It would be impossible to talk about the present state of music enjoyment without talking about the iPod and iTunes Thousands of albums in your pocket -brilliant, right? Easily download the singles you want, and forget about the rest of the album. OK, it is super convenient -but I think that this pick’n’mix “download culture” is causing us to lose some things along the way… so being the grumpy misanthrope that I am, I’m going to largely look at how our enjoyment of music is presently being fucked up.
I’ll start with the obvious -can anyone really ENJOY music on those shitty white headphones that the iPod comes with? Really -for a company which prides itself on “good design”, they are appallingly bad. Not only are they mugger-bait but they sound awful, and, worst of all, especially for anyone who takes public transport, they leak to buggery -no, I don’t feel like listening to the annoying buzz tinny nosebleed techno courtesy of the twat next to me on the tube.
More importantly, though, we’re losing musical fidelity -by which I mean: MP3s sound like shit. To make matters worse, labels are now mastering for an upfront, super-loud sound designed to grab your attention when played on tinny computer speakers. By compressing the bejesus out of everything, they are making music LESS enjoyable -you not only get clipping and a loss of sonic detail but you lose the emotional cadence and dynamic and end up with a really harsh & exhausting listening experience
And we’re losing the art of the album cover Once upon a time you could immerse yourself in 12 inches of gatefold glory, read the lyrics and liner notes Then the accursed CD took down to less than 5”, and now we’re down to 300 by 300 pixels. -little more than an icon. Not exactly a great canvas to work on, if you’re a designer. Again, I feel cheated.
But of course we have the interweb instead of those boring old liner notes. Its brilliant., isn’t it? Connects you one-on-one with the acts you dig. Yes, you can be Lily Allen’s “friend”! Now, I’m not disputing the positive affect that the web has on the relationships with the fanbase, but sometimes its … but, you know, they say that you should never meet your idols, and maybe you shouldn’t even get that close to them online “ does anyone know where I can find an orgasmatron?” tweets Lily Allen. I kinda preferred it when musicians were gods rather than mere mortals.
But this very ubiquity of music can be seen to devalue it, -after all, why pay for what you can get for free? My favourite stat is that, the day that Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” was available effectively for free download, a quarter of a million people actually downloaded it illegally. Interesting insight into behaviour, that. But the challenge of monetising “free” music has lead to some brilliant innovations…
More music than ever before is available at the click of a mouse -whatever you want, you can find it. No matter how obscure or perverse your musical tastes, it’ll be out there. I’m a huge fan of Spotify -it’s a veritable smorgasbord of musical pleasure -your own radio station, that only plays stuff you pick. With no fuckwit DJs, and no ads, if you pays your money, plus it allows you to legally share your favourite tunes. Brilliant. And, equally brilliantly, the record companies are embracing it… only ten years after Napster, but better late than never, eh?
Right -now, I’ve got to touch on this stuff - Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Singstar, DJ Hero -now that’s musical enjoyment. Immersive, interactive, entertaining, and of course highly embarrassing (at least if you’re me). I’m a huge fan of these games, especially when I get home at the end of a big night out. They really nail it don’t they? Music. Fun. Enjoyment. Brilliant!
And there is another great side to artists facing diminishing revenues from music sales -well, great for people like me who work in advertising. Yep, previously unattainable musical icons will now gladly prostitute themselves for our dangling marketing dollar. A decade ago, you’d never have got Bob Dylan into a campaign for all the tea in China.. These days, you can get him to sell girls undies or your rubbish American SUVs if the money is right. This is great for the artists and its great for us advertisers. Not so sure about how great it is for the fans though
But I’ve been saving the best for last (and also to prove that I’m not a completely jaundiced cynic) The very best thing for music fans, right now, is the renaissance of live events. Bands are touring cos -well, that’s pretty much the only way to make money. (I mean, I saw the Pixies play the other week, something I’d pretty much given up on) Punters are going to gigs, because the more that recorded music becomes ubiquitous and free, the more we value the irreplaceable live experience. And you just can’t download that. … Thank you.
FRUKT Sessions #004: Music Discovery - The Present
Music Discovery: The Present Jason Lonsdale Saatchi & Saatchi