I was talking to a music industry acquaintance on the phone not long ago and he was matter-of-factly moving on, leaving music behind for the world of social media marketing. Music has had its day, said Kevin (not his real name); now it’s over. “No one cares the way they used to,” he said, sounding more pissed off than sorry. “Music isn’t special to people any more.”

This is certainly one conclusion to draw 10-plus years into the download era. And withdrawal is one logical enough reaction, especially from a music industry veteran. Forget all this crap (and boy is there a lot of crap). Find something else to sink your teeth into, find another way to make a living, because there’s no living here, that seems clear.

Kevin is neither a romantic nor a nostalgist. For him it’s reality: music is no longer special to people, deal with it, move on.

But here’s the thing. If the world around us doesn’t think music is special, guess what? The world is wrong. Music is an ancient, mysterious, compelling means of expression. If we’ve arrived at a point in our cultural life cycle at which music is “not special,” this says much more about us than it does about music. Music didn’t become “not special”; we, collectively, have become unable or unwilling to appreciate its specialness.

Which is a development worthy of investigation, actually. How did this come to be?

The easy answer is the mundane matter of supply and demand. Nothing can be special when there’s so freaking much of it. Submitted as evidence: in 2009, the most recent year this statistic is available, 97,751 albums were released, according to Nielsen SoundScan. To listen to 97,751 albums would take more than eight years of 24/7 listening. If you actually only have a couple of hours a day to listen to music, make that 100 years. You maybe should’ve started already.

Is sand special? Is dust? The digital age has given birth to an unforeseen, mind-boggling blizzard of music, and it’s piling up far beyond the capacity of the plows to clear roads for us.

And why is there so much of it? Another easy answer: digital technology. The famous “barrier to entry” that previously kept the market at a (somewhat) manageable size has been not just breached but obliterated by digital reality.

Previously, the need for a physical product kept a natural lid on the amount of something that could or would be produced, as there is no economic or logistical reason to produce any product beyond what the market demands.

In retrospect we can see the inherent wisdom of the physical marketplace. This is not to say that the digital marketplace doesn’t have its own wisdom, only that we haven’t located it yet.

Attempting to protect and limit access to digital files as if they are physical products makes no sense. And yet—this is important, folks—pretending that digital files have no value at all, because they aren’t physical products, also makes no sense.

In the meantime, we are left with a kind of over-production no one could have anticipated in the record store’s heyday. We now make far more albums, together, than anyone can market (for any price, even free)—more than anyone can come to terms with in any meaningful way at all.

That we are inundated with digitalia as could not have been possible with physical creations is obviously a factor in stripping music of that specialness Kevin talked about.

But there is something less obvious at work as well. It’s not just sheer inundation that has done the trick. There’s also the matter of effort, or lack thereof.

By effort I mean a more than casual expenditure of time and/or resources. And—this seems an obvious point but is being vigorously overlooked in our bubble of social-media-mania—the less effort involved in doing something, the less special it’s going to seem, especially over the long run.

Psychologists are well aware of this phenomenon, which has in recent years been given the name “The Ikea Effect,” based on the apparently documented and well-researched fact that people end up liking a piece of furniture they had to build out of proportion to its value. “Labor enhances affection for its results,” according to the Harvard Business Review, discussing the research in 2009.

Our culture has been battling itself over convenience since the end of the Second World War, if not earlier. We want things to be easier and easier, and yet when it’s too easy, there’s something wrong, something dissatisfying. The digital revolution has brought the battle to a fever pitch. We’re bringing more and more literally to our fingertips, via portable digital devices. The one overriding goal of digital technology has seemingly become to make anything and everything as effortless as possible.

To find out the cost of this ostensible progress, look no further than what’s been happening in music these last 10 years.

While making, recording, and distributing music can of course still require a significant amount of effort, it may also, now, require very little effort. Because believe me, if the music everyone is making in the 21st century were still generally requiring a lot of effort, there could never have been 97,751 albums released in a year.

