I had an interesting email exchange with a friend this morning on the commercialization of music, which got me to thinking about my own experiences in collecting music — and how technology has changed the dynamics of music collection. I thought it was a relevant topic for this site.
I have an ongoing argument with my 13-year old daughter about her favorite bands. She is a fan of all of the so-called “punk” bands that seem to be popular today. Her favorites are Linkin Park and Good Charlotte. I like them too, but they just don’t stand out to me. Typical of a teenager, I think her interests are driven more by her friends than anything, and I am always trying to convince her to expand her range. My argument with her is that these bands are offering nothing new, and have more in common with pop artists than the punk/new wave movement I grew up with.
My friend’s comment was that there are very few artists or bands out there that are truly innovative, or breaking new ground in the mainstream market. My argument was that his premise was flawed: who cares what is happening in the mainstream — our options for finding/buying/creating music have grown a hundredfold in the past 10 years.
As someone who spent much of the 80’s reading goldmine magazine, calling (yes, on the phone) music stores in remote locations such as Malaysia and the UK (my parents loved me) to locate and purchase rare vinyl, the modern day music buying mechanisms have changed my music habits dramatically. Not that I have expanded my musical tastes – I am still very much the musical snob that I was when I was 17. I like what I like, and compared to most, my musical range of taste is very limited.
But because of the vast numbers of artists out there creating music inside of my preferred niche, I have more options than I could ever consume. I like the band ‘The Anniversary’. And because of online tools, I can easily find 50 bands around the world who sound similar, or who were influenced by the Anniversary. In the past, it was time consuming and expensive to explore new artists and musical genres. As with my daughter, your musical intake usually mirrored that of your friends or your access to non-commercialized radio.
Look how much things have changed! Exploring new genres is now free and easy — iTunes lets you sample for free. AllMusic (one of my favorite sites) gives you a bio, shows you links to the artists influencers, and tells you which bands sound similar. Sites like Garageband and MP3 provide access to unknown artists by region, genre, tempo, and consumer rating.
My point: who cares about which bands get the big deals. I don’t follow radio, and I rarely purchase from mainstream labels anyway. Technology allows me to be very selective about what I listen to or buy. Every single time I go online to investigate an artist or song I like, I come back with a list of 4 or 5 artists I had never heard of and now want to buy or download (I have little self-control when it comes to music purchases).
From my perspective, music has never been so exciting.