Scourge and Transparency

The Rise and Fall of Advanced Social Journalism during the Early Twenty-First Century

Archive for March 2011

Contemporary Musical Consumption

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I somewhat recently heard on The Charlie Rose Show Jann Wenner, the editor of Rolling Stone magazine, state “we have seen the return of the Single.” Nothing could be closer to inaccurate. An actual Single is a unit you purchase that contains an A-side AND B-sides. Purchasing one .mp3 for 99 cents is not buying a Single; it’s getting ripped off.

You would have to be living under a rock in Batswana to be unaware that music can be downloaded quickly, easily and almost limitlessly via the pirated media sphere of the web.  What is unfortunate is not that the physicality of musical recording has been dead and buried for the last few years but that the consumption of composed sound has become incredibly personalized. Instead of downloading an entire album and listening to it from beginning to end, consumers instead take songs from several different albums or sources and create their own individualized messy catalogs of tracks. This is where Wenner got it wrong – we haven’t seen the return of the Single, we are witnessing the time of the Playlist!

If there are still any naively motivated moral objectors to illegal downloading left on this planet the shuffling and personalized arbitrary re-organizing of musical works of art should be even more distressing to them. Not only are artists and their estates having their intellectual property pirated, those compositions are not even being listened to as they were intended to be. Playing “Hey Jude” by the Beatles back-to-back with “Fucking Perfect” by Pink is like hanging Manet’s Olympia over top a TV airing The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

I cannot begin to fathom why someone who is justifiably in love with a classic song would not want to know where it came from and where it was going. This attitude has even distorted colloquial discourse. People these days often say “I like this band,” or “I am a fan of this singer,” (notice the facebook terms). But you can’t truly appreciate something if you know very little about it. You’re not a fan of a band if you’ve only heard a few of their songs, thus what you really like is the track – not the artist.

The vast amount of artistic talent that is available on the Internet that only ten years ago would have been incredibly difficult and costly to ingest is an astonishing and wonderful event. However the consuming public’s artistic ignorance and the journalistic avoidance of this medium’s continually evolving capabilities is terribly vexing at best or cultural eroding at worst.