When one required years of practice to master an instrument, when playing an instrument involved muscular effort, when special equipment and special locations were required to record even just a song, never mind an album, not many people could do it. And then there was the sizable undertaking involved in physically producing and distributing the record.

That all added up to a lot of effort. Note that spending money—some of this process has traditionally been expensive—counts as a certain kind of effort; money is after all a stand-in for effort, since earning it typically requires actual work of one sort or another. But there have always been those who found a way around a lot of the expense by (yes) sheer effort. (Huge gulfs of exertion separate yesterday’s DIYers from today’s, by and large.)

When making music requires in some cases no more than a preexisting laptop and inexpensive if not free software, and when distributing this music involves clicking a mouse a few times, we’re talking about an entirely different level of effort. It’s the effort of no effort. When sending bulk emails and monitoring social media channels are a musician’s most laborious tasks, music has arrived in a strange new place indeed.

I’m not saying some of this isn’t a little difficult (maybe), but if the music itself isn’t generated by effort, I’m pretty sure, over time, this becomes apparent. The Age of No Effort too easily produces products of no value.

Mirroring the lack of effort that can be involved in making music is the lack of effort now involved in listening to music. This is the final and perhaps most important piece of the no-effort puzzle.

For we have trained a new generation of music listeners to believe that acquiring music should in fact involve no effort at all. Isn’t this one of the most compelling rationales offered by file-sharers for their file-sharing habit? That acquiring music through legitimate channels is just too much of a bother? That people pirate music because they can, because it’s just “too easy”?

No amount of technology can change this human fact: where there is no effort, there can be no real value. It’s magical thinking otherwise. If we’re not vigilant, the internet can turn us into those characters in fairy tales who always want something for nothing. Give us that goose there that’s laying all those golden eggs!

(I’m sure that’ll turn out well.)

And so: if no effort is required either to create or to listen to music, what do you think this leads to in the marketplace for that music? How do you think the no-effort consumers in a market over-supplied by no-effort producers view the product at this point?

Do you think they see over-abundance of music as a treasure trove of untold value? Or are lots of people now insisting that recorded music should now be free?

Turns out the people who need things to lack effort are the people who want things to be free. The people who want things to be free in turn demand that no effort be involved in acquiring them. And technology companies are happy to oblige, continuing to promise more and more for our little screens with less and less and less effort.

It’s a crazy vicious mindless cycle, with the apparent goal of reducing all effort in life to the tapping of a fingertip. It would be a great plug for my web site but otherwise I see no benefits. (And if you’ve seen the movie WALL-E, you shouldn’t either.)

I have no idea where there is all actually going but it is not going where the digital ideologists believe it to be going. Human nature will at some point reassert itself. More to the point, musicians will begin to reassert themselves. It may take a half generation or more for this drama to play out, but in the end, we will realize, collectively, that music remains special, has value, is (imagine!) worth money.

How, exactly, do we get there? Lord only knows. At the risk of sounding like a spiritual cliche, my only advice is to be the change you wish to see in the world. Take a hard look at your own efforts. Decide whether your life is actually improved by adopting every latest convenience your portable digital device wants to offer you.

And: decide whether you want music to be special or not. We can’t any of us, individually, change the way people choose to record and distribute music but we can certainly change the way we choose to interact with it, spend time with it, and spend money on it.

And I believe that the more effort you put in as a listener and supporter, the clearer it will be whether something you are making an effort to connect with is worthy of that connection. Whether it is special. A lot of it—the source of Kevin’s frustration—isn’t. But some of it remains very much so. Kevin, by his choice, didn’t want to make the effort it took to discern this.

Where do you stand?



  1. Mick on Thursday June 2, 2011

    Thanks for writing this. I have been struggling with this shift in the way we look at music for a while. I host an underground rock show on a low-power FM station in the Chicago suburbs, but it’s not my full-time job– it’s really just a hobby. If I didn’t have that show, I’m not sure where my relationship with music would be.

