Such a long, long path it has traveled. It’s grown (or side-tracked, depending on your individual point of view). But one thing is solid, it has remained in our cultural displays for over 50 years. 50 years!!
But one thing that has changed dramatically is how we listen to it. It used to be an experience all to itself for a long, long time. We anticipated the arrival of new songs from a band that we loved. We pored over the album musically and visually. (Remember how disappointed you were when the album contained little other than the vinyl inside?) It was played , and played, and played some more. Many of us didn’t have the greatest stereo equipment to play it back but who cared. We were listening to songs that we were going to grow to love.
But now, music comes in chunks. A song is the prize (like it was during the Top40 heydays but those hits led to the album, whereas today really doesn’t, not anymore).
Today, the song has to fit into a playlist, often an emotional playlist. One for exercising to. One for driving to. One for sad times, one for happy times. One for the current favorites. But with the availability of cheap disc space (or whatever passes for storage these days), it’s easy to fill up a player, phone, hard-drive, or cloud storage with days of music.
Gone is the experience. Hello song for the moment. For the moment because we’re very likely to forget about them in the very near future. With so many songs available, that’s easy to do.
This can go several directions. One is the reality that we have moved from the singular music experience of immersing in a new release. But I’m most interested in a future prediction here. Like many things, it’s easy to see that in the not too distant future, familiar things are going to disappear. Manufacturing, overnight deliveries, the way we do business, the way we buy and sell things. For music, that is also a truth. Eventually, the production of a disposable song (I hate that term but it’s applicable) will be so cheap that even $0.99 cents is far too expensive to sell it for. And that certainly isn’t too enticing for the artists of our past to want to pursue, nor would many of them have done so if that was the case.
Fortunately, back then, it wasn’t the case. Now? A fast track to reality.
Labels, once they get acceptable pricing figured out, would do well to get back into the business of helping to get us interested in the best of new music. Yes, the individual bands don’t really need that to get their music out there. But they need the distributive muscle that comes with a certain kind of directed trust that is still part of the label design today (it really is).
Until some genius comes up with a plan to be that (labels are closest to it, and streaming and iTunes are farthest away), we’re in a stagnant musical atmosphere, where a trusted source is the gate-keeper of great new music. But then, how long will we be appreciative of a band or song once directed to them?
I wonder how long Rock and Roll has to live if every song is is too fleeting, leaving behind no footprint.
I really wonder.