Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Who remembers what the world was like pre-Internet? I used to. But it's slowly fading from memory. So much information is readily available to us now and it's becoming more difficult to remember when this wasn't the case. But is this actually a good thing? How much information is too much? And how reliable is it? I'm not convinced that we are any better off today than we were 30 years ago.
I got my first guitar in 1988 - the internet as we know it did not exist. I had records, tapes and CD's. And the occasional Guitar World magazine. For the most part I had to learn by listening. Playing Zeppelin songs over and over while trying to copy what Jimmy Page was doing. It was a long, drawn out process. But I think I learned those tunes better, and more organically, than if I had followed a YouTube instructional video or simply found a tab on the internet (which, by the way, aren't always correct). The process of listening and discovering how to play new music is, to me, infinitely more rewarding than having somebody show me how to do it note-for-note from my desktop.
Back in those heady days before internet-driven media saturation, finding and obtaining new music was hard! It was like a treasure hunt - going to Sam The Record Man and thumbing through hundreds of albums to find hidden gems. Every 6 months or so I would drive an hour and a half to Toronto and drop a hundred-plus dollars on CDs. That's right - I had to (gasp) BUY music! Some albums were great, some were crap. But it was all about the journey of discovery. Coming home and unwrapping the cellophane like a Christmas present, popping it in my stereo system and listening to the whole thing without any distractions. Because of the sheer volume of music readily available nowadays, I find myself missing that old-school experience. Virtually anything I want to hear can be found on YouTube, or by some other, less legitimate ways. Which is great, but there is something about having a product in my hand and building my music library with trips to that huge music store in Toronto that I miss.
Some of that void has been filled by the resurgence of vinyl - that old, beautiful medium with the carefully crafted artwork and liner notes that are actually legible. Yes, the digital medium has improved dramatically with age - and admittedly I now do most of my listening from a hard drive that holds all of those old CDs on one convenient medium - but nothing beats putting on a record from start to finish.
I know, I sound like an old man ranting about the days when everything was better and the kids these days don't understand what it was like back then. I suppose there's some truth to that, but that's not really my point. I do think that because we had more invested in our music libraries, we treasured it. Music seemed to have more value, whether it was because of the amount of money spent or the difficulty obtaining it. Which really isn't true - good music is good music, whether it enters your ears through a vinyl record or Spotify. If I sound conflicted I guess I am. My access to music has never been better - yet I find myself actually listening to it less and less. Gone are the days when I would obsess over an album and play it over and over, discovering and rediscovering each minute sonic detail. I have so much music now that I don't know where to begin. I'm spoiled for choice. And I guess that's my point. I have a brain that gets overwhelmed when presented with too many choices. So perhaps this is a problem unique to people like me. And it's undoubtedly also a product of wearing rose-coloured glasses when looking back on my youth. All I know is, I have so much music to digest, and no idea where to start.
What are your thoughts on the state of music consumption today? Are we better off than we were a couple decades ago? How do you obtain your music? And, more importantly, how do you listen?