labels will have to change with this, or admit that they can no longer function as the middle man between listeners and artists.

      Another positive outcome could be that because enough groups and individuals can create music at home, and because more and more services are catering to help listeners find interesting music they like, the music industry will follow more closely to the wants of the market rather than releasing a limited sample to the market, finding which of the groups sells the most, and then make hundreds more bands like that… If we are lucky, we could come out of this with no more cookie cutter bands–or, if we’re not lucky, people continue to choose the same stuff, and we are left with the sad realization in yet another flaw in human nature, lol.


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