A couple of weeks ago we linked to a commentary published by the New York Times entitled “Streaming Music Has Left Me Adrift.” The opening paragraph gives hints of a potentially much better piece, one that highlights the connection between musical product and consumer in a much more eloquent fashion. There was an opportunity to explore how the creation of a physical production of music can help inspire an emotional attachment in the listener, especially when one considers the effort that went into procuring the damn thing in the first place. Instead, we ended up with the online equivalent of the stereotypical prick who works at a record store yelling at the world at large to get off his lawn.
There is some merit to the complaint that ease of access to an entire universe of music has cheapened our connection with it. As the author alludes to, it definitely took effort to attempt to seek out music that wasn’t already played everywhere, whether it be to take the time to research through magazines and the like, or simply purchasing albums with the hopes that you got lucky that it was worth the inflated sticker price. This is an entirely different world from today, where you can instantly search for a band based on a mere mention of their name and then fire up a sample immediately afterward to get an idea of their sound. If you make a mistake, no problem, all you lost was a couple of minutes of your time; if you’re lucky and find something worthwhile, hey, purchasing the album is only a click away (or selecting it for your Spotify/Pandora/whatever streaming station). You’ve lost all the risks and have a similar reward, but in the process you don’t experience the disappointment of the lows, but also miss out on the joy of going through all the effort to find a new favorite band.
The article doesn’t spend much time on this conceit, but instead goes in a different direction to discuss the split between alternative/indie and the mainstream. Again, there are ways in which this could provide an illuminating discussion. One could explore the different machinations that explain the dissemination of different musical trends, or simply come up with a way to eloquently describe the merits of underground music. Instead of these potentially worthwhile exercises, the author chose to simply complain that it’s not as easy to impress people with his knowledge of esoteric artists.
The key problem with the entire piece is that the writer reveals that he is forever stuck in high school, trying to position himself as some elite outsider who calls out the masses about his superior taste in music. The problem now is instead that we cannot properly acknowledge this guy’s pure fucking awesomeness for taking all this time to curate a knowledge of obscure musical acts. It is now this man’s awful burden that there are now thousands of people that can share in his “love” of particular bands, and woe is him that he can’t immediately judge someone based on the fact that he or she owns the same CD as the author does.
At the heart of the matter is the belief that the author is that music is a dividing force, instead of a unifying one. He selects new music based on its ability to separate himself from the ignorant masses, and if the mainstream catches on, it signifies a defect. Instead of being glad that there are potentially more people than ever that can become fans of great music, this fucker is pissed off he has to share. What a douche.
Also, if you’re going to make your big point by quoting LCD Soundsystem, then you should make sure you fully understand the irony inherent in their song “Losing My Edge.” Hint: you didn’t get it.