I had written some time back that I had not been enjoying listening to music for a while. Well, I am glad to say that the joy is back! The secret, I realised, was to eschew the random playlists and radio stations and go back to what I had called, Slow Music. Pick an artist and listen to an entire album of theirs in one sitting.
I have been listening to a few albums over the past couple of weeks. I thought it might be good to create list of these, so I can refer back to them later. So, in no particular order, here are some of the albums that I have enjoyed over the past couple of weeks:
Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
Relaxing with the Miles Davis Quintet – The Miles Davis Quintet
At the outset, I must confess that I am possibly not the best person to talk at length about streaming services. I won’t consider myself as a regular user of any of the services such as Netflix, Spotify or others. However, since the start of lockdown, I, like many others, have started spending more time on these services. And this led me to think about the impact that these services could be having on Culture.
Culture is a very broad term. I will be using this term largely in the context of Arts and Entertainment, specifically music and video.
Let’s start with the consumer. I guess there can be no doubt that the consumer has benefited from these services. One is no longer bound by the dictates of local television channels or record stores, but has the ability to discover artists and shows from around the world. It is easier and cheaper to experiment with new stuff as there is no incremental cost of watching or listening to a song or show. And, just as important, one can carry around one’s ‘TV’ / ‘Audio System’ and listen to one’s favourite music / watch TV.
Has this benefited the artists? I am not an expert, but I can understand that this can be complex. On the one hand, all artists now potentially have equal reach and are not overly reliant on the TV Studio or Record Label for distribution. Also, to the extent that piracy is controlled, they can also more effectively monetise their output. However, I do not have details of the revenue sharing arrangement between all the parties involved to say if artists are better off financially with the increasing adoption of streaming services.
What about record labels / TV and film studios? Again, this is a complex area that I am now going to get into, simply because I have very little information on the relationships between them, the streaming services and the artists.
Coming to the crux of the article – What is the impact of the widespready popularity of these services on the nature of the work being produced? Are all the advantages of these services (some of which have been mentioned above) being made use of by the artists to come up with more and more unique, path-breaking work? Or is the prevalence of ‘algorithmic’ discovery leading to a standardisation of output to maximise views and listens?
I have just started researching about this topic. And so it will be presumptuous of me to claim any knowledge or understanding of this. The best I can do at this stage is to refer readers to some of the more interesting articles on this topic I came across. I would recommend beginning with Can monoculture survive the algorithm? Another one is Is Netflix Ruining Culture?
With the rise of digital and streaming audio, the concept of ‘music albums’ seems to have taken a bit of a back seat lately (at least in my opinion). When it is so easy to just listen to just your favourite song by an artiste, then why bother with listening to the whole album that includes that song?
I come from a generation that first started listening to music on cassettes (and vinyl records) and have lived through the birth of CDs and digital audio. I am a bit old-fashioned when it comes to technology. While I certainly appreciate the benefits of newer technologies, I prefer to be a late adopter of these, rather than the first-movers or trend seekers. This allows me to savour the older technology for longer, as there is a very good chance that there’s no going back.
So, for a long time, I continued to listen to music on cassettes. I purchased my first CD in late 1998. While I purchased an iPod in 2005 or so, I hardly ever listened to it, still preferring the CD format. Similarly, I only started listening to streaming audio in late 2016.
While music streaming helped expose me to genres of music that I might have not explored otherwise, over the past few months, I have been experiencing a feeling of not knowing what to listen. The Paradox or Tyranny of Choice.
There was a time when I would be listening to music at least a few hours a day. It started dropping to maybe a few hours a week, even though I still enjoy listening to music.
Then one day, recently, I decided to listen, not to radio stations or playlists, but to an entire album. I don’t recollect which album it was, but I enjoyed the (almost lost) experience of listening to a collection of songs from the same artist in the form that the artist wanted listeners to. I followed this with a few other albums and the pleasure was sustained.
There is a movement in eating called ‘slow food’. I would like to call the pleasure of listening to an album in its entirety ‘Slow Music‘. Something to sit back and reflect on in these crazy times…
Digital marketer, travel / culture / heritage enthusiast