Wasn’t the ‘Y2K bug’ in the new millennium meant to bring a frenzy of technological meltdown? A dodgy and erroneous prediction. Instead, the year 2000 marks a revolutionary turning point for human advancement, a revelation of change, a beautiful spur of convenience and ease; I am, of course, referring to the rise of the internet. Thanks to technology today, our access to a whole variation of music has increased significantly. Gone are the days of raiding jumble sales for long-lost EPs, scratched records and infinite CD collections collecting dust on weighed-down shelves. It has all been reduced to an effortless click of a button and a near endless supply of gigabyte space available on a pocket-sized, electronic device; the iPod.
It is an extraordinary and unfathomable entity that boggles the mind of many a computer-simpleton such as myself. Needless to say, it has changed the way we experience and appreciate music tremendously. In the past, listening to music was very much an organised and solitary affair; something you might do in your bedroom where you had access to your record or CD player. Portable music players have revolutionised the idea of ‘music-on-the-go’, allowing us to carry thousands of songs in our pockets on a regular basis.
Inevitably, with this we were introduced to the undeniable ‘singles culture’; whereas in the past you would scrounge up your pennies in preparation of the release of your favourite artist’s new album, society today is sadly far more interested in the most commercial and popular songs of the moment. The creation of music players such as the ‘iPod shuffle’ has encouraged the download of individual songs, greatly undermining an artist’s efforts and ability. The beauty of the album is the obligatory initial struggle on first listen and the excitement of the unfamiliar; surely, by making singles so accessible we are taking some of the fun out of new music?
Undoubtedly, it can also be argued that music download can lead to world-wide exposure, uncovering fresh, young talent, widen musical horizons and indulge in music that is obscure and unknown to one’s palette. We spoke to the Brighton-based indie band ‘The Maccabees’. “For a grass roots band, to have your music accessible to the world is a fantastic thing and can lead to great exposure.” Sometimes, however, the repercussions of illegal download are not considered. “It’s middle-sized bands such as us that are affected. I know it’s not cool to say, but you spend a lot of money making a record then if everybody’s having it for free, we don’t know if we’re able to make another one.”
MySpace is the epitome of social networking and infinite music supply all under one roof. We have definitely all heard ‘MySpace is dead’ over the last 2 years, and this may well be true in terms of depleting numbers of obscurely angled photos and misunderstood emokids who use it, but neither Facebook nor Twitter can compete with it for the crown of music availability, diversity and promotion. Allowing bands and solo artists to have music profiles provides the masses with their work, thus helping to raise their status. Similarly, the ingenious creation of YouTube allows us free and legal access to music at ease, without having to commit to a ‘Buy Now’ button. Although free music may be considered by some as theft, surely as a promotion tool it is not half bad. Ironically, it will probably only increase an artist’s popularity. So the temptation is always there with Youtube to listen to ‘Seven Nation Army’ on repeat 7 times in a row, but for those of us who wish to explore, it proves to be a musical utopia.
Sadly, the ruthless behavior of the money-driven society in which we live in has caused the demise of many of our independent music stores, including the global ‘Virgin’ and more local musical havens such as ‘Select-A-Disk’ located in our very own Nottingham. Although I cannot help but feel a sense of regret at abandoning tradition, it’s questionable whether the death of our beloved music stores is down to mass-illegal downloading criminal masterminds, or simply legal download through online stores such as iTunes. Spotify provides us with free music whilst still paying the artist via advertisement money; is free music really such a crime when it not only pays the creator but also increases their accessibility? Ultimately, it seems we must move forward with the times to keep the bands we love alive, even if this means trading in the record player for the laptop.