I know the majority of my audience here are DJs, and for the majority of DJs, music matters. It matters a lot! Even for those of us who aren’t particularly big fans of music, it still matters in that it is at the root of our livelihood, so I’ll open this with a disclaimer that I’m not talking about you. I am instead talking about nearly everyone else. Music doesn’t seem as important to people the way it once did.
Before the advent of YouTube, Spotify, and other places where a person can hear every song ever recorded, any time he wants to hear it, for free, music was not as easy to find. Before the advent of the mp3, where a person can download every song ever recorded, any time he wants to hear it, for free, it was even harder to find. If you wanted to hear a song, but didn’t own a physical copy of it, you either had to wait for it to come on the radio, find a friend who had a copy, or you simply didn’t get to hear that song.
Which of the above scenarios is better for a music fan? The initial response might be that it’s better now than ever, but is it? Talk to someone in their teens or early 20s about music, and be prepared for nonchalance, at least in comparison to the fervor that you used to hear from that age group in the pre-digital era. Young people used to live for music. Finding a certain song was a quest worthy of Aeneas, and many of childhood’s happiest hours were whiled away seeking an elusive song. Now one types the first few letters of the title into their phone, or possibly even asks Siri to look for it, and the song appears as if by magic.
Watch old footage of teens seeing Elvis perform, or hearing the Beatles play, and compare that to even the most extreme fan reactions to Justin Bieber or BTS in 2022. It’s apples and oranges. Hell, it’s apples and shag carpet. There’s no comparison.
Instant access to everything has made people care deeply about nothing. When you saved your money and bought one record, you listened to that record over and over until you had it memorized. Even 40 years later you can play a song from 1982 for a teen of that time, and despite not having heard the song since the Reagan administration, that 50-something will be able to sing along to every word, and describe in detail what happened in the corresponding music video. Ask a teen of today what songs were popular a year ago and prepare for a blank stare.
This is not an indictment of the youth of today, nor of the internet. It’s merely a report on the state of music in 2022. If you, like me, believe that music has an almost magical transcendental power to alter emotions, shape ones life, and even heal, then perhaps you wonder what can be done to make music matter again.
What do you think can be done? Or, do you think we are past the point of no return? Or, is this cyclical? Will the youth of a later generation rebel against the surfeit of music on demand, and again find the love of music that is today lost? Tell me in the comments!