Before I had an Ipod, I looked at my small plastic mp3 player with disdain. It barely held 100 songs, and I found myself listening through it a couple times a day, coming to hate the songs that I had once wanted with me at all times. I pictured getting a sleek curved fashion statement where a vast library of all my music could sit nestled in my pocket for whenever I wanted to dive into its expanse and explore an array of new colors; a world of worlds. It may be just my tendency to romanticize things. Though, I would bet that for many musicians the Ipod has presented itself as a seemingly priceless tool to liberate the music lover from lugging around a textbook sized folder of CDs for their cumbersome walkman. Once I had acquired my Ipod it became exactly what I had dreamed; I made sure to fill it with albums rather than single songs, still loyal to the concept of listening to all of an artists pieces rather than just the one that got advertised most. I remember listening to one of my friends brag about the amount of music she carried on her ipod, in the car. So, as it came to me to choose the next song, I imagined that I would come across hours of exotic music that I hadn’t heard of before. Instead, to my disappointment and humor, I found a seemingly endless list of pop artists with only their recent hit song as their place holder in an abyss of trendiness. Needless to say, this was the height of my self righteousness concerning Ipod use. 2 years later I sat on a train to Boston angrily flying through my vast list of albums looking for the perfect song to play, unable to settle into any piece of music, changing rapidly between artists before a single song was completed. “Screw me, this is ridiculous,” I thought. Later that week I sat in front of a professor as he lectured our class on the modern ipod trend and that he didn’t listen to music unless he was sitting down to do exactly that: listen. I was stunned because as I thought about how much I actually sat down to “listen” and appreciate a piece of music I realized that this was something that I almost never did. Moreover, I had pushed myself into a way of listening that didn’t allow me to finish a single song; I was officially experiencing “music ADD.” The solution: carry only about 2 albums on my Ipod at all times. I’m forced to give my attention to one artist at a time and wouldn’t you know, it’s a liberating feeling.
The mp3 player is just a tool, but it can be dangerous. With the rise of the itunes empire came the rise of the “hit culture:” a generation of hipsters with easy access to all of the world’s music but who would only download single songs from only the most popular artists or chic underground groups. The accessibility of the mp3 didn’t result in a more musically deep or literate culture but a dilution of musical interest. Although more artists are explored, a lesser amount of songs are consumed per artist. And more pseudo music aficionados pop up as they brag about their endless library of single track plastic face sensations. The serious ones suffer as their want for new music increases but their attention span dwindles in the self creation of their own musical attention deficit disorder. Does it paint a gloomy picture? Damn-straight. But this is just human nature at its most comical. It’s a trend that has to be laughed at because if you take it too seriously then you’ve probably missed the point, but it should still be recognized and taken for what it is: an ignorant behavior. The problem is not the Ipod or mp3s but the behavior that swarms around them. Essentially, its a less destructive form of greed or gluttony, but its always up to the individual to realize the folly and decide whether to fix it or not.
The affect of the mp3 on the music industry could be a years worth of posts, but for now lets just say that its been fun watching all the music business students squirm and squawk over the fall of the big labels. As for me, I’ve been enjoying a single album for the past couple weeks.
thanks for reading.