The Future of Music In The Digital Age
This is not an elegy to a format of music. Nor is it lavish praise to a brigade of self-styled musical non-conformists. This is merely recognition of the revolutions that have allowed music to permeate our every day. I entered the world of vinyl as an amateur trader. Marvellous, I thought: a limited re-release of a classic single. What an opportunity to buy, hoard and punt at a profit. It was not to be. Market forces not agreeing with my taste of music (much to my wallet’s despair), punt I could not. Some time later, I “invested” in a record player. I listened to my failed venture, and remarked at the achievement. Vinyl was the first mainstream format. It opened music up from the reserve of those who could attend live performances such that everyone could listen in the comfort of their living room. And so they listened. Many were inspired to perform, and became successful artists. For the first time, music knew no geographical boundaries per se. Thereafter, cassettes and compact disk emulated vinyl. They made more convenient the experience, but revolutionised very little. A gradual improvement in quality and accessibility, but nothing compared to that first, huge, leap. Truthfully, the next huge leap was the widespread accessibility of digital music. Our everyday musical experience changed, and our commuting lives redefined. Our generation would struggle to cope with the concept of not being able to Shazam, download or stream any given track. We own more music than was ever possible before, but what we own is now little more than a series of “1”s and “0”s. Is hard copy music redundant, then? Absolutely not. Just as the digital age realises our wish to constantly access our favourite artists, we hanker still for the tangible connection to artists. We attend concerts, still, to connect. Many among us, too, still enjoy the presence on our shelves of records. We spend money (perhaps fooling ourselves into assuming we are altruistic saviours of the music industry), dust them down (vinyl is wonderfully frustrating), turn on our turntables and hear the crackle of that first big bang in music. The digital revolution has not destroyed hard copies of music, nor can it. Hard copies evoke different emotions, offer a different experience, and provide a sense of physical ownership over an album that digital music will never offer. Hardly the practical means of on-the-go listening, no, but a format that unites many who still have a genuine love for music. I listen to music thanks two both the digital revolution, and also the traditional 33rpm revolution. I thank both formats, and cannot imagine living without either.