iPods Reinforce the Throwaway Society 28 November, 2006Posted by paralleldivergence in apple, Brad & Phil, education, iPod, Music, My Thoughts.
I sometimes feel sorry for the youth of today. While their world is one full of information, communication, interaction and technology, they are missing out on so much that we had just one generation ago. Although the 70’s and 80’s were only twenty or so years ago, the differences in society are staggering. The biggest change I have noticed is time. Now there is no time for anything. E-mail, voice-mail, cell phones, longer working hours and multi-skilling are the order of the day. The end of the working day and home time have become blurred. Back then, there was plenty of time – to think, to breathe, to listen to and appreciate music – to enjoy life.
In the 70’s I cherished the toys I had – I could count them on both hands. Right now, my kids could open a toy shop with all they’ve got. They have so much stuff that they have not had the opportunity to learn to value their possessions. What can you do when they’ve got two sets of grandparents? And it doesn’t help when there’s so much marketing and advertising aimed squarely at the children.
To maintain continuing business for product manufacturers, all of this marketing promotes one thing – the Throwaway Society. And believe it or not, it’s even hit the music industry. Creativity and talent has given way to formula-driven songs and pretty-boy and pretty-girl personalities. This, together with the hype and marketing that accompany these new ‘groups’ ensures high-saturation radio and music video airtime; and that is what influences sales and trends among our young.
Music is a lot more than what record companies want you to believe it is. It takes time to write, compose and produce a song, but a musical artist knows that a single track does not justify the title of artist. The neverending stream of one-hit wonders that record companies churn out is testament to that. The true musical artist produces albums.
Today we’re flooded by a glut of new-releases each week. The single you heard on the radio sounds OK, but you like to collect albums. How many times have you bought an album because of a single heard on the radio only to find that every other song on the album sucked? I hate that. Despite declining CD sales, the record companies know people buy albums and because they cost more, they are a better revenue spinner. Luckily for them, it’s cheap and easy to pad out the rest of the album with filler material. Too bad if the customer doesn’t like it, they’ll always have another hot new pretty act to market to consumers next week. Meanwhile, the unsatisfied customer is eagerly awaiting that next “must-have” release.
To make matters worse, the iPod revolution is slowly killing the whole concept of the album. Once the CD stores are gone (and they will go), why would any musical artist or group ever bother with all the difficulties of constructing a credible album of quality music when customers now only ever bother to part with 99 cents for individual tracks? Individual tracks that the record companies and radio stations program them into buying? Tracks that eventually get lost among thousands of others hoping to be one day selected by the shuffle robot claw and then praying not to suffer the indignant humiliation of the skip button on the almighty iPod. Yes, today, even music is at the mercy of attention-deficit disorder.
There are many tracks and albums from the 70’s and 80’s that are considered classics – they set standards for their time and continue to sound fresh today. How many songs from the late-90’s and today could you name as likely to be classics in twenty years’ time? There are possibly a few, but they are certainly very far between. Just look at the top selling songs of each of the past few years and you’ll see I’m right. Sadly, the 2000’s will be the decade that music forgot – not through a total lack of quality music, but through an overwhelming abundance of crap being shovelled into consumers’ ears.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s the classic albums of real musical artists were released on vinyl. People had to have talent back then to be credible – looks didn’t matter. Fortunately, the powers that be have re-released many great titles on CD – some totally remastered. Today’s youth now has the opportunity to hear something completely different – quality in music and lyrics. Musical craftsmanship rather than mass-production. And these artists, some of whom are still producing fabulous work but struggling to get airplay, deserve a new audience. Our youth need to listen to what music was once all about and learn to value the scarcity of real talent. We need to be the ones to educate them.
My personal taste in music is fairly diverse, however there are some things I really crave in a band – thoughtful lyrics, accomplished musicians, a vocalist with something special, melody and consistency. If an album is compromised by too many flaky tracks, my interest in the band wanes dramatically.
So who and what do I like? In future articles (every so often), I’ll look closely at the works of some of the special groups that made an impact on my life and then make some listening recommendations for those that may be interested in something different to today’s musical quagmire. It’ll be my small way of hopefully influencing the listening habits of young people that really have no clue about the potential power and impact of music on the world. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, feel free to comment, and don’t get sucked in by mass marketing. Musicians are born, not made.