I want to talk about records. I don’t mean those emails that need to be saved because they are “important records”, nor those receipts you keep in an old shoebox for your taxes. I’m talking about those funny vinyl disks you might run into in an antique store. You know, you place them on a spinnie-thing, place a needle in a groove and music comes out!
Yeah, I know, old people and random memories.
Anyway, I was watching a Youtube video and some people were talking about the future of music and they brought up this important part of the past.
There once was a time when you would go to a person’s house and the first thing you would do is look through their record collection.
When those vinyl disks might cost a significant part of your super limited disposable income, you only bought music that was important to you. What a person chose to spend those precious pennies on said a huge amount about them. Even if they had a largish collection, it said a lot.
After looking through the record collection, you might pick out something that you loved but didn’t have. Your friend would place it on the turn table and you would sit and listen. There would be little talking, except about the music. You would listen. OK, you might sit there with that important record cover in your hand as you listened. There was cool art, there were pictures of the band or artist. There was info about the producer. Some even had detailed equipment lists. Many had the lyrics, which was very important when you couldn’t just search for them on the Internet.
In ways, CDs ruined that a little. The booklets with CDs could be cool and as time went on gave even more info than record covers, but the cool art was a thing of the past. As was holding that cover and studying it as you listened. And looking though a CD collection wasn’t as much much fun as leafing through a record collection.
In the beginning you paid a premium for CDs, so they were rare, but eventually time caught up and CDs in the 90s cost a little less than records in the 70s, which, if you looked at inflation, was a lot less.
Music became cheaper.
Music was worth less.
And then there was the advent of the mp3 and sharing.
Music became free and so it became totally worthless.
At first streaming seemed to be better, but there are problems there as well.
The big one, back when there were physical records that you had to buy in a record store, they did everything in their power to make you passionate about the music so you would go in and spend some money. Now they want you to subscribe and pay your fees, but not listen. The thing is, if you listen to music, they have to pay out royalties, though very little. But the more you listen, the more royalties they pay.
So they do everything in their power to make you pay the fees but not listen.
Also, despite how much you think you are choosing the music you stream, the streaming companies chose the music that makes them money (often because they have deals to pay less money per listen). So you are hearing what they want you to hear, not what you want to hear.
Of course, “back in the day” people liked what they heard on the radio and that was scripted for them. On the other hand, radio music was a lot less scripted back in the 60s, 70s, 80s and even early 90s. But as time went on, more and more radio stations were either bought out by a handful of large companies or bought playlists from them. By the mid-1990s, there were very few independent radio stations and 99% of what you heard was put on the list by accountants, not people who knew anything about music.
Don’t get me wrong, the music industry was always an industry and ultimately about money. The difference is that there was a changing point where the decisions on how to make money went from people with music backgrounds to people who only looked at the numbers, not listened to the music.
At this time, it is possible to hear a wider variety of music than ever before. There is more available, with past catalogues a click away. Because of the revolution in recording technology, it is now easy to create high quality recordings, so there is much more in the way of “independent” music, some of it wonderful. There is a huge amount available. In ways it is the best of times.
All too often today’s music is made on a grid, with all vocals and such perfectly on pitch, all notes perfectly on the beat, etc. “Perfect”, but… Do you like old music better? Most do…
All too often today, people are listening to the “perfect” music on their phone or other “sound systems” that are not sound systems at all. In other words, in 1960, or 1970, or 1980 or 1990 if people using cheap systems would hear music, any music, at a much, much higher quality than 99% of the people hear it today. Hint, listening to music from speakers gives you a full, immersive, physical experience. Earbuds let you “hear” the music, but not experience it as music. Hint two – music is compressed to take less bandwidth, Compressed = lower quality.
And all too often young people have little passion about music. They might talk about it, but it isn’t the center of people’s lives how it was. Why? (I think I said earlier 😉 )
Back to the start of this post, it has been shown that having a physical object connects people to the music much more. Old vinyl records never went away and are making a comeback with some alternative crowds, but is that the way to go? A format created more than 70 years ago (long play records) or more than 100 years ago (disks)?
I have heard that some people are thinking of other large format systems that have some of the pluses of vinyl, but are modern. And if they can be connected to people’s TVs (the cheapest of which is much, much better than what 99.999% of people watched 20 years ago) or surround sound system to give that physical impact.
And there are other ideas floating around how to make music a central part of people’s lives once again, and hopefully, this time, with the music creators being the ones most rewarded, not the distributors.
Anyway, Just some random rumbles from this old guy that misses the old way we used to experience music.
(Pop songs are becoming short and shorter and they are becoming more and more simple. If you are an artist, it is almost impossible to release a pop song unless it sounds like something that has been proven to sell. This is all because it makes more money – since all songs are the same price, the shorter the song, the more can be sold for a given time slot, the more money is made. The investors are only interested in short term profits, so zero risk – it has to be 100% guaranteed to make money. But these are subjects for a different post ;)) (Oh, as I said, there is a huge amount of music being put out today, and some of it is excellent, just not making top lists (which are now based on plays, and plays controlled by the streaming providers, not sales are requests…))