    I spend 10-15 hours per week listening to new music, picking out tracks for my weekly 3-hour show. I have my favorite places to look for new songs– Fingertips certainly being toward the top of the list– and I effectively conduct a digital treasure hunt every week. When I find something I love, I definitely get excited about it, but the amount of music I have to sift through can be daunting, which is never a word I thought I’d use when it came to the discovery process.

    In the 90s, when I really came of age as a music fan (age 12-22), I learned to love every bit of the discovery process, and I think you’ve touched on a big part of why– it required effort. Every trip to the music store, for me, required a tireless search of all the discount bins and racks. Those scrounging sessions were my first introduction to a number of artists I grew to love and who shaped my tastes, artists that produced music which became inseparable from my memories of periods of my life. My favorite used record/CD store–long since shuttered– was Record Surplus, and I made the 45-minute drive out there every couple of months to go through every used CD they had and browse the records as well. The trip took time– I was always in the store for at least 3 hours– and definitely effort, but I loved it. I looked forward to each trip and had a very literal high every time I left with a new haul, popping my favorite find in the car stereo for the ride home and spending much of the rest of the day listening to the rest at home.

    I think that the single-song focus which you’ve discussed in other essays is a big part of this shift in the way we look at music now too, and it relates to my Record Surplus and discount rack experiences as well. Every CD or record (or even cassettes in those 1990s discount racks) was an investment of time, energy, and at least a little money. I was always aware of the labor and inspiration that went into it from the musicians’ perspective, but buying music in the fashion I did meant it also required my time and effort. Since I’d invested myself into acquiring an album, I’d listen to it repeatedly, even if the first listen or two did not yield any strong feelings or reactions. I gave it time to sink in, time for myself to discover less immediately obvious elements.

    Now, when I’m searching for new music online for my show, I’m still aware of the effort exerted by the musicians who produced the output. I know people’s hopes, dreams, talent are on display for me (nearly) every time I click on an mp3 to listen or download. However, the infinite nature of the music available has changed my willingness to give things time to grow on me. Record Surplus, though impressive, had a finite stock on any given day. It was always changing, requiring repeated visits, but any one visit had finite possibilities. Therefore, I could go through everything with a fine-toothed comb, and I could take a chance on an album with interesting cover art or an unusual band name. Now when I’m combing through blogs and mp3s (always either free and legal OR purchased through eMusic, with rare iTunes exceptions), something has to grab me about a track fairly quickly. I’ll listen to the first few measures, and if I’m not taken in already, I’ll jump ahead to hear what the rest of the song sounds like. If there’s still nothing compelling, I move on, which is unfair to the song and its artist. The ubiquity of music clamoring for my attention has caused me to develop a habit of impatience. I rarely listen to full albums except by artists who have multiple songs which have gotten my attention, or artists with whom I have a previously established fandom.

    In fact, I’m late to the vinyl party, and I’ve finally arrived due to a conscious decision to spend more time drinking in music in album form rather than a particular preference for analog recordings. CDs no longer hold much point for me since I rarely listen to them, even in the car, and since I already have the music in digital form on a hard drive, why have another digital copy? Records bring me back to that ‘specialness’ in that they take up space, they require attention and care, and I have to be more conscious of my listening– even that simple fact of having to flip the record rather than the next mp3 just naturally flowing out via shuffle play changes the way I listen and the way I’m impacted.

    If a diehard music lover like me has been impacted in the way I have, it’s not surprising to me that so many people now don’t have a sense of the specialness of music. I agree that it means something is wrong with people, not with music, and like you, I don’t know where it’s headed, but I hope my show gives people a chance each week to have that discovery experience again.

