There was a post I read today from a parent to her son as he received, at thirteen years old, a new iPhone. A contract he needed to agree to in order to get its use (see the full article here). One of the points, while not the most important or crucial, struck home and is something I wish I had been able to say to my own daughter as succinctly as this mom put it : ”Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.” Not a major issue or one of the contract points that is attempting to keep him out of trouble, but great advice, particularly the part about “Your generation has access to music like never before in history…. Expand your horizons”. The access to music we now enjoy is staggering. Truly amazing, especially to a generation that had to wait for an album to be released, the store to get it, and then walk / drive to that store and purchase it, bring it back and play on the stereo, possibly bringing friends over to hear it as well. Now? A new ‘album’ is released by a band and is almost immediately available for download right onto your iPhone or MP3 player and shared almost as instantaneously.
It isn’t just that immediate acess though, but the catalogs of songs that a person can download. I remember heading to major stores to get the newest releases from bands, but I had to head in to Harvard Sq. in Cambridge to find certain jazz albums, or small record shops in Boston or Brighton to find local bands, blues, or older material… the big name stores just couldn’t keep all that available all the time. Now? between iTunes, Amazon, or (my favorite) Emusic , you have access to tens of thousands of songs and artists at your fingertips, and can be listening to them in seconds.
And this parent, Janell Burley Hofmann, brings up a great point: Rather than just use that access and freedom to get what you want quickly and save time, use it to explore. Broaden your horizons. See which artists influenced the ones you like and listen to them. See who they influenced, or other artists you never heard of that are in the same genre. See where it takes you. Sure, you can just get what all your friends are listening to and get it quickly, and wait for others to decide what is good and follow them. Why do that though? Go and search. Find what you like instead of being told what to like. Learn about yourself and influence others instead of joining the masses as you are sold a bill of goods and told what to listen to. Yes, sometimes the popular artists are selling those millions of CDs because they are better at what they do than others. Often times however, they simply have better marketing, or have enough broad appeal that a company can make a lot of money and therefore pushes them harder. Companies like Clear Channel buy not only concert venues and artist’s contracts but the radio stations themselves… They play their artists heavily on their stations so the public is familiar with the tunes, then brings the artist on tour. The artist and their hits are completely manufactured…. Rather than make it big because millions want to hear their music, it happens in reverse: millions hear their music so they make it big.
So, again, go explore. Find the great music and great artists that YOU like instead of just downloading the ones you are told you should like.