This Just In, Ipods are Killing Music!

I recently read "Everything Bad is Good for You" by Steven Johnson. One of the arguments in the book is that advances in technology are responsible for the increased complexity of television shows. The premise is that the widespread adoption of TiVo's, VCRs, DVDs, and On Demand reward shows that can be enjoyed after multiple viewings, and the shows that can be replayed often are the more complex shows. This is the main mechanism he identifies for the increase in quality and complexity of television over the last 20 years.

This got me wondering if the opposite is happening in music. Thinking through the progression from records to Ipods, technology has made it easier to carry and acquire large amounts of music.

For example, I use to have a 6 disc CD changer in an old car. So on any given car trip I had about 60 listening options. Now, I just hook my Ipod into the tape adapter and have 6000 songs at my finger tips. I also wouldn't change the CDs in the car that often, and thus would listen to the same albums over and over again.

Also, the ability to download, legally or otherwise, large amounts of music allows the listener to constantly be updating their library. I actually hold myself back. For a while I was acquiring new music faster than I could listen to it. Now I wait until I have listened to whatever I have recently downloaded at least 3 times before I go out searching for more.

The result is that I just don't spend as much time with new music as I use to. I can remember listening to a new album for a week straight. The upside is that I find myself exposed to more music, and that is very exciting, but I wonder if I am missing out on the type of epiphanies one would get on the 12th time through "OK Computer."

While I don't think that these new developments are a hindrance to more complex music that takes repeated listens to appreciate, I think technology is creating a situation that rewards music that is immediately likeable. And while there are examples of music that is immediately likeable and fairly complex, like the Beach Boys for example, I tend to believe that complex music takes time seep in and make sense.

I don't advocate going back to records or a mass public smashing of Ipods, I just wonder where this technology will lead us.

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