  2. Sean on Friday June 3, 2011

    Bravo Jeremy. Once more you manage to get down in words something that has, I’m sure, been nagging at the back of many minds. I sell mp3s for a living, and yet even today on twitter I found myself admitting that I’m just not quite sure they have any value. They’re just such a horrible way to experience music that, although I’m 100% in favour of musicians and the many people involved in making and selling recorded music getting paid a fair and decent compensation for their efforts, I just can’t bring myself to embrace the download as a medium. Whilst it’s freed us all from the cumbersome nature of physical recording and distribution, the mp3 has been nothing but bad news from every other aspect.

    My theory is that, as illegal filesharing slows (and it will, although lord knows exactly when), faced with the choice of a) legally downloading free music that they don’t really want b) legally downloading music that they do want or c) buying a cd, a lot of people will start to see the merit of option c. CDs can’t possibly compete with illegal downloads, but they certainly can compete with paid-for mp3s. Once the album, as a format, is back off the ropes, it’ll start to convince people of its worth once again.

    As for the relevance of music. Erase this current generation of 15-20 year-olds, reboot. They’re lost, no point worrying about them, chasing them, marketing to them or producing music for them. Essentially, to hell with them, they’ve forfeited their right to have their generation artistically represented. Not that they know that yet, but there’s a massive, massive part of the process of growing up that they have missed entirely – the expression of their hopes, fears, ideals etc represented by a shared artistic voice that is unsullied by corporate profiteering. That creates a cultural gap in their make-up that is a chasm, a chasm that has already been utterly rejected by the following generation – hence Bieber. Of course, Bieber has been jumped upon by the corporations, but he’s still a music act first, an app-merchant second. The current 15-20s can say : ‘but our experiences are represented at micro-level by bands that don’t even have record contracts, which we’d never have heard if it weren’t for the web’. The difference is that a micro-level act isn’t a shared, generational artefact – it can never be Smells Like Teen Spirit or Bitter Sweet Symphony or Liven’ on a Prayer or whatever. But the Bieber kids know what’s missing, and are acting on it. Bring them on, we’ve got the good stuff for them, when they’re ready.

  3. Sean on Friday June 3, 2011

    Oh, another relevant point. I also review music. I’ve talked to a lot of music writers about this, and all agree that one of the biggest challenges of the job is the ‘listen to it as if you bought it’ aspect. When the albums arrive ceaselessly, and you have give them each a fair hearing, it’s hard to drum up the same tolerance/appreciation for the album as when you actually paid out hard cash. And sometimes, the extra effort is rewarded.

  4. Rob Mortimer on Friday June 3, 2011

    The other point is that downloading and online means that the collective history of music is more accessible than ever. No longer is all popular music a blizzard of what is currently available. Different fans can find their tastes and styles from any time in modern music in a few seconds.

    However I disagree that music is no longer special. It just holds a different place than it used to. The scale and variety of music means people can treasure a spectrum not just one genre or sub genre.

    Not buying music doesn’t mean people don’t care about it. I go through phases of buying and not buying but if anyone told me I didn’t like music I would hit them upside the head with a guitar… and then record the resulting noise.

  5. Rich Huxley on Friday June 3, 2011

    Well written Jeremy, though I’m not sure I share Kevin’s (or your) viewpoint.

    It’s a well trodden argument this – “Never, in all our history of popular music, has there been such a plethora of composers… … as we have today” a quote from George Gershwin, in the New York World Sunday Magazine, May, 1930.

    There’s a number of ways of looking at the democratisation of music production. One view is that a proliferation of artists makes music more “normal” and devalues it, another is that access to music is good for people.

    More thoughts on this over at http://mamusicind.posterous.com/everyone-else-is-doing-it-so-why-cant-we

    Nice to meet you.
    😉
    xR

  6. Eugenia on Friday June 3, 2011

    Just because this Kevin guy said that “people don’t care about music anymore” doesn’t mean that this is true. You based the whole article on what one guy believes. People do care about music. Always have, always will.

    The difference is that now music is essentially free. Just yesterday I downloaded 15 free songs on iTunes via SPIN Magazine’s promo code. The amount of legally free promo tracks has skyrocketed since 2008 too. So much internet radio too! Last.fm, Pandora, and the unlimited services of RDIO/MOG too.

