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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Internet and Music

For my CMJ106 class, "Introduction to Mass Communication," it is a requirement that we post in an online forum at least four times this semester, responding to whatever's up there or sparking a new discussion. Well, somebody started talking about how the Internet has impacted the music industry, and I thought it was a good pool for me to dive into. Here is what I posted, slightly modified for the blog:

The Internet is probably the greatest thing to happen to music. It allows artists to collaborate no matter where they are. It allows audiences to distribute their content to a much broader audience, including those who might be too busy to get their music at a record store. In fact, now-popular alternative rock band My Chemical Romance used MySpace to share their music and gain a wide following, wide enough to make their 2006 album "The Black Parade" sell over one million copies and go Platinum.

Don't worry, I was only pointing out supporting evidence, I don't care for MCR (just enough to know that "MCR" is an accepted abbreviation, that they don more makeup than Heath Ledger, and their singer looks like Jack White's corpse).

I suppose the Internet is bad for music if you are a nostalgist. From what I know, "back in the day," you used to watch television or subscribe to music magazines to hear about whatever albums were coming out, then wait until your local music shop stocked the record. Nowadays, you hear about every sneeze that comes out of Katy Perry's nose at the drop of a hat. Now you can browse iTunes' or Amazon's virtual record stores from the convenience of your armchair, and if something piques your interest, *click*, it's yours.

eBay, $7.48, free shipping, Buy It Now, *click*, mine. Buh-bye world, see you in two weeks (nah, I'm kidding... already have this game).

Most people say this instant access is a good thing (like myself), but the old-schoolers might argue that it takes away from the experience: the anticipation of a record and the journey of going out to a record shop and hoping what you're looking for is still in stock was a wonderful ordeal, days that music enthusiasts looked forward to with wet chops.

While I do agree that the Internet is great for music, it has ruined one part of it that I love: the album. When buying music, how often do you buy an entire album, as opposed to just the single or two that you heard on the radio? My guess is not very. What many casual music listeners fail to realize is that other songs on the record are not always just filler so the performer and record company can milk few extra dollars from your jeans. Singles (the songs that get rotation on VH1 and MTV) are what the record company and the artist think will appeal to the broadest group of people, not they are necessarily the best song. For example, on John Mayer's 2006 "Continuum" album, the songs "Waiting on the World to Change" and "Gravity" were released as singles, while to me, the non-singles "The Heart of Life" and "Vultures" are just as good as those songs, and "Stop This Train" is the best track on the album. Those are obviously opinions, but that's what taste in music is, and it illustrates my point.

Illustration of a point.

The record shops are expanding to accommodate this digital shift in the music industry by offering digital music products, like iPods and iTunes gift cards and such. I believe that these two communities can co-exist, and so do the people who organized Record Store Day, during which customers could access content exclusive to record stores, not available online, like special editions of albums and the soundtrack to the "Scott Pilgrim" movie. As long as each medium of music distribution maintains its own quirks and presents its unique advantages, both parts of the industry can thrive.

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