As I child I was always fascinated with the physical music medium. One of my earliest memories is sitting enveloped in a beanbag (don’t judge), headphones on, pouring over album sleeves while the vinyl crackled and spun next to me, looking at the pictures and trying to read along with the lyrics. I might have been 3 or 4 so admittedly it was a child’s record, but the affinity has remained with me until this day.
I remember getting Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins on double cassette (thanks mum!) and spending weeks learning every note, every word, every inch of the booklet. The same with Aenima by Tool, in 1996 I was lining up outside my local record store to get the CD that came with a free VHS! That CD case was holographic with different options for the cover that you could change at will. How cool is that? Very cool.
The general push away from the physical medium is something we are all aware of and something that the majority of us, myself included, have kind of just accepted as a natural progression. As online sharing took off, physical media sales declined. Even before I had internet at home, friends who did would be downloading albums and burning CDs for me. Somewhat illegal I suppose, but show me a person these days who would think twice about downloading popular music without paying (sorry Prince!).
The value of music (both monetary and sentimental) hit an all time low, mass consumerism – I want it all and I want it now – an entire personality-defining music collection in our pockets ready to be toted at any party with a mini jack adaptor. Now streaming services like Spotify are overtaking downloads as our music medium of choice, we don’t even need a music player, just a log-in. For a monthly fee that’s comparable to the price of one album, you have almost any song by any artist you can think of easily accessible on your phone. The market has become more about user accessibility than user experience.
And that’s the crux of it, when everything is available to everyone all the time where do we find value?
In art. We find value in genuine, modern art. Something that moves us, something we can associate with and admire. Look around! Contrary to popular culture, art is still being made. We are inundated with free downloads, sponsored radio and viral videos but even making a little effort to dig ever so slightly deeper can unearth gems that can remain with you for life. Beneath the surface of the machine is a world full of sub-cultures, real people and real ideas.
The way we experience music may be changing, but our attachment to it doesn’t have to.
Drummer Kane Power is one half of the London-based husband-and-wife progressive pop duo Death In Texas. Their excellent new album, titled Pause Between Breaths, was released on November 27. You can stream and purchase the album via Bandcamp and check out the music video for the second track, “A Body,” below.