There are very few constants in my life, very few things that have been with me from my early childhood to my new found adulthood (despite lots of kicking and screaming) and that constant is a love of music. This love is great, music can be so subjective that discovering new types and new pieces of music can be nearly impossible at times. I have to consider the two most important factors, will I like it and will I continue to listen to it?
Early on in my music discovery though this was not a factor, with much of the music I listened to coming from sources very close to my heart. Namely that of my father and my family. I grew up in a house were music played a huge part. I grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Bob Marley and Paul Weller to name just a few and these have had a huge impact on my current musical obsessions. Although these have obviously influenced my current music tastes, it also meant that my choice of music was rather shallow and lacking in any depth. They were decided by someone else’s choices, by someone else ideas of brilliance, that was until I got my first computer.
The internet changed my relationship with music and how I discovered music. My computer became my Hi-Fi and the Internet my radio station. The most important factor in this new discovery of music and that because the music was largely free. I’ve lost count of the number of albums I have bought because it was recommended by someone else or was considered the second coming of music only to be disappointed with the final result. The internet changed all this though, thanks to peer to peer service such as Kazaa (wow I’m old) made discovering new music all the easier. Now I am in no way condoning piracy, I do and have always bought albums but in terms of cost and effort required it makes discovering new music effortless. I used to download gigabytes of music when I was in school, I had absolutely no qualms about stealing or the idea that the artist would not get paid and just cared about the new experiences being opened up to me. It was a great time of discovery for me, I discovered so many new sounds, new ideas and all for the low price of nothing. There were two problems with this though and they were 1. Portability 2.my own maturity.
The first of these problems was solved with relative ease with the introduction of the MP3 and the MP3 player. The iPod was not my fist mp3 player, that honour belongs to the humble Rio carbon (another sign of my age) and it changed my listening habits greatly. My music was no longer linked to my computer, I could listen to my music anywhere and my lust for great music only increased. As my appetite grew though so did my taste. Before I was interested in quantity over quality I had thousands of tracks but only listened to a dozen or so albums. It seems I was finally maturing musically. I was moving into a new musical future taking Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd with me and leaving the happy punk of Blink 182 and Sum 41 behind. Music was about quality for me and as a result I started to buy more and more cds from the artists I truly loved. The ironic thing was that free music had me more aware of excellent music and as a result I was actually willing to buy those albums. This left me in somewhat of a quandary, I was still willing to buy music but in order to discover which was worth my hard earned cash, I still had to pirate music to insure that it was off a high enough quality to purchase.
Here comes the real point of this blog post and that while music discovery used to be very difficult it’s becoming very easy indeed. This is thanks to services like Spotify, Last.fm and Lala. Using these services we can consume all the music we wish safe in the knowledge that somewhere in some way artists are being paid.
Spotify is far more convenient than piracy, why you ask? Well firstly is free so it has the price advantage that piracy does and it’s also instantaneous which piracy is not. I can type the name of most artist into spotify and usually have them start playing within seconds. For example last night at the pub my friends tell me about a new band that I just have to listen too. I get home type them into spotify and listen to the new artist to my heart’s content safe in the knowledge that my money is safe.
Just like the iPod and piracy, Spotify has changed the way I listen to music and allowed me to discover new and interesting stuff. Piracy opened me up to new genres and the iPod allowed me to take these new forms of music anywhere with me. Spotify has allowed me to effortlessly expand my musical taste. I think back to that boy clutching his Dylan and Oasis, this was the be all and end all of music. How wrong I was and I have all these things to thank for that.