    The problem is not that there are 100,000 albums per year. 99,000 of them never sell more than 3 copies, so they are not really part of the problem. It’s the fact that for the rest 1,000, they’re easy to get across to, legally or illegally. People are bombarded with music today. Everywhere they look, from web sites to radio, TV, or elevators, there’s music. Music, and more music.

    As for “no effort albums”, this is mostly true for that 99,000 albums rather than the main albums that make it big. Just yesterday I was emailing with an electronic artist (chillwave genre, the defacto laptop genre), a friend of mine. I asked him what’s up with his album that he was recording home via his Mac. He said that for the last year he is writing and rewriting. That’s hardly “no effort” music.

    Besides, even if most of these albums were “no effort”, people wouldn’t know that this is the case. The real problem is their bombardment of music everywhere in their daily life, not the fact that some album was written and recorded in an afternoon. Most jazz albums in the ’50s were recorded like that anyway! That didn’t stop them from becoming masterpieces.

    Kevin might not be a romantic or a nostalgic, but he’s definitely bitter. Bitter that his money-making business is now not viable. But whatever goes up, must eventually come down. It’s like that for every profession, as technology and society evolve.

    Eventually, most professions will be carried out by androids in the next 200-300 years. Maybe a breakthrough algorithm will be able to synthesize catchy music — and this will put most song-writers today out of a job too. Speaking as an ex-developer myself who’s worked in artificial intelligence, these things are inevitable. The human kind has always embraced these changes, no matter if some conservatives find such changes to be killers of the human soul, or something. Humans eventually snap out of it, and embrace the future.

  7. FZ on Friday June 3, 2011

    As a musician and music fan I find this article a little insulting. I’ve been playing for 7 years and had to work pretty hard to get good at my instrument! Not to mention the work I’ve put in with my band reworking songs and rewriting them. Sure home recording and independent (if not self) distribution is easier than ever but there still is the task of writing the music and recording it properly.

    To say music isn’t special or that it’s lost it’s value to people is pretty ridiculous. I know near the end you say that music will reassert itself, but the fact is music hasn’t gone anywhere. We merely rest at a crossroads where we haven’t learned how to completely master new technology or figure out a way to integrate it into music.

    Sure there is a lot of bad music out these days but there always has been. Disco, whatever they made in the 80’s, and pop music has trending down for the past two decades at least. But there are still bands that work hard, connect with their audience, and create great and lasting music. Music is a part of our history and ourselves; it will never fade. It’s like saying writing is down and out because the publishing industry is failing. The music industry is broken, and it’s going to change the easy way, or, more than likely, the hard way.

  8. Tari on Friday June 3, 2011

    I used to have this argument with an old bandmate about singing. On the one hand, I spent over a decade learning about how to take full advantage of the voice nature gifted me with; he, on the other hand, justified his totally untrained, less-than-perfect vocals by saying he liked them as they were better than he liked the idea of taking the time to learn proper technique. Neither of us was really wrong because at the end of the day, it boiled down to personal preference. Some people like super high quality recordings, some people dig the sound of a tape recorder in a garage.

    I think the idea that all the effort is being sucked out of every aspect of the music process is kind of similar. There have always been folks whose music fell right into their laps – there have always been totally unearned Big Breaks, and awesome record collections inherited from parents, people who taped great songs off the radio, promo giveaways, etc. My experience as a musician, as someone who constantly seeks out new music, and who gets some music for free and pays for some, too…is that the advent of digital is democratizing music in really interesting and revolutionary ways, from the top to the bottom. It’s easier than ever to use digital tools to create, produce, manufacture, distribute, filter, find, and consume music – free or otherwise – than it ever has been. As an artist, that often drives me nuts – it makes it that much harder to be heard when you’re one voice in a cacophonous glut – and it was never really easy before, even if you had talent and were willing to work hard.

