How We Listen to Music

I grew up during what I like to call the “Era of the Ever-Changing Music Format”. When I was young vinyl was actually played on a record player, including my Fisher Price record player (do they still make these?), instead of being used as wall art. My parents’ Panasonic record player introduced me to The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Creedence, and countless oldies, while my brother’s room was blaring with the teachings of Van Halen, The Sex Pistols, The Smiths, and many more. I received the beginning of my musical education through vinyl, and I will always contribute these learnings to my musical taste today.

Of course during and after vinyl there were 8-tracks, cassette tapes, CDs, and now mp3s. I made a million mixed tapes from 7th grade through high school, and I still will not let my Mom throw them away. They are my history. They are now (sadly) vintage. Then the CD came along. I made mixed CDs as well, but for some reason they did not mean as much to me, and today I still own my CDs but never seem to listen to them.

This is where the mp3s and iPod comes in, as well as my question: where and how do kids receive their musical education? I admit that I LOVE my iPod, and the fact that I do not have to buy an entire album because I like one song, BUT many many months may go by before I will listen to one album from beginning to end. This to me is very upsetting, and I am sure that kids these days hardly ever buy a CD or even an entire album on iTunes. Would you buy one album with the $10 iTunes gift card you got for Christmas, or would you try to find as many songs you love with that $10? I tend to go for the latter.

On February 18th Radiohead’s new album, “The King of Limbs“, was available as a digital download for $9.00, and the physical album will not be available until May. I am a big Radiohead fan, so I did not blink before buying it online. I listened to the entire album from beginning to end as soon as it was downloaded, but will I ever do that again? I always have my iPod on shuffle, or go to the playlists I have created instead of choosing one album and turning off the shuttle setting. If I do this, what do kids do?

I became curious about this when I joined in on a facebook discussion which asked to name the top albums you can listen to from beginning to end without skipping any songs. All of the albums I listed were either from my vinyl childhood (Rumours, Rubber Soul) or from my cassette and CD days (Siamese Dream, Ten, Urban Hymes). I did not list anything that I have purchased online. Perhaps it just has to do with the fact that they are my all-time favorite albums, and that I have listened to them over and over and over again, but I have found that I hear myself saying, “music these days is just crap” over and over and over again. I am now beginning to think that I say this because I haven’t given any new albums a chance. How many times did I have to listen to Ten from beginning to end before it became a favorite album?

My homework for this week will be to put away my iPod, find my CD collection, and turn off the shuffle setting (because I no longer have a CD player; only a computer to play CDs. How sad is that?).

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One response to “How We Listen to Music

  • mattbronner

    There have been very few albums I listened to all the way through, simply because “albums” haven’t mattered that much in a very long time. It seems to be all that matters to record companies now are singles, and do you think Lady Gaga gives a crap about an album?

    Of course there are bands that want to create an entire piece of work that they are happy with. “The King of Limbs” is a fantastic record, from start to finish, but I think Radiohead has always been album driven. And with their status as rock gods, they can do whatever they want I’m sure.

    For me the only old school format I miss is vinyl, and only because of the larger artwork. I too have tapes I wish I still had, but only because of their sentimental value, not the format. I guess for me it isn’t how the music is played as long as it’s good.

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