“What impact has the Internet had on the way music is consumed, discovered and distributed these days?”
I hope to articulate my answer to this question from my own experience with music and the Internet over the years, followed by some observations.
I recall buying vinyl, seeking out picture discs as collectors’ items and moving to cassettes. Then, I could make mixed tapes, record music, interviews and shows from the radio and replay them on my Sony Walkman. Compact discs – a true miracle to behold! The sound was so impressive and as long as you took care of your discs, life was good. You could burn them, copy them without losing the quality, unlike the degradation that occurred when copying cassettes over and over.
Life changed again for me when iPod and iTunes came out. I was a little hesitant at first, as I could hear the lower quality in MP3s compared to CDs. However, I came around fast. Not only could I rip my entire CD collection, but I wasn’t encumbered by my zillion CDs – everything I owned fit into my pocket on my iPod. Still being in my late teens and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life (i.e. no job), I also found Napster and went to town. My already large collection had grown to exponentially large – I was so proud of the fact that I could drive for 29 days straight without repeating a track on my iPod Classic. I was extremely pleased to also discover “B sides” of vinyls that I thought were long-lost in MP3 Land. “12” remixes” were out there too. Life was good yet again.
Then, they shut Napster down… no problemo… I moved to Kazaa and kept on going. But, they shut that down too, along with LimeWire.
But, that didn’t bother me too much. By that stage, I had a steady income and could afford to buy my music from iTunes. I always swore that I would stop the piracy when I could afford to do so and I kept my word. I’ve always been of the opinion that any artist should be compensated for their intellectual property.
Now, I Spotify… I try out new music through that service (when I have time), but will always buy what I like from iTunes shortly afterwards. I like keeping my musical archive going. I guess, being a veteran and seeing programs and services come and go, I wonder where things like Spotify will end up. So, the “oldie” in me like to have a back-up. I want my own music… in MY cloud, or on MY iPod, hard-drive, iTunes, where-ever… as long as it’s mine because I purchased it.
Now, here’s where I foresee some possible variation between generations. Please, anyone out there – correct me if I’ve made a false assumption here…
Being older, I don’t listen to radio stations that devote a lot of their air time to music. I’m tuned into radio stations like ABC Radio National (which plays music only occasionally) and will notice a film’s soundtrack, or a tune playing in a coffee shop. It’s only after hearing these tunes that grab my attention that I will run to iTunes and download it. Sometimes, I have used Shazam to capture a title and an artist so that I know what to look for and purchase it for my collection.
All in all, just through my experience, I have been through many stages… I look back and am still amazed at how far we’ve come and evolved with the Internet and web related technologies. I look forward to being around to (hopefully) see future developments. I’m sure things will only get better.
As for the amazing impact the Internet has had on music – it’s so much easier to find obscure music, download it quickly, hear/play it “on demand”, 24/7. There is concern, of course, over the legalities of purchase, piracy and distribution, but I think models like Spotify, Last.FM and Grooveshark will only illustrate to the industry new avenues to pursue to lock down those legal rights. Either that, or they will come up with yet another model where everyone wins – the artist, the consumer and the overarching capitalistic corporation trying to make money. The little cynic in me thinks it will NOT be the latter. Word-of-mouth via social networks enable an artist’s popularity – the more people that are interested in the music, the more popular that artist is… and viral. But, I question what “popularity” means these days… even more so after having read Gardiner yesterday. I wonder if Lefebvre (as cited in Gardiner, 2000, p. 2) hit the nail on the head here, as he stated that “A landscape without flowers or magnificent woods may be depressing for the passer-by, but flowers and trees should not make us forget the earth beneath, which has a secret life and richness of its own.” Are we all so preoccupied with the popular music of the masses, but fail to notice the other, perhaps equally or more worthwhile, artists that may slip into oblivion?
Gardiner, M. (2000). Critiques of everyday life. London, UK: Routledge.