    You’ve noted before that we’re in the midst of an evolution, and the endpoint is likely to defy prediction. I do think, though, that making music more accessible in every sense, ubiquitous even, can only be a good thing. Though I sometimes have to fight my ego over this (because what I do is not the same as some dude who hasn’t spent years studying the craft, dammit!), I really believe that the more people creating and exchanging and sharing and enjoying music of all stripes and qualities doesn’t mean that anything is lessened or cheapened or stripped of value. It means that more people have direct access to their voices and creative expression, and I think that makes for a better world. Music is a universal human birthright, and lowering the bars to accessing that birthright so lots more people can is a good thing, to my mind. Especially since we’re living in a world where funding for arts education is going the way of the dodo with alarming alacrity.

    This is a complicated issue, and one that’s unlikely to have any clear resolution, even decades hence when this digital evolution has run its course. I think we all, as individuals, have to do our best to navigate by conscience – support the artists and arbiters and institutions that line up with our visions, and hope for the best. That’s what I try to do, and it’s one reason I totally dig what you’re doing, Jeremy – both in terms of curation and in fostering this kind of conversation.

  9. Shannon on Friday June 3, 2011

    What makes me sad is with so many options out there the mainstream media only highlights the garbage. I guess I could become one of those media snob types who only goes to pitchfork or something but I am not going to. I watch shows like Entertainment Tonight and Extra, shows that are supposed to cover entertainment but when it comes to music all they talk about is Justin Beeber and Miley Cyrus. I guess these people are ok for little kids to listen to and be embarrassed about in a year or two but I thought these were shows for adults.

    I don’t know anyone who would ever admit to listening to any of these bands even as a guilty pleasure, and its not like my friends are music snobs by any means. Pretty much the only way to find decent new music is to go hunting online and then when I find it more often or not I download it because I would just rather hear it on my ipod than being chained to my computer. The really great songs do make me want to get the cd.

    A lot of people I know are not as into hunting around for music as I am. There needs to be ways for the casual fans to find out about the good stuff. Especially those who can’t afford satellite radio.

  10. fingertips on Friday June 3, 2011

    @Rich-
    It surely is a well-trodden argument. And I think it’s very much worthwhile having this discussion from our 2011 vantage point, as things have surely changed since 1930. Radio created a new market for music; digital technology has done that yet again, and a bunch of other things too. On the one hand it may seem reasonable to say, ‘Hey, this is no new news, we’ve been here before, just chill out.’ On the other hand, I am concerned for us, collectively, and ongoingly, regarding the unintended side effects of technology. This is where we live our human lives: caught in a web of unintended side effects. We love our cars; but oops, they have really managed to fuck up the environment. We love our cell phones; but oops, looks like they might actually cause brain cancer. Sorry. Didn’t mean for *that* to happen. Etc. Digital ideologues love to deride as “conservative” any reasoned effort to question their extremist faith in technological “progress.”

    @Eugenia
    Speaking merely as a human being, I wish you well in your technological future of automated music and androids. I admire your certainty, and am impressed by how the robots will be immune to the “whatever goes up, must eventually come down” theory. Yay for them.

    @FZ
    You were insulted by this essay? Really? So sorry you felt that way. I should note that if you have in fact spent all that time working on your music, then you are not remotely who I’m talking about when I’m talking about no-effort music. If I generalized about the idea that, by necessity, more effort was required to make music in the pre-internet age than is *required* now, this was by no means a blanket condemnation of all 21st-century music. One word of advice that may smooth your life path out in the years to come: try not to feel insulted when no insult was intended. I have endless respect for musicians, am a huge music fan myself, and am merely trying to point out that which the digital ideologues cannot, by definition, understand: the direction of endless convenience is its own kind of hell.

