pump-up the volume

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Spotify’s decision today to publically trade its shares on the New York stock market comes at a time when I am also in unaccustomed deep-thought about what to do wrt music streaming. I thought I had already taken the decision a couple of weeks ago when I finally succumbed to the shifting sands of time and committed to an all-singing-all-dancing music streaming player. Sadly, through a series of late-night self-inflicted eBay key-strokes I ended-up with a PURE Evoke H2 as opposed to the anticipated F6. Hence, no streaming. Doh.

Now, don’t hold it against me but I used to love KISS. I can still recall the release of 1975’s Destroyer album and the excitement I felt at seeing the window display in The House of Records. Listening to it for the first time in the ‘record booth’ was a life-defining moment and, having shelled-out the necessary, couldn’t wait to get it on the Fidelity turntable back home. But oh, what a disappointment it was to realise about an hour later that it was actually a bit cr*p! Nonetheless, I persevered and forced myself to listen to it, continually. The purchase of an album represented a massive spend and I knew I had to get my money’s worth, so I played and played and played all my purchases until I eventually loved them. Destroyer included.

Whether or not this is good or bad thing is debateable. Back in the day we forced ourselves to enjoy something that was, in reality, not quite as hot as we would’ve had everyone else believe. Did we waste our time, and money, or was it just that the songs needed a few (hundred) plays to get under our skin? Did it teach us a level of patience, tolerance and acceptance that is perhaps lacking in today’s ears?

The concept of tracks, or complete albums for that matter, being ‘growers’ is increasing rare and it’s undeniable that we are listening to music in a more immediate yet disposable manner. Streaming, downloading and online music purchase gives you the thirty-second tease and then demands you buy or move on. Consequently, by going for the hook, the catch or the instantly memorable tune, are artists making music to grab you in that instant? Does this and the ubiquitous skip button result in the writing and production of music without ‘teeth’? Furthermore, playlists often become little more than a retail or ‘elevator’ background muzak to everything else we’re doing: it’s on but we ain’t really listening. A form of collective music ADHD.

Yes, I am indeed a boring old man railing against the inevitable future but I do think the way we are both listening and purchasing music is potentially to the detriment of all. I still buy CDs, two last month, but have to admit that no amount of playing ever convinced me the Tangerine Dream albums (yes, there were multiples) were anything more than duff purchases!