    @Tari
    Your reasoned questioning of aspects of my position is much appreciated, and taken quite seriously. I do not mean to come across in any kind of “Hey kids get off my lawn!” way, at all. Giving people better access to making music is a fine thing, to the end that music becomes more of where it was in the 19th century– something people by and large did at home, for fun and creative expression. My abiding issue with the “democratization” concept is simply this: most people are not, inherently, capable of making music that most other people will want to hear, are not capable of moving other people artistically/emotionally/spiritually. This is not elitism, it’s human cultural history. Some people are better at some things than other people. That said, I mean to take nothing away from anyone’s need to be creative.

  11. Eugenia on Saturday June 4, 2011

    >Some people are better at some things than other people.

    This is true. But what is also true is that people who CAN write good music, but previously had no means to do so, now they can. The democratization of music will enable also capable musicians, not just wannabes.

    So as you very visually wrote above about technology, every effect has a counter-effect too. Sure we’d get crap music by the droves, but we will also get masterpieces, written in a bedroom, that otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten. I prefer to get swamped by an ocean of mediocrity, than avoiding it, and lose a single field of masterpieces on the way.

    How we, the listeners, are we to clean up all the impending noise? Simple: by visiting sites like FT. I don’t mean to tell anyone about what this site’s job is supposed to be, but that’s certainly why *I* daily visit this site: to help me find new good music!

  12. fingertips on Saturday June 4, 2011

    @Eugenia
    You make an excellent point about how this democratization can potentially give voice to people who might otherwise not have had the wherewithal to make music. And in so doing I think you’ve zeroed in on the ‘agree to disagree’ difference between our points of view here.

    My position comes far less from elitism (which it might at first seem) than idealism (I stand accused; I am an idealist at heart). I have a basic faith in the concept of the cream rising to the top; I believe that people who are truly gifted and inspired musically find a way to do it. That the tools are not the obstacle. You clearly feel differently and that is really and truly okay.

  13. Peter Andersson on Sunday June 5, 2011

    You, my friend, need to read this award winning novel from twenty five years ago, extrapolating the situation even further into the future:

    http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants.html

  14. Tari on Monday June 6, 2011

    I just want to pipe up to add one more thing: when I talk about democratization, I don’t just mean on the creation side of music, I also mean on the listening end, too. Digital advances (including the internet, but also in terms of storage and digital tools being available to music-makers) have led me personally to so many kinds of music and so many artists I never would have discovered without those tools being available to me as a listener….and yeah, my digital collection represents a lot of time and money sunk in lots of digital sources (except iTunes, ’cause eff them). Maybe I’m an exception, sure, and I do think that there will be people who put in no effort and listen to whatever Wal-Mart and Clear Channel partner up to feed their ears, and whatever they can get for free via their file-sharing buddies. I think those people exist no matter what options are out there, though (human nature?)….but I don’t think they’re the only ones out there, nor do I think that they’re going to be the norm forever (if, in fact, they’re the norm right now).

    I also think that music is one of those paradoxical things that is both totally ordinary and everyday, and incredibly sacred and special. Maybe I’m an idealist, too.

    Thanks again for fostering this conversation.

  15. Stephe on Monday June 6, 2011

    As per usual, well thought out and well-written. Thanks for caring,

  16. fingertips on Monday June 6, 2011

    @Tari
    *That* side of the so-called democratization I’m all aboard. It’s great to have so much access to so much different music nowadays. Well, great, but also maybe not always so great, because it’s so easy to get inundated as a listener, and maybe a little frozen by all the options. But, still, this is pretty much a good thing. And obviously is a big reason why I do what I do here, to be a helpful filter, at least one way to feel less inundated. As for the illegal file-sharing, I surely do hope this period of time is a historical blip. Fingers crossed. As for the paradox, yes, you’re right. Paradoxes often point to great truths, as it turns out, because some of our foundational realities are at heart too complex to be properly described otherwise. Or so I’ve heard, somewhere along the way….

  17. […] Schlosberg also writes essays on music and the music industry. In his most recent essay, “The Fate of Music in the Age of No Effort,” he writes on the state of music in the “download era.” He relays the words